Sometimes it’s hard to be a Woman

by HST UK on April 10, 2013

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I remember working with a transgender woman at a DIY store. However I was not aware of this when we first met. We started at the same time, and I recall that we sat next to each other in the bleachers on our first morning, and as our names were called when this person answered to a female name I was taken aback. She looked like a man, talked like a man, had man sized hands. This was the first transgender woman I had ever met.

Our working relationship carried the bond that came whenever you started a job with a group of fellow newbies. You are forever connected to those people and if you see one of the group members in the corridor or the canteen you will have a brief catch-up. One day I was moping around by the coffee machine, and I had a real face on. At the time I was a University student, and I was really struggling with my course. I didn’t want to be studying, and work, despite my apathetic stance towards the place, seemed like a temporary respite from academic misery. The transgender woman came up to me and said “You think you’re miserable, you’re not that miserable. This is miserable”. She pointed at scars that ran across her wrists and then walked away. My first thought was that if she’d have cut vertically rather than horizontally then she might have…

Presumably the self-harm happened post-operation. I say that because people talked and I heard that the operation was carried out on the cheap someplace in South-East Asia; I heard that the woman was still undergoing hormone replacement therapy and evidently the process was tough and the results unsatisfactory. Then to compound matters further there was dissent from the female staff about a transgender woman using their toilet facilities, which they shared with customers who also made complaints. Several times I witnessed the transgender woman referred to as “he”, “sir” or “mate” by customers. Many people openly made fun of the woman. I couldn’t really understand how someone could ever hope to find acceptance in such an environment, and more importantly how they could ever find happiness.

Sometimes even if you are on the path to becoming happy in your own skin, other people will make the experience difficult, and no matter how mentally strong you are and how tough you are, what other people say will inevitably bring you down. It isn’t easy to face the haters, the doubters, and the morons when they constantly remind you of what they think you are in the crassest possible fashion.

As an MMA fan I’ve been closely following the Fallon Fox story. Fox is the first transgender female fighter and although only two fights into her professional career, she has become the second most talked about female fighter after Ronda Rousey.

There have been several outspoken critics of Fox. Most notably UFC colour commentator Joe Rogan, who doesn’t believe a transgender fighter, who was born a man, should be beating up women. Rogan argues that Fox has certain ‘mechanical’ advantages over her opponents, in her build, movement, skeletal structure and I don’t know if this has been measured, but that she has ‘big hands’.

Fallon Fox underwent gender reassignment surgery in 2006, after nearly thirty years of psychological stress, where she lived as a woman in a man’s body. Coming into MMA late, Fox carries some disadvantages; however her high school wrestling experience and military background has likely made this transition a little easier.

After watching a couple of Fox’s fights online, an amateur bout against Scottie Fortner (who despite being called Scottie is female) in which Fox quickly took her opponent down, controlled her on the ground and finished her calmly with an armbar; and secondly a visceral dismantling of Erika Newsome in her second professional fight with vicious knees from a Muay Thai clinch, there was nothing fundamentally disturbing about her victories. She didn’t ragdoll her opponents and force them to cower meekly. She merely did her job as a fighter. If you want to see a scary female fighter dishing out disturbing levels of violence upon physically weaker women then look up Cristiane ‘Cyborg’ Santos, because that girl is a wrecking machine.

Fox’s situation hasn’t been helped by ignorant comments, both from the murky depths of MMA forums and by Professional Fighters. A few notable female fighters have spoken about holding reservations about the possibility of fighting Fox, but it was UFC Heavyweight Matt ‘Meathead’ Mitrione’s rant on The MMA Hour which included him saying “That is a lying, sick, sociopathic, disgusting freak, and I mean that. Because you lied on your license to beat up women…” that really took the biscuit. Mitrione has been suspended from the UFC for the time being after saying this, and given they’re currently looking to trim their roster after incorporating the Strikeforce fighters; he’s skating on thin ice.

Though Mitrione’s comments stress unease with a transgender woman fighting, and could be viewed as an extremely expressed opinion that shares the same sentiment as Joe Rogan’s, such views really have no place anywhere unless he was being darkly comic in the Frankie Boyle / Jerry Sadowitz sense.

Fallon Fox was bitten by the MMA bug; she fell in love with the sport and decided to compete. It just so happens that this occurred after she has had gender reassignment surgery. To suggest that Fox decided to fight as part of an evil master plan to beat up women is absurd.

With two professional bouts under her name, it is way too early in Fox’s career to tell whether or not she will make it to an female fighting organization such as Invicta, or find herself in the UFC’s fledgling female bantamweight division if she changed weight class, therefore at the moment it is difficult to find the necessary evidence to suggest that a transgender fighter carries any significant advantages over a fighter who was born female.

Fox’s fighting career had stalled briefly over issues stemming from her licensing application, in which her transgender status was not disclosed, however this has since been resolved, and she looks forward to a late April encounter that will be heavily covered by the media. One benefit from this is that a lowkey event will receive coverage it could only ever dream of, and therefore the rub from this is that it might actually provide some exposure for other fighters on the card. Imagine what would happen to the career of Fallon’s opponent were she able to defeat Fox and derail the hype train.

To say that Fallon Fox is the first of her kind is probably offensive, but at the same time her case is unprecedented, this is new ground, and she is a pioneer for transgender athletes considering a career in MMA. Though there have been transgender competitors in other sports, such as Renée Richards in Tennis, Michelle Dumaresq in mountain biking and golfer Mianne Bagger, none of these women competed in sports that require you to physically dismantle your opponent. Yet all have fought hard against prejudice, and like Fox have faced challenges far greater then stepping into a cage.

– RJW

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