Tennis legend — and openly gay LGBT rights advocate — Martina Navratilova lambasted the practice of allowing male-to-female transgender athletes to compete against biological females for women's sports titles, calling the issue "insane" and "cheating."
Navratilova has spoken on the issue before, but reiterated her feelings in a lengthy op-ed for the Sunday Times of London, noting that males, even those who have undergone hormone treatment and gender-reassignment surgeries, have a competitive advantage against women born as women.
“Letting men compete as women simply if they change their name and take hormones is unfair — no matter how those athletes may throw their weight around," Navratilova said, taking aim at transgender rights groups who insist the only "fair" competition pits male-to-female transgender individuals against other athletes of their preferred gender.
She added that it is "insane" that "hundreds of athletes who have changed gender by declaration and limited hormone treatment have already achieved honors as women that were beyond their capabilities as men," particularly given the difficulty female athletes have had achieving notoriety in their respective sports.
“It’s insane and it’s cheating,” she wrote. “I am happy to address a transgender woman in whatever form she prefers, but I would not be happy to compete against her. It would not be fair.”
Navratilova is an 18-time Grand Slam champion who suffered her own fair share of discrimination after coming out as gay in the early 1980s. But she is fiercely protective of the respect she and other top-notch female atheletes have earned.
This is not the first time Navratilova has spoken out on the issue. Back in December, she caused similar waves when she tweeted that, "You can't just proclaim yourself a female and be able to compete against women. There must be some standards, and having a penis and competing as a woman would not fit that standard."
But according to CNN, Navratilova says the blowback from that tweet actually strengthened her commitment to protecting the right of female athletes to compete against only biological females.
"Well, I've now done that and, if anything, my views have strengthened," she said of the controversy that has dogged her since late last year. "To put the argument at its most basic: a man can decide to be female, take hormones if required by whatever sporting organization is concerned, win everything in sight and perhaps earn a small fortune, and then reverse his decision and go back to making babies if he so desires."
No surprise, Navratilova has been labeled "transphobic" for her latest essay. Trans Actual UK even went so far as to claim that Navratilova was off on her science, and that estrogen treatments reduce a biological male's athletic capabilities, making treatment to change genders a curse, not a blessing.
But a handful of real life incidents seem to fly in the face of that assertion. Male-to-female transgender athletes have succeeded at taking women's titles in wrestling, in track and field, and in cycling. One of Navratilova's most vocal critics is Dr. Rachel McKinnon, a male-to-female transgender athlete who caused major controversy late last year after winning a women's world championship cycling medal.
Those are largely local and national events, but the International Olympic Committee has determined that male-to-female transgender individuals may compete as Olympic athletes against the gender of their choice, provided they can prove they have been on hormone treatment for at least 12 months before obtaining qualifying titles.