Lesbian tennis legend Martina Navratilova has shown her transphobia again – by signing a letter backing an anti-trans law in Idaho.
Idaho passed the ‘Fairness in Women’s Sport Act’ in March. It bans transgender women and girls from girls’ interscholastic sports. It also attacks intersex young people’s ability to take part in sport, as the law will also cover them.
The US National Collegiate Athletic Association opposes the law. And it is about to decide what sanctions to take against Idaho.
This could include moving it’s annual Men’s Basketball Tournament – famous as March Madness – out of Boise. The capital of Idaho is due to host the first and second round next year.
But the letter Navratilova signed urgest the NCAA not to do so. Moreover, it refers to attempts to tackle the state’s transphobia as ‘bullying’.
The letter states:
‘We urge you to reject all calls to boycott and bully Idaho for preserving fair competition for women and girls across Idaho.
‘We strongly believe that everyone should have the opportunity to compete, but true athletic parity for women demands that women’s sports be protected for biological females.’
Why Idaho’s law doesn’t represent ‘fairness in women’s sport’
Idaho became the first state in the US to legislate against trans young people taking part in sport when it passed House Bill 500.
LGBT+ campaigners said state legislators were ‘proposing a “solution” in search of a problem’. That’s because no trans or intersex athletes were openly competing in the state.
Meanwhile, LGBT+ advocates said that by stopping trans kids from taking part in sport in public schools, colleges or universities, Idaho was damaging their health and denying them opportunities.
Furthermore, there are big questions about how the state could possibly enforce the law.
Trans female athletes will have to go to the doctor for a genital exam or DNA test to prove to the state they are a woman. Moreover, it could mean doctors carrying out invasive genital examinations even on cisgender girls to prove they are not trans.
This year the UN instructed sports bodies to remove bans of this kind. And it said invasive testing of athletes gender may breach international laws about torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
At the same time, the law appears to be based on bad science.
The Fairness in Women’s Sport Act argues that men inherently have ‘denser, stronger bones, tendons, and ligaments’ and ‘larger hearts, greater lung volume per body mass’ and so on.
However, many of the advantages male athletes have are based on their hormones. Trans athletes taking female hormones will lose the edge testosterone gives men.
Currently the American Civil Liberties Union is supporting two female athletes, one trans and one cis, to challenge the law in federal court. The US Department of Justice is backing the Idaho law in that case.
Navratilova claims trans athletes have ‘unfair advantage’
Save Women’s Sports, which coordinated the letter, initially didn’t identify all 309 signatories. However Outsports obtained a copy with the full list, including Navratilova at the top.
A few of the signatories do not use their full name, merely initials or a first name and an initial.
But Navratilova’s participation is far from surprising.
Until recently, many viewed her as a hero who had advanced LGBT+ inclusion in sport.
But she then shifted her views.
In 2018 she tweeted and then deleted a rant against trans women in sport.
‘You can’t just proclaim yourself a female and be able to compete against women,’ Navratilova said.
‘There must be some standards, and having a penis and competing as a woman would not fit that standard.’
She later retracted the comment, describing it as an ‘idiotic tweet’ and promising to educate herself.
However in 2019, she doubled down on her view, saying trans women in sport have an ‘unfair advantage’.
In response, LGBT+ sports group Athlete Ally removed Navratilova from their advisory board and as one of their ambassadors.
Other signatories to the letter include swimmer Donna de Varona, who won Olympic medals in the 1960s.