MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Tennis champion Martina Navratilova called on Wednesday for a special provision to be made for elite sport after U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order designed to allow equal transgender participation in school sports.
In an interview with BBC Radio 4, Navratilova proposed a “carve-out” - or separate provision - from the executive order signed on Jan. 20 to ensure a level playing field in elite women’s sports.
The Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation is intended to enable transgender women who have gone through male puberty to compete in women’s sports.
Navratilova, who won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, said she supported moves towards equality but that the physical advantages for transwomen competitors who had gone through male puberty were “pretty obvious”.
She opposed “an all-inclusive situation where trans men and women, just based on their self-id, would be able to compete with no mitigation ... that clearly would not be a level playing field,” she said.
Navratilova was among sportswomen who launched a group on Tuesday to work for a “science-based, ethical approach” to “establish a middle ground that both protects girls’ and women’s sport and accommodates transgender athletes”.
The Women’s Sports Policy Working Group wants a “carve-out for elite sports ... where there will be some rules as to what is possible and what is not, that are basically only based on biology and evidence and science,” she said.
The Czech-born American added: “We are only talking about taking a carve out or a separate policy for elite sports or sports at the higher level of high school, college and pros.”
Sharon McGowan, chief strategy officer of Lambda Legal, which works for LGBTQ (Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) civil rights, said Navratilova should not view trans-women’s participation in women’s sport as a danger.
“The kinds of proposals that unfortunately (Martina) and others have been promoting would really sweep way too far in terms of limiting the opportunity of transgender children being able to participate in a way that ensures fairness and opportunity,” she said.
McGowan, who was at the Department of Justice during Barack Obama’s presidency, said she was against separate events for trans athletes as it would mean “trans students who are already experiencing higher levels of stigmatization bullying are going to now be once again marked as separate and ‘othered’.”
Reporting by Simon Evans, Editing by Timothy Heritage
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