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Why Tennis Legend Martina Navratilova is Right about Transgender Athletes

By Marissa Mayer posted on:
February 20, 2019

“You can't just proclaim yourself a female and be able to compete against women.”

Seems like a pretty simple statement, doesn’t it? Common sense even.

But in today’s world, that simple statement is labeled as hateful and transphobic by radical transgender activists. And it’s a statement (in the form of a tweet) that landed tennis legend Martina Navratilova in hot water this past December.

Navratilova was eventually bullied into deleting the tweet and promised to do some research on the topic of transgender athletes. Activists called it a win, but they probably weren’t expecting what would come next.

Over the weekend, The Times ran an article that Navratilova wrote about male athletes who identify as women and compete in female sports. She didn’t hold back.

“Well, I’ve now done [the research] and, if anything, my views have strengthened,” she revealed.

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. It's insane and it's cheating.

Needless to say, transgender activists are not happy.

But Navratilova’s point is simple: Men who self-identify as women are still biological men. Sure, they can take synthetic hormones to make themselves appear more feminine, style their hair, and wear makeup (or not). But being a woman is more than a physical appearance or a feeling—it is a biological reality. And no amount of wishing or desire will ever change the fact that a feminized man will never truly experience what it is to be a woman.

It’s hard not to draw some parallels between Navratilova’s comments and those shared by the African American community following Rachel Dolezal’s (now Nkechi Amare Diallo) transracial hoopla.

During the height of the controversy, it seemed that the complaints from members of the African American community boiled down to one key thing: facts vs. feelings.

Not only was Nkechi objectively not African American (she’s the daughter of white parents—this isn’t hard), but Nkechi claimed the identity of an African American woman without ever truly experiencing what it is to be an African American woman.

Sure, she can present herself as a woman of color. She can get a tan, a perm, and color her hair. She can immerse herself in African American culture and history and even dedicate her career to helping the African American community.

But race is more than an appearance. And no amount of study or engagement will ever change the fact that Nkechi can also choose to present herself as a white woman at any time if she wants. There’s nothing stopping her from one day rejecting the African American identity that she currently claims, is there?

Simply proclaiming yourself to be African American doesn’t make it so...

Everyone seems to agree on this when it comes to Rachel/Nkechi and her “transracial” identity. But a very curious thing happens when the same self-deception plays out in respect to being a woman—especially a woman athlete.

Here, one of the most respected women tennis players in the world is being attacked for using the same approach to the equally illogical, appearance-based transgender ideology.

Feeling like and proclaiming that you are a woman does not make it so.

That is not an opinion; it is a biological fact.

It is also a biological fact that men and women are built differently. They have different bone structure, muscle mass, and levels of aggression and endurance. Indeed, every cell is stamped “male” or “female.”

As Navratilova wrote, “Simply reducing hormone levels — the prescription most sports have adopted — does not solve the problem. A man builds up muscle and bone density, as well as a greater number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells, from childhood. Training increases the discrepancy.”

That’s not to say that individuals who struggle with their given sex (or race for that matter) shouldn’t be treated with compassion and respect. They should be provided the therapy and treatment they need to understand their body dysmorphic disorder. But that also doesn’t mean that women should be forced to sacrifice the sex-specific spaces and achievements that we’ve fought so hard for just to appease transgender activists.

This is especially true in the world of professional sports, which is often combined with awards, prestige, and fame. Navratilova knows this better than most. During her storied tennis career she won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, 31 Grand Slam women's doubles championships, and 10 Grand Slam mixed doubles. Do you think she would have accomplished all of that if she was forced to compete against men?

Thankfully for Navratilova, who is in retirement, she won’t have to find out. But as the world of sports continues to promote activism over fairness, current and future female athletes won’t be so lucky.

Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer

Senior Copywriter & Editor

Marissa Mayer is an Arizona native who fell in love with the written word at a young age.

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