Step 2 Part 2 Fact Sheet 25: more inequality in sports: lgbtq+

More Inequality in Sports: LGBTQ+

Athletes of all ages report harmful gender stereotypes that are destructive to both females and males in sport. The use of derogatory terms such as tomboy, dyke, and fag indicates that a big part of gender stereotyping is the result of homophobia, which is an irrational fear or intolerance of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people.

Martina Navratilova is a Czechoslovak-born American former professional tennis player and coach. She is considered to be one of the best female tennis players of all time.

In 1981, shortly after becoming a United States citizen, Navratilova gave an interview, coming out as bisexual and revealing that she had a sexual relationship with a woman but asked the journalist not to publish the article until she was ready to come out publicly. However, the New York Daily News published the article on July 30, 1981. 

On September 6, 2014, Navratilova proposed to her long time girlfriend Julia Lemigova at the US Open. They got married in New York on December 15, 2014. 

In the past, Navratilova has been critical of allowing trans women to compete in women’s sports, unless it happened in a “fair” manner. In an April 2019 article for The Washington Post, she opinioned that the Equality Act, in its current form, “would make it unlawful to differentiate among girls and women in sports on the basis of sex for any purpose.”

In June 2019, the BBC broadcasted “The Trans Women Athlete Dispute with Martina Navratilova”, where she interviewed people including trans women athletes and sports researchers, presenting evidence on both sides of the debate of whether trans women have any advantage in elite sports. Her closing remarks were: “The way I started this journey, I just wanted to see if there are any big surprises, any misconceptions that I had. And what I think I have come to realize, the biggest thing for me, is just that the level of difficulty that trans people go through cannot be underestimated. The fight for equality and recognition is just huge. That being said, still, for me, the most important thing in sports... And you have to remember, trans rights and elite sports are two different things, although of course they are connected. What’s the right way to set rules so that everybody feels like they have a fighting chance? It feels to me that it is impossible to come to any real conclusions or write any meaningful rules until more research is done.”

“But for now, I think we need to include as many transgender athletes as possible within elite sports, while keeping it as level a playing field as possible. Look, society has changed so much. Things evolve, things change and maybe I need to evolve, I need to change. The rules certainly need to evolve. If you don’t adapt, you’ve got problems. And so we’ll just keep adapting and try to find a happy way forward.”