I will never forget watching Martina Navratilova play at Wimbledon the year after she came out as a lesbian. It was the 1982 tournament and the backlash against her had been brutal.
Very deeply courageous and principled, Martina once estimated that she lost around US$10 million in endorsement deals as corporate executives rushed to distance themselves from her at a time when anti-gay bigotry was sky high within the context of the AIDS crisis.
Martina was the very first lesbian role model of my generation. I was 20 years old during that tournament, and I heard from lesbians of all ages about the pride they felt at being able to tell those friends and family members that were not comfortable about lesbianism that Martina was one of them. The only other lesbians I had seen on TV were the characters in The Killing of Sister George, portrayed as twisted and damaged individuals, so having a sports superstar on our team was amazing.
Clearly not everyone felt the same. The Australian retired tennis player Margaret Court, who had won at Wimbledon three times, said in 1990 that although Navratilova is a “great player” she would like to see somebody win, “to whom the younger players can look up to”. Court, a born again Christian, said that as far as she was concerned, “it is very sad for children to be exposed to homosexuality.”
Lesbians in the U.K. have fought for and achieved legislative equality with heterosexuals. We can marry, adopt and foster children, and have next-of-kin rights with a same-sex partner. It is now illegal to fire us from our jobs or refuse goods and services on the grounds of our sexuality.
These changes also are prevalent across the majority of states in the U.S. and in numerous other countries around the world. But there are still plenty of places that have either rolled back the rights of lesbians, such as Russia under President Vladimir Putin, or, under the influence of religious fundamentalists, have introduced archaic and extremely punitive legislation affecting LGBTQ people.
A leading British feminist, who campaigns against violence towards women, has claimed that she was attacked in Edinburgh last night by a transgender person.
Julie Bindel, the keynote speaker at an Edinburgh University event which discussed the future of women’s sex-based rights, said she was verbally abused, “lunged at” and almost “punched in the face”, by a transwoman as she left the building.
She thanked university security staff for protecting her and said she was still considering whether to press charges.