Martina Navratilova isn’t the first name that springs to mind when one hails champions of traditional values. One would have to go through the whole list of New Age causes before finding one she doesn’t support.
Martina is particularly vociferous when sticking up for animals’ right not to be eaten and for lesbians’ right to be… I almost wrote ‘to be just that’ but then decided against it, this being the Christmas season. ‘Married’, is what I really mean.
To her credit, Martina has the power of her convictions. She doesn’t eat meat and does eat… please Lord, give me strength to refrain from another lewd double entendre.
What I mean is that, ever since she defected from her native Czechoslovakia in 1975, and even before she came out in 1981, Martina has been known as a lesbian. There’s nothing uncommon about that.
I wouldn’t be divulging any secrets if I observed that this little quirk is hardly unusual among female tennis professionals.
Tennis is an aggressive sport, and, as well-publicised experiments on mice have shown, aggression is a masculine trait attributable to testosterone levels. Yet high testosterone levels also tend to make people want to have sex with women, and I hope I’m not making it sound too simplistic.
Hence many women who dedicate their lives to tennis have certain tendencies, and the peripatetic life of a tennis pro travelling the world in the company of other women gives an easy outlet to such proclivities.
(I could give you a long list of Sapphic players, but you can easily do your own Googling. To be fair, some of them don’t look at all masculine and some, such as Gigi Fernández in her prime, are downright gorgeous. What a loss.)
However, not all tennis lesbians are as open about their sex lives as Martina is. And certainly not all of them marry their girlfriends, which she did in 2014.
Martina wasn’t exactly reticent about that happy event. She proposed to her girlfriend Julia Lemigova in a crowded restaurant, with a battalion of paparazzi in attendance.
In the good tradition of matrimony, Martina, clad in a white man’s (or at least manly) suit went down on one knee, making everyone who really respects the good tradition of matrimony rush towards the exit holding his hand to his mouth.
I’m lingering on these salacious details only to enhance the effect of the forthcoming shock. For Martina has got on the wrong side of the ‘transgender community’ after laudably insisting that ‘women’ born men shouldn’t be allowed to compete in women’s events.
“Clearly that can’t be right,” wrote Martina, born again as a traditionalist. “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. For me it’s all about fairness. Which means taking every case individually… there is no cookie cutter way of doing things.”
Martina is dodging the issue ever so slightly. Because there is indeed a cookie cutter way of allaying her objections. It’s called an operation, whereby the anatomical feature Martina sees as disqualifying is removed.
But, keeping as she does her finger on the pulse of modernity, she clearly accepts that anyone is entitled to self-identify his/her/its sex regardless of biochemistry, physiology or anatomy. She’s only objecting to seeing too much of a bulge in the front of a woman player’s knickers.
However, even her understated remarks caused such an outburst of attacks on her ‘transphobia’ that Martina was forced to delete the offensive comments from her website.
Leading the attacks was Dr Rachel McKinnon, a male-born ‘transgender’ activist and competitive cyclist who wins women’s events on the circuit.
“Genitals do not play sports,” explained Dr McKinnon, displaying a keen mind and deep medical knowledge. “What part of a penis is related to tennis?”
I can’t answer that question, certainly not to satisfy the exacting medical criteria evidently applied by Dr McKinnon. I do however acknowledge that genitals don’t play sports, although many ***** do (I’m slapping my own wrist even as we speak – this subject makes me want to use unprintable words).
However, talent and application being equal, a player born with XY chromosomes will wipe the court with one cursed with XX initials. Coming into play here isn’t just testosteronal aggression, but also the manifest male superiority in strength, speed and height.
That’s why the best female players would struggle to break into the men’s top 1,000. And that’s why back in 1973 Bobby Riggs, at a venerable age of 55, was able to beat Margaret Court, women’s Number 1 at the time.
Even more illustrative is the case of Renée Richards, neé Richard Raskind. Dr Raskind was a good amateur player who set out to show that it was possible to play tennis without balls. After undergoing the whole hog of trans-sex procedures, the freshly minted Renée launched a series of legal challenges to be able to compete in women’s events.
He/she finally won the legal battle and began his/her professional career at age 44, when most players have been off the circuit for at least a decade. However, this middle-aged male amateur broke into the top 20 of the women’s professional ranks.
He/she then went on to become a coach, working, among others, with Martina Navratilova. She’s then in an ideal position to know that, though “genitals don’t play sports”, men do, and they have some in-built advantages over women.
However, ever the conciliator, I’m prepared to side with Dr McKinnon. Furthermore, I can develop her argument to its logical conclusion.
The only way to rid tennis of such unseemly squabbles is for men and women to compete together in the same tournaments. The issue of who is and who isn’t a woman will become moot, and tennis jousts will be held not among penises and vaginas, but among fellow professionals.
There’s always the danger that women, unable to make a living under such circumstances, won’t remain fellow professionals for long. But hey, fair’s fair. At least such an arrangement will put an end to any possibility of sex discrimination.