It’s that time of year when we all tune in to ESPN and watch our favorite live gaming event of the year, The French Open! And just in time, retired Australian tennis player Margaret Court has filled the entire world in on tennis’ greatest secret: tennis is full of lesbians!
I for one, was shocked—shocked—by this breaking news. Tennis? Full of lesbians? Absolutely not. Dana Fairbanks was the first tennis lesbian I’d ever heard of! Despite my love for field hockey in high school, though, I’m not the sportiest of queers, so I knew it was possible I was just ignorant about tennis lesbianism. As a Gemini, I felt it my duty to correct this lack of knowledge, and so I went digging.
In an interview with 20Twenty Vision Christian Radio, Court is quoted saying, “I mean, tennis is full of lesbians[!]” As a younger tennis player, she remembers there being “only a couple there” but that they had tons of parties, and always brought the newer, younger tennis lesbians with them to parties so that they could be around their heroes. How thoughtful. Thanks older lesbian tennis players!
Court also stated that more children are LBGTQ+ because of “communism”, saying that “there’s a whole plot in our nation, and in the nations of the world, to get the minds of the children.” I don’t disagree. Communism is a great way to reach children. Resource sharing? Into it. (Unfortunately, it’s actually not Communists or queers attempting to penetrate children’s minds, it’s folks with far more devious motives.)
As a serious investigative journalist, I knew I needed to do further research. After all, there’s only so much you can learn from a Buzzfeed news article and a 45 minute interview. Is tennis full of lesbians? The internet, and by “the internet” I mean my co-workers on Slack, had a lot more to say about this than I expected. Riese Bernard, Autostraddle’s CEO had this to say, “Tennis has been a longstanding situation for lesbians. Dana Fairbanks was based on a true story. Power lesbian tennis players cavorted secretly in Palm Springs in the 80s and 90s. These are all true facts I cannot provide sources for, but I’m confident about them. Also, Some of the first out lesbians ever, Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova, were tennis players.” Kayla K, a Staff Writer, said that “Tennis is def full of lesbians!!” citing that, “There was sooooo much lesbian drama on my HS tennis team. My doubles partner was in a secret relationship with another girl on the team it was a whole thing.” Fascinating.
Can’t argue with sound logic and personal anecdotes, right? Some naysayers disagree. Molly Priddy, Autostraddle’s own Feelings Rookie said, “Sometimes I think the mandatory skirts deterred a good many of our more masc[uline] of center athletes,” while Erin Sullivan believes, “Tennis is not full of lesbians but I welcome an upswing!!” Perhaps tennis is full of lesbians who haven’t come out yet? Only time will tell.
I also conducted a very official poll on Twitter, seeking the public’s opinion on this vital matter, and just like the staff of Autostraddle, they’re split! As of the writing of this, 46% of poll takers believe that yes, tennis is full of lesbians, while 54% answered either “no” or “just Dana Fairbanks”. Still no straight (pun intended) answer.
Only the ones who drive Subaru's. pic.twitter.com/R2iUinNNZk
— neo-queen serenity (@firecrackerroot) May 31, 2017
According to one specific forum thread from the tennis side of the internet, which has apparently sat dormant since around 2002, while tennis may not be full of lesbians, there are definitely some out there. And according to Wikipedia’s dynamic list of LGBT Sportspeople there are or have been at least twelve non-fictional tennis lesbians in all of time. I’ve organized them all in a list for you.
- Dana Fairbanks (fictional, but real in my heart)
- Billie Jean King
- Martina Navitalova
- Casey Dellacqua
- Amelie Mauresmo
- Gaby Sabatini???
- Beatriz “Gigi” Fernandez
- Helen Jacobs
- Ilana Kloss
- Hana Mandlíková
- Lisa Raymond
- Renée Richards
- Rennae Stubbs
One of these lesbian tennis players, the legendary Martina Navratilova, has a very solid theory regarding Court’s statements: “It is now clear exactly who Court is: an amazing tennis player, and a racist and a homophobe.” Good point.
So, is tennis full of lesbians? The jury’s still out (another pun!). If I’m being honest, I don’t actually know how many women tennis players there are right now, period. Can’t be more than like, what, 40? If my estimates are correct, then that means that at least 25% of women tennis players are lesbians right now at this minute. Maybe even more! And this is just the tip of the iceberg, and according to Margaret Court, “you know, what you get at the top is often what you’ll get right through that sport.” Seems clear enough to me.