Billie Jean King: Caitlyn Jenner helps transgender visibility, acceptance

Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King Frank Franklin II, AP

NEW YORK — Billie Jean King believes Caitlyn Jenner has given people clarity about transgender issues beyond the progress already seen four decades after they shared the international spotlight as athletes.

“The interview with then-Bruce Jenner, and now Caitlyn Jenner, really helped people to be clear in understanding, especially about gender vs. sexuality,” the 71-year-old former tennis star said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Everybody’s always getting very confused with that. Then they finally realized they have nothing to do with each other.”

Caitlyn Jenner
Caitlyn Jenner Photograph by Annie Leibovitz, via Vanity Fair

King won the last of her 12 Grand Slam singles titles in 1975, a year before Jenner earned the unofficial title of “world’s greatest athlete” by winning gold in the decathlon at the Montreal Olympics.

Jenner, 65, announced her transition in an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer in April to Caitlyn on the cover of Vanity Fair this week.

“It’s been a long journey for Caitlyn, and I’m really happy for her,” said King.

King occasionally traveled in the same circles with Jenner, given they were two of the most recognizable athletes in the 1970s.

King was 29 when she defeated former professional tennis player Bobby Riggs, 55, in the famed “Battle of the Sexes” match in 1973, putting gender issues in the spotlight.

She later helped pros accept a transgender player in their ranks after she started the Women’s Tennis Association in 1973.

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