EDITOR’S NOTE: This report has been updated to add comments by the Montana Family Foundation, including the organization’s full statement.
UPDATE: This report has been updated to include more information about who and how opponents of LGBTQ rights used Martina Navritolva’s words to support their cause, and a link to watch that legislative hearing.
The ACLU in Montana tweeted Friday that a transphobic opinion piece by gay tennis icon Martina Navratilova — in which she declared it is “insane and it’s cheating” for trans women to compete as women — was cited by opponents of LGBTQ equality in a state legislature judicial committee meeting as a reason to not expand that state’s human rights act.
The tweet by SK Rossi, advocacy and policy director of the ACLU’s Montana branch, tagged their colleague, famed attorney and trans man Chase Strangio: “.@chasestrangio - FYI @Martina’s comments were just used to oppose inclusion of LGBTQ people in Montana’s state human rights act. #mtleg”
On Monday, the ACLU’s Montana division communications director, Kirsten Bokenkamp, told Outsports, “The Montana Family Foundation attorney cited the op-ed in her opposition to HB 465 during the committee hearing on Friday.”
An attorney representing the foundation emailed a statement to Outsports Tuesday, confirming this, and saying that the group quoted Ms. Navratilova “in the context of privacy, safety, and dignity concerns.
“Her statement raises legitimate questions,” wrote attorney Anita Milanovich, such as the rule permitting competition between “biologically-male” athletes and “innocent” women and girls, as well as locker rooms, bathrooms, dressing rooms, and showers. She also quoted the tennis icon in referencing “cheating.”
It appears Navratilova was none too pleased to be quoted by the Montana Family Foundation. She responded to the ACLU via tweet: “That is just ridiculous.”
Here’s the quote from her Sunday op-ed in which Navratilova used the word “cheating:“
“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. 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.”
Contrary to her opinion, there are no known cases of a transgender woman beginning a medical transition, competing and winning an athletic contest and collecting prize money, and detransitioning. If such a person were to exist, and she detransitioned without having gender confirming surgery, after at least one year on HRT to reduce her testosterone levels and increase her estrogen levels — some sports require two years — her ability to maintain an erection sufficient enough for her to have sex would be in doubt if not impossible.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Sexual function varies from person to person; infertility is perhaps the only commonality after long periods of HRT.
Amazingly, Ms. Milanovich and the Montana Family Foundation actually argue in their statement against the efforts by Montana lawmakers to stop discrimination.
“Where is the line, and how is it justified? The Montana bill makes no such distinction: it prohibits all discrimination.” Yeah, that’s sort of the point: discrimination is wrong.
The group’s statement, however, says it’s more concerned with “constitutional questions of free speech, religious freedom, and freedom of conscience; privacy, safety, and dignity concerns; and economic freedom.”
HB 465 would revise Montana’s human rights act to protect gender identity or expression and sexual orientation. The Movement Advancement Project lists Montana as having no laws protecting LGBTQ people from employment, housing, public accommodations or credit and lending discrimination. State employees are protected from discrimination by law, but the state government has banned Montana’s cities from enacting their own discrimination protection laws. While there are several laws offering protections from religious discrimination, the only pro-LGBTQ law is one protecting our young people in the child welfare system.
It should be noted, there are no cases in which a trans woman has dominated any sport by beating cisgender athletes consistently, time after time. And in the 15 years since the International Olympic Committee has permitted trans athletes to compete, not one has participated in an Olympic game, proving that so far not one trans athlete has surpassed any cisgender competitors and displaced them.
What Navratilova also did not mention in her article is that she has already competed against a transgender woman: her friend Dr. Renee Richards, who she “deadnamed” in her op-ed (which means using the name she had before she transitioned). In three matches from 1977 to 1979, Navratilova defeated Richards each and every time: 7-6 and 6-1 , 6-3 and 6-4, 7-6 and 7-6.
Ms. Navratilova tweeted a response to our invitation for her to explain her views, respond to the criticism she’s received, and to reply to a tweet by her longtime friend Billie Jean King who called for an end to “conjecture” and to let science be the arbiter of trans inclusion. She said she was grateful but would decline, for now.
You can watch the committee hearing from Friday at this link. The relevant portion begins at 9:33.
Here’s the full text of the statement by the Montana Family Foundation:
“We understand there is a question about Montana Family Foundation’s use of a statement made by Martina Navratilova in testimony before the Montana legislature.
“In a hearing on a Montana bill that seeks to add sexual orientation and gender identity to Montana’s non-discrimination law, Montana Family Foundation presented three areas of concern: 1) constitutional questions of free speech, religious freedom, and freedom of conscience; 2) privacy, safety, and dignity concerns; and 3) economic freedom. Ms. Navratilova’s recent op-ed, in which she states that a rule allowing biologically-male professional athletes to compete according to their self-declared gender ”rewards cheats and punishes the innocent,” was quoted in the context of privacy, safety, and dignity concerns.
“Her statement raises legitimate questions. If allowing biologically-male professional athletes to compete as women allows “cheating” and “punishing the innocent,” isn’t that true of a rule allowing biologically-male, non-professional, athletes of all ages to also so compete, and to use innocent women’s and girls’ locker rooms, bathrooms, dressing rooms, or showers? Isn’t that true for a rule that allows biological men to receive scholarships or other opportunities earmarked for women to promote women’s access to opportunity? How can professional athletics be deemed a context in which transgender discrimination should be permitted, while being prohibited in other, substantially similar contexts? Where is the line, and how is it justified? The Montana bill makes no such distinction: it prohibits all discrimination. These questions are valid concerns that need to be explored and answered before a sweeping new discrimination policy is established in law.”