Time to talk about Fallon Fox. The transgender athlete who's picked a fight with what seems like the whole of the professional Mixed Martial Arts community. Lover that I am, I don't know why anybody would want to beat the shit out of people for a living-but, if that's what you feel you want to do, you should have the right to do that whether you're black, white, gay, transgender, or whatever.
So here's the deal. Fallon was born with a peen. No one's perfect. I throw away too much salad. She was raised as a dude, as I am told is traditional in Ohio for babies born with outwardly expressive genitalia. But that peen never did sit right with her and, since 2008, she has been a woman in mind, body, and soul. I'm not saying that being a woman is all about having a vagina, because there's kind of more to it than that, but she even has one of those now. She's totally going for this whole woman thing. I reckon she's got it nailed. More importantly for her career, medical experts agree.
Last week, Fallon beat up another woman. In a fight. It's what they do, these MMA fighters. No one forces them. People get hurt. All the time. It's their job. I appreciate your gut reaction may be one of sympathy toward Fallon's vanquished opponent, Tamikka Brents, but a china doll she isn't. She's a successful MMA fighter who could have opted out of the fight beforehand if she truly believed Fallon had an unfair advantage over her. After she lost, Tamikka went and whined about how "it just isn't fair" for Fallon to fight women. Complaining after you lose isn't just sour grapes-it's downright tacky, Tamikka.
And unless you personally happen to be a qualified medical expert specializing in sex-based physiological advantage in sporting contexts, I really couldn't care less what you think about Fallon's right to compete in professional MMA fighting. Anything you have to say is just an opinion and you're entitled to an opinion, of course, but you're not entitled to have people believe your opinion is backed up by fancy science because it's not, OK?
Even if-if-Fallon Fox happened to be taller than your average female MMA fighter, and if-if-she happened to have higher testosterone levels, this still wouldn't be a reason to exclude her from the sport. But here's the thing: She's 5'6". And she doesn't take testosterone. In fact, since she has neither testicles nor ovaries, both of which produce testosterone, the women she's fighting probably have more testosterone than she does. Testosterone isn't this magical substance that only guys produce; most women have it too, just as men have estrogen in their bodies. Because biological sex isn't black and white; it is, like all human physiology, a complex bouquet of various different factors within every single one of us. Fallon Fox is biologically unique-as is everyone else on the planet.
The real question is: When it comes to fighting, does Fallon have an unfair advantage over your average woman? Yes. She does. She's a professional MMA fighter, FFS. Every single one of them has an unfair advantage. I wouldn't want to get into a fight with any of these hefty bitches, and I ain't no hollaback girl. But these MMA girls are strong. Vicious. Determined. They're fucking crazy if we're being totally honest. So the really real question we need to be asking is: Does Fallon Fox have an unfair advantage over your average crazy bitch professional MMA fighter?
Medical experts say no. Last year, Dr. Eric Vilain-director of the Institute for Society and Genetics at UCLA-examined Fallon's medical records and pointed out that "male to female transsexuals have significantly less muscle strength and bone density, and higher fat mass, than males." She's totally within the normal female range in terms of height, fitness, and strength. Which kind of takes me back to my original point: Fallon Fox is a woman.
Which is why, no doubt, the Association of Boxing Commissioners ruled last year that there is no advantage for trans fighters. And why the International Olympic Committee says it's OK for trans athletes to compete two years after they've had surgery. I'm tempted to trust them over sore losers, personally.
So what does Fallon have to say? Does she honestly believe that being trans doesn't give her an advantage of size or strength? "That all depends," she tells me, "on the fighter that I am fighting against, right? I'm 5' 6" tall. That's about average for the women in my weight class." And there are lots of female fighters in her weight category who are much taller anyway, "but then their height leaves them open for other things such as takedowns in some cases, and sometimes they tend to move just a tad bit slower than shorter competitors. We all have to deal with shorter opponents, taller opponents, opponents with shorter reaches, opponents with longer reaches, stronger opponents, weaker opponents, highly aggressive opponents, very smart opponents. Cisgender [not trans] or transgender, it really does not matter in women's MMA."
She adds, "As the medical community that licensed me and other transgender athletes around the world in different sports can attest, we all fall within the physical parameters of woman." Is she aware of any medical evidence to suggest trans women could have a measurable advantage in women's MMA? "Not that I know of. And if there is any I'd like someone to bring it forward."
Sorry to break this to you, ladies of MMA, but if you lose to Fallon Fox, it's not because she "used to be a man." You're just not as good as her.
You know, I do get it. All the shit that Fallon has to deal with. When she first came onto my radar, as a trans woman myself, I remember thinking two things: Firstly, good for her. Go girl. Secondly: Wow, what do I think about that? Like, surely someone who used to be a man, physically, is gonna be stronger than the other women she's fighting? Of course I did. Anyone would. We're taught from day one that men are big and strong and women are tiny and weak, and that the ultimate act of unfairness is for a man to hit a woman. And it's true, men shouldn't hit women. And they are, on average, more likely to hurt and physically damage a woman than a woman is a man. But women shouldn't hit men either. And women do hit men. And we laugh about it, or ignore it or downplay how serious it is. This is the problem with simplifying complex and context-dependent relationships between human beings. Some men are bigger than others. And some girls are bigger still. We all come in different shapes and sizes.
Fallon says people are hostile toward her for a host of factors. I thought she was going to blame ignorance or transphobia, but she believes much of it comes down to plain old misogyny. "After all, what's the worst thing that a male-bodied person could possibly do? That would be to give up male privilege. And the vast majority of haters out there hate me because they think that I am a man. A man who 'gave it all away.'"
What we're seeing with Fallon Fox isn't anything new, sadly. I doubt there's a transgender woman alive who hasn't been told at some point, "You can't do this, because you're just a man really." You can't come in this restroom. You can't call yourself a woman. You can't have my love. From strangers in bathrooms to academics in ivory towers-right through to the people who are supposed to support us most, our parents-trans women know about this kind of shit because we've heard it all before. If transgender women listened to every person who'd ever told them "you shouldn't be here," we'd have nowhere left to go. We'd be nothing. Nowhere. No one.
There's no doubt now that, in decades to come, we'll look back on 2014 as the moment the transgender community pushed its way in from the cold. Laverne Cox. Carmen Carrera. Laura Jane Grace. Nobody handed these women their success on a plate, and nobody is going to offer trans people a seat at any table without trans people demanding one. People in power don't just hand it over-worker's rights, women's rights, the right for people of different races to marry for fuck's sake-every single one of them had to be fought for, the way the gay community is currently fighting for its rights too. I hate violence even it its professional forms, but I'm glad we have a Fallon Fox among our trans sisterhood. She's a fighter in every sense of the word, and fuck me is this a fight.
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