Martina Navratilova trades volleys with trans athlete in Twitter row The Times 22.12.12

The original article is here.

She won Wimbledon nine times and is widely regarded as one of the greatest tennis players of all time, so most people would agree that Martina Navratilova has earned the right to discuss fairness in women’s sport.

Not everyone. Rachel McKinnon, a transgender cyclist from Canada, has been accused of bullying Navratilova on social media, demanding she retract and apologise for “transphobic” comments about transgender athletes competing in women’s sport.

Transgender campaigners have insisted that biological males should be allowed to compete against women if they identify as female. Critics say it gives male-to-female transgender athletes an unfair physical advantage and, in some contact sports, could threaten their safety.

Expressing her concern, Navratilova tweeted: “Clearly that can’t be right. 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.”

The comment prompted a series of hostile responses from Dr McKinnon, an assistant professor in the department of philosophy at College of Charleston, South Carolina, who was born male but identifies as female. Navratilova apologised for causing any offence and said she would “keep quiet”, adding: “All I want is fairness.”

However, Dr McKinnon was unsatisfied by Navratilova’s reply, telling her: “All you had to do: ‘I’m sorry. I made a mistake. I will work to do better’. People: genitals are IRRELEVANT to sports performance.” She added: “You . . . realize I’m a world champion trans athlete who happens to publish and speak worldwide on trans rights . . . right?”

She added: “You don’t hit a tennis ball with your penis or vagina. If you do, you’re doing it wrong.” Navratilova replied: “Rachel — you might be an expert on all things trans, but you are one nasty human being. You didn’t engage, you bullied. I regret nothing.”

Women rallied to support Navratilova. Jessica Eaton, a researcher in the psychology of victim-blaming, told her: “You are entitled to your opinion without anyone shouting you down, attempting to humiliate you.”