Sean Bugg

Courting bigotry in women's tennis

Filed By Sean Bugg | February 21, 2010 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: Billie Jean King, LGBT community, Margaret Court, Navratilova, Rennae Stubbs, sports, women in sports

I know it's been a busy couple of weeks of snowstorms and queer politics when I miss a story about homophobia in professional tennis. Margaret-Court.jpgI feel like such a slacker.

In a January newspaper profile Grand Slam legend Margaret Court said this about fellow tennis legends Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova:

"But my view is that it's a lifestyle they've chosen which they didn't have to. And I'll say this, if I had a child playing tennis today I wouldn't let that child go on her own on the circuit because I think there is a wrong spirit (on the women's tour]. Young people can get snared into that world. People go into homosexuality thinking they're like that and they're actually not. I'd want to keep them on the straight and narrow."

She also said, "I remember a mother telling me that her son was fine until somebody told him, 'I think you're gay'. He took that thought and he started to think on it so much that he believed that's what he was. There will be some reason that they are the way they are. But God made Adam and Eve and male and female to multiply the earth."

Ah, the recruitment theory, an oldie but goodie.

I've known for years that Court had become a fervent evangelical minister in her home nation of Australia, and while I suspected that might mean some rather retrograde views on homosexuality, I'd hoped that seeing her every year perched in the champion's seating area alongside King, Navratilova and others, that perhaps I shouldn't be too quick to judge.

Apparently, Court's got quite a lot of judging going on herself. There's a part of me that gets a little angry at this, but a greater part of me just feels sad. Here's a woman blessed -- by God, nature or both, depending on your point of view -- with talent and success that most of us can only dream of. She's played against and alongside other women of equal caliber, knowing them as competitors and human beings.

Yet she comes away from that experience seeing an "abomination."

The LGBT community is fortunate to have so many open players on the women's professional tennis tour -- of course, I mean "many" in a sense of relative to other sports. The men's tour is, still, lacking in open and active players -- although you get the sense that some players like Andy Roddick, who plays every year in a benefit for Elton John's foundation and included the famously flaming singer in his wedding, are light years ahead of Court and others of the old guard in their perceptions of LGBT people (and, hopefully, LGBT athletes).

I've been lucky enough to interview both King and Navratilova -- as well as Australian player Rennae Stubbs -- and I expect I'll be interviewing more open players, women and men, in the future. To get there, though, we'll all need to hold people like Court to account for their backwards, bigoted views.

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What is she imagining these "girls" thinking?

"Well, I think I'd like to munch muff, and she's doing it, so..."

If only it worked that way, eh? Life would be so much easier, eh? No wonder the fundie mindset keeps trying to simplify it to simple "thinking" you're LGBT. That makes the onus on us - for flawed thinking - instead of facing their own bigotries head on.

Court has been saying homophobic things for years. Rather than admiring her lesbian competitors, she deeply resented them for kicking her ass. Moreover, she attributed their ability to do so to some sort of unfair advantage she felt they had because as lesbians, she thought, they were 'unnaturally masculine'.

I believe that this is old fashioned jealousy rather than religious zealotry. Or at least the former begat the latter, rather than the other way around.

Michael @ | February 21, 2010 4:34 PM

Jealousy and religious zealotry are often murdererous alone; combined they often become serial killers as evidenced by Court's comment history.

Dusting off my copy of the Apochrypha, I recall this scripture that never made it into the Queen James, etc.:

"Verily, I say unto you: when a tennis player's racket is filled with hate remembereth that a tennis racket is capable of hitting more than just tennis balls."

Amen and amen.

Jealousy, sheer jealousy.
No wonder no woman would have her and she had to settle for men...