Openly gay AFL player says to ease up on Margaret Court

WHEN Jason Ball came out in 2012, he became the first AFL player at any level to do so.

In 2014, he reflected on coming out for, and in 2017, he reflects on the controversy surrounding tennis legend Margaret Court.


IT'S not often I agree with Cate McGregor.

As a former Safe Schools ambassador, I found her criticism of the program misguided and unfounded. The way she carried on after not winning Australian of the Year in 2016, and her attacks on David Morrison, were unfair and unbecoming.

However, in her recent ABC interview responding to Margaret Court, McGregor was eloquent, considered and, I think, offered some level-headed wisdom to the LGBTI community, whom I care passionately about.

As a transgender woman, McGregor didn't hold back in critiquing Court's views. She pointed to the high suicide rates of the trans community and defended the choices of parents of transgender kids who are motivated to ensure that their children are happy and healthy by helping them transition, instead of fighting nature.

As a Christian, McGregor pointed out the irony of anyone from the church claiming the 'moral high ground' in the protection of children, when some clergy have presided over the systematic sexual abuse of minors for generations.

However, McGregor also cautioned the LGBTI community from seeking schoolyard revenge on Court by renaming Margaret Court Arena. She suggested that this amounted to 'Stalinist airbrushing'.

Australian tennis great Margaret Court has ruffled feathers with her comments on equality. Picture: Vincent Thian
I don't fully agree that renaming Margaret Court Arena is tantamount to "airbrushing" Court's tennis achievements from our sporting history. That would involve stripping Court of her Grand Slam titles, which no one is suggesting we do.

Also, we didn't see McGregor or Turnbull or anyone else defend Rolf Harris when his mural was painted over by Warrnambool City Council. I'm not seeking to equate Court's advocacy with Harris' child sex abuse, but the same logic applies. No one is saying Rolf Harris wasn't a great artist and performer, but because of what he now represents, he no longer deserves a place of public adulation.

That said, I am not sure who would benefit more from renaming Margret Court Arena?

Would this help the LGBTI community, or would it hand Court a martyrdom she has done little to earn? At this point, do we need symbolic victories that give our tormentors a sense of grievance and victimhood? Is revenge against this misguided elderly person, going to help the LGBTI community to progress?

Margaret Court's feeble boycott against Qantas was for the most part laughable, given all other domestic airlines in Australia also support marriage equality. Further, I strongly believe we should not make an old woman's ramblings about 'the devil' anything more than a subject of pity.

Margaret Court says the interview on The Project was “below the belt”. Picture: Ross Swanborough
Margaret Court says the interview on The Project was “below the belt”. Picture: Ross Swanborough

I recognise that my call for leaving Margaret to protest alone may be too late, with the likes of Martina Navratalova, Sam Stosur, Casey Dellacqua and Andy Murray entering the debate.

This campaign is gaining momentum at a considerable rate, and perhaps speaks to some deep-seated frustrations towards Court from within the world of tennis, dating back to her defence of apartheid in South Africa in the 1970s. There may not be anything the LGBTI community can do to change public opinion from embracing Evonne Goolagong's example as more deserving of the Arena namesake.

But the LGBTI community can choose to celebrate progress, rather than fixate on what a retired tennis legend has to tell us about the Bible. Instead of renaming Margaret Court Arena, why not work with Tennis Australia and the Melbourne and Olympic Park Trust to fly the rainbow flag or hold a rainbow themed benefit at the stadium raising funds for an LGBTI charity? Perhaps Tina Arena would even perform at such an event.

If tennis really is "full of lesbians" is that not cause for celebration? Can we turn Margaret Court from a gay villain to a gay icon, as CLOSET nightclub have done?

Wouldn't it all be much more fun if we could jest about Court, while also doing some tangible good for our community?

The past is the past, we can't change it, and frankly, we don't need to, because the future is so much better. As Michelle Obama once said, when they go low, we go high, and to echo Cate McGregor, it's up to LGBTI community to lead by example, and take the high road on this one.