May 6, 2013 • In web :: Features
MMA Shows Mixed Feelings for Transgender Fighter Fallon Fox
Vanessa Ciccone talks about MMA fighter Fallon Fox coming out trans in the world of professional sports.
Continued from page 1
Rogan should have read into these definitions, as well as medical research and lived experiences around transitioning one’s sex before dismissing trans athletes with bigoted and ignorant statements. However, his arguments do tell us something about the perceptions of a sizable portion of the MMA community around biology versus ability. Rogan’s hate speech highlights the assumption that since Fox was assigned male at birth —an identity typically assigned by a physician following a visual assessment of external anatomy at birth— in some fundamental respects, she must still be a man. Rogan also assumes that by virtue of being assigned male, Fox was endowed with certain physical advantages that cannot be changed.
Perhaps it’s the realization that biological sex is not fixed and does not necessarily align with gender identity that is scaring people like Joe Rogan, a man for whom personal identity seems inextricably linked to his sex. It can be argued that Rogan has made a career out of being a chauvinist. He’s been known to take on hyper-masculine personas based on social norms established in a capitalist, patriarchal settler state. Nonetheless, these qualities actually have nothing to do with biological sex. A colour commentator for the UFC, a mixed martial artist, and a comedian, Rogan’s jokes and comments are often sexist. In fact, Rogan has been criticized in the media for previous sexist and homophobic comments. Processing the fact that it’s possible for persons to take steps to align their sex with their gender identity seems to be too much for Rogan to take in, leaving him only with the option of nonsensical and hateful public rants.
Unfortunately, Rogan and Mitrione aren’t Fox’s only opponents. UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez stated publicly that he believes Fox shouldn’t be able to compete. Female MMA fighters including Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate have also commented that they feel it is dangerous to compete with Fox. UFC bantamweight contender Tate told ESPN, "I have nothing against transgender people. You should live your life however you want. It's about fighter safety. I wouldn't feel comfortable getting in [the ring] with someone who is a woman but developed as a man. I just don't think it would be safe."
The use of words like “safe” and “developed” in Tate’s speech indicate that the uneasiness she is feeling about Fox likely has much less to do with biology than gender, or the idea of fighting someone who has been socialized to be ‘male’. It also indicates that she is thinking of the two constructs – biological sex and gender – as unquestionably linked.
According to medical professionals who specialize in sex reassignment surgery, there is no risk for cisgender female MMA athletes who compete against trans women in the same weight class. Moreover, important questions concerning right to privacy and respecting how an athlete or community member self-identifies need to be asked.