One of the most influential and talented athletes of our time, Martina Navratilova left an indelible mark on tennis as well as the LGBT community.
She retired in 1995, and she’s been keeping herself busy ever since.
Now that she’s not swinging a tennis racket and running back and forth across a tennis court, Navratilova decided to obtain her pilot’s license even though she’s afraid of heights and her diver’s license even though she’s afraid of drowning. She has also dabbled in photography and painting, and even authored a few mystery novels.
As far as political and social causes go, it’s widely known that Navratilova is a prominent LGBT rights activist. But she also campaigns regularly for the safety of animals and the environment as well.
Most recently she was seen on the reality television show, I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here. And apparently she’s auditioning for a role in London’s production of Chicago.
Needless to say, Navratilova has accomplished a lot. She’s won a total of 18 Grand Slam singles titles, 31 Grand Slam women’s doubles titles, and 10 Grand Slam mixed-doubles titles.
And she won the granddaddy of them all—Wimbledon—9 times. What she has done for women’s tennis is comparable to what Andrea Agassi and Roger Federer have done for men’s tennis.
I still remember watching her play in tournaments, astounded by her athletic ability. But what stuck with me the most was she had the courage to come out on a national stage during a time when things were far different than they are now.
It was 1981 when Navratilova announced to the world that she was a lesbian. There was no Ellen, no gay or lesbian television characters, no big-name celebrities who were already out, nothing. Basically, the conversation of LGBT issues and concerns was still that of a whisper—it could hardly be heard.
Yet, Navratilova decided that she wasn’t going to let public opinion dictate her life any more than she would let public opinion dictate her play on the tennis court.
Navratilova understood the impact of her decision to come out. She understood that she could make a difference in the lives of LGBT athletes for generations to come.
At one point, not long after she came out, Navratilova said that professional athletes have a responsibility to speak out whenever they believe that something isn’t right. Perhaps if more professional athletes, gay and straight, had the courage to come forward in support of gay rights, many of the stereotypes that continue to cause conflict and inhibit our progress would melt away faster than we ever thought possible. Take a look at how much our society has already changed since Navratilova has come out.
It’s important to note that her talent and athletic ability were never tarnished after she came out. She’s still considered to be one of the best women’s tennis players of the 20th Century. That’s what people remember her for, first and foremost. And that’s the way it should be.