Soccer legend Neville Southall has stuck up for intersex athlete Caster Semenya and attacked author JK Rowling for her anti-trans views.
The retired Welsh international and Everton soccer player made his name as one of the best goalkeepers of his generation in the 1980s.
But in recent years he has been a social media champion for good causes, particularly LGBT+ rights.
Moreover he also backed track athlete Caster Semenya.
She’s been fighting for the right to defend her double Olympic 800 meter victories in the Tokyo games next year. But sports bodies have ruled she has too much testosterone to take part.
Southall’s reaction is to condemn the way the sport has treated Semenya as a ‘disgrace’.
‘People should be allowed to live the lives they want’
The 61-year-old hero of British soccer made the comments in a wide-ranging interview in The Guardian yesterday (15 September).
In it, he takes aim at right-wing politicians and extremists, saying:
‘I want Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Tommy Robinson, Donald Trump and the geezer from North Korea to be put on a boat that gets sent around the world for the next 25 years.’
Meanwhile, he expresses particular concern for trans people. And he takes aim at Rowling who has made a series of anti-trans comments in the last year.
Southall says: ‘Lots of people think it’s a sin to be trans. I looked at JK Rowling’s reaction to transgender women.
‘She above everybody knows what fantasy is. So she must be able to imagine that some people are born in the wrong bodies.
‘We never question a child that is born as a cojoined twin. But we question that somebody can be born in the wrong body. That happens because we can’t see in somebody’s brain, or soul, to understand how they feel.
‘I don’t know everything there is to know about trans people, which is why I am always trying to learn more.
‘But I know people should be allowed to live the lives they want within reason. If you’re born into a male body but you feel so strongly that you’re a female, why should I stop you? Your body is just a shell. You have a right to discover your real self.
‘If somebody wants to do the whole transition it’s a big operation. Mentally it takes incredible courage. So what JK Rowling said doesn’t help.
‘She’s sold loads of books and she’s obviously got talent but maybe she’s of an age where she doesn’t have knowledge about trans issues and maybe she’s scared of it. If you don’t understand something and you start talking out loud against it that’s dangerous.’
Rowling has come under fire for her new book this week.
She published Troubled Blood under the male pen name Robert Galbraith. However despite her own gender non-conformity with her pseudonym, the book stands accused of transphobia. Others have said it is not anti-trans and people should read it before judging.
‘That’s not fair’
Meanwhile Southall also sticks up for Caster Semenya.
She won gold in both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics in the 800 meters. However, she has the intersex condition hyperandrogenism, which causes higher testosterone levels.
Now she has lost a legal case to allow her to compete in her natural state in Tokyo next year. Instead, World Athletics wants her to take testosterone-suppressing supplements.
That’s despite the fact the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has ordered sporting bodies to drop such rules.
Southall says: ‘They’re making her take drugs to dilute her testosterone. It’s an absolute disgrace to give her tablets so she can’t be who she is.
‘They’re basically saying: “You’re too good so you’ve got to take these tablets to slow you down.”
‘That’s not fair. You wouldn’t say that to Usain Bolt. We need some massively serious debates about gender because nobody seems to be able to come up with a definitive answer.’
His support as a sportsperson is particularly valuable. And it goes against even some LGBT+ sportspeople who have attacked trans people’s participation in sports, most notably tennis legend Martina Navratilova.
Not a tiger
Southall – or ‘Big Nev’ – has become a strong ally for LGBT+ people in recent years.
In 2018, he answered speculation from fans about whether his support meant he was secretly gay.
He joked: ‘I find it funny that if I tweet something about LGBT stuff people ask me if I am gay but if I tweet about animals they never ask if I am a tiger.’
Previously, in 2018, he had told people on Twitter:
‘If you’re gay, straight, trans or anything else you should be able to be what you want. Not live a lie.’
At the time, he told GSN that when he talked about sexuality and gender on the social media platform ‘lots of idiots came out of the woodwork to have a go.’
He added: ‘I thought: how does anybody who is different put up with that shit every day?’