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Margaret Court's Double Fault Must Be Challenged If We Are To Win The Match Of Our Lifetimes

History will judge us for our actions.

Former tennis great Margaret Court has double faulted: first with her homophobic comments, and then with her transphobic ones.

It is safe to say that with her outrageous comments -- publicly saying she will no longer fly Qantas because it supports same-sex marriage, and referring to transgender children as "the work of the devil" -- Margaret Court has not just courted controversy, but wed herself to it.

As the Margaret Court controversy has played out, I have watched on in equal parts disappointment and encouragement. I am disappointed that, even in Australia in 2017, homophobic and transphobic comments remain an all too common part of public discourse. But I am encouraged by the overwhelming public response against homophobia and transphobia seen in recent times.

We have a long way to go, but we're winning.

One can understand how people living a long time ago held such views, but it serves as no justification for them.

It's because the forces of acceptance and compassion are winning that people who do not share those values (even though they like to think they do) are increasingly feeling "bullied" by those of us who think civilisation is diminished by prejudice.

Civilisation is of course founded on free speech, and Margaret Court has every right to say what she thinks, just as she has the right to be offended by the LGBTI community, and even to offend those within it. But she does not have a right to be free from the consequences of her words and actions, because those in the LGBTI community also have a right to speak their minds, and we are offended too.

Few things are more offensive to us than a privileged, cisgendered heterosexual claiming they're being bullied by the LGBTI community when we do nothing more than dare to stand up for ourselves.

At the Victorian AIDS Council, we provide counselling services to LGBTI people who experience mental health issues or family violence as a result of the bullying and abuse they're subjected to because of their LGBTI status.

We also provide community-based health services through our Centre Clinic in St Kilda, and our Pronto and Equinox clinics in Fitzroy, because a large part of the LGBTI community is not comfortable talking about their health with health professionals not from within our community.

The reasons for this are that, historically, LGBTI people have been treated poorly by health professionals, and because many health professionals simply do not understand our community; although much progress has been made.

While the LGBTI community certainly needs support to deal with the discrimination and abuse its members suffer, not a day goes by that I am not amazed by the resilience of our community, especially those who require our counselling services.

Their stories are often heartbreaking. We hear of children thrown out of home for being LGBTI, and of people being beaten and knocked down, but who always get back up. Their resilience stands in stark contrast to the hypersensitivity of people like Margaret Court, who cannot suffer so much as other people living their lives their own way without feeling personally affronted.

Our counsellors have to support LGBTI people seeking their help to understand that there is nothing wrong with them, and that they are not the problem. Comments like Margaret Court's, and the way many in society bully LGBTI people, are the problem.

Margaret Court is arguably the greatest tennis player of all time. It is unfortunate that her name is becoming more associated with her controversial views rather than inspiring young women to play tennis.

Calls for the Margaret Court Arena to be renamed are not bullying. They echo the removal of the names of proponents of slavery from university halls and the like. One can understand how people living a long time ago held such views, but it serves as no justification for them, and it is much more difficult to understand how anyone could hold such bigoted views today.

History will judge us for our actions. And no one is exempt from its judgement, least of all those who spend their lives judging others. The fact is the glorification of bigots must end if bigotry is ever going to end.

Until people like Margaret Court stop victimizing LGBTI people for being who they are, they will continue to get served by those of us who understand that it is not bullying, but rather our civic duty to call out bigotry and defend those who cannot defend themselves.


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