In honor of National Coming Out Day I have decided to write about some famous sport icons who faced intense coming out processes while playing.
OK--the coming out day thing is a pretext. I thought of the idea before I realized it was coming out day. No matter. (And Happy Coming Out Day to all those for whom that is relevant. Woo-hoo, Go Gay!)
So back to the icons. I am speaking of Rene Richards and Martina Navratilova. What inspires this entry is some recent light reading I have been doing where they were mentioned--deparately, but in ways which disappoint me.
Richards first. So Richards is a transexual, MTF, who played as a woman for a but on the women's tennis tour. Obviously with some controversy--including legal battles. In the most recent issue of Bitch, Richards comments on the presence of MTFs in sport. (The article was about golfer Mianne Bagger.) Richards believes they should not be allowed to play--even after completion of reassignment surgery and hormone treatment--which makes MTFs considerably weaker. Something about some things can never be changed. What would that be, Rene? No details are provided. I just find it so disappointing that someone like Richards who has been through the ordeal of having to fight for the right to play the sport she loves in the gender she feels she belongs to would say such a thing.
Which leads me to Martina. This issue is admittedly not nearly as serious but still disappointment courses through my veins. Martina, I read in Curve, does not like The L-Word. She wishes there were fewer dysfunctional relationships and more solid monogamous ones. Let me say that I do respect the work on and off the court that Martina has done throughout her life but sometimes I just don't know what she's talking about. Is this the same woman who lived with her "coach" Nancy Lieberman--a woman who despite her gay beginnings is now born-again? And anyone who has read Rita Mae Brown's book, Sudden Death, which was based on her relationship with Navratilova, knows that it was not all that functional at times. And didn't Martina's former lover, the Texas beauty queen Martina converted, sue her in a palimony suit? Seems like Martina's love life would fit right in on The L-Word.
Interesting how both these "radicals" are getting pretty conservative these days. I know the memory goes as we get older but it seems unlikely that these two especially would forget all the obstacles they had to overcome in and out of sport and then not support those who continue to fight.