Not above insults

Martina Navratilova in the Sunday Times:

Shortly before Christmas I inadvertently stumbled into the mother and father of a spat about gender and fair play in sport. It began with an instinctive reaction and a tweet that I wrote on a serious forum dealing with the subject. “You can’t just proclaim yourself a female and be able to compete against women,” I tweeted. “There must be some standards, and having a penis and competing as a woman would not fit that standard.”

Perhaps I could have phrased it more delicately and less dogmatically, but I was not prepared for the onslaught that followed, chiefly from a Canadian academic and transgender cyclist named Rachel McKinnon.

She notes the controversy around McKinnon’s win at the Masters Track cycling world championship in Los Angeles last October, including the fact that the woman who came in third said it wasn’t fair. She notes McKinnon’s “vigorous” defense but says

Nevertheless, at 6ft tall and weighing more than 14 stone, she appeared to have a substantial advantage in muscle mass over her rivals.

Indeed, one that is uncomfortably visible in photos of the three winners together.

My tweet brought an angry response from McKinnon, whom I had not named (I had no idea who she was at the time). She accused me of being “transphobic” and demanded I delete my tweet and apologise. Since I have spent much of my life fighting injustice, on my own behalf and for others, I was pretty put out, especially when the bullying tweets from McKinnon continued, like incoming fire.

McKinnon is like that, as I’ve mentioned more than once. It remains interesting to me that McKinnon seems to have no inhibitions about bullying women this way, when you’d think it would mess up the whole presentation aspect of being a trans woman.

Ever the peacemaker, I promised to keep quiet on the subject until I had properly researched it.

Well, I’ve now done that and, if anything, my views have strengthened. To put the argument at its most basic: a man can decide to be female, take hormones if required by whatever sporting organisation 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. I am happy to address a transgender woman in whatever form she prefers, but I would not be happy to compete against her. It would not be fair.

She explains about bone density and muscle mass, along with oxygen-carrying red blood cells.

Hundreds of athletes who have changed gender by declaration and limited hormone treatment have already achieved honours as women that were beyond their capabilities as men, especially in sports in which power rather than skill is paramount. McKinnon is just one example. That may uphold the International Olympic Committee’s charter, which holds that “the practice of sport is a human right”, but it is surely unfair on women who have to compete against people who, biologically, are still men.

Anyway even the International Olympic Committee’s charter doesn’t say “the practice of sport is a human right and therefore trans women get to compete against women.” The two issues are separate.

She talks about Renée Richards and Castor Semenya, and wraps up by returning to McKinnon.

McKinnon, who says she received more than 100,000 hate messages on Twitter after winning the world championship, has presented herself and other transgender athletes as victims of prejudice. Certainly, there can be no excuse for such ignorance and nastiness.

But I also deplore what seems to be a growing tendency among transgender activists to denounce anyone who argues against them and to label them all as “transphobes”. That’s just another form of tyranny. I’m relatively tough and was able to stand up for myself in my Twitter exchange with McKinnon, but I worry that others may be cowed into silence or submission.

Here’s how I concluded my Twitter spat: “Rachel, you may be an expert on all things trans, but you are one nasty human being. Attack, attack, attack. I will not take it from you. You did not engage; you bullied. Not blocking you [though I later did, because who wants all that negativity], but enough already. All I want is fairness.”

Dawn Ennis at Outsports wrote a piece today which concluded with this elegant riposte:

Athena Del Rosario, an NCAA hockey goalie who came out in Outsports in 2017tweeted her disappointment to us, upon seeing Navratilova’s op-ed:

“Oh geeze she thinks I’m a cheater without even knowing shit about me. What a loser. As an athlete being called a cheater is just about the worst thing. Martina, you re trash. I’m not above insults. You’ve got a more manlier body than me you bag.”

Outsports reached out to Navratilova for comment, but as of press time has not received a response; a U.K.-based anti-trans group that she follows, “Fair Play For Women,” instead offered a thread of tweets supporting her claims.

“Tweeted her disappointment to us” by calling Navratilova a loser, trash, and you bag.

Please, keep telling us trans women are women and there is no trace of misogyny or sexism in trans activism at all whatsoever.

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