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.
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Dr. Marci Bowers specializes in gynecology as well as pelvic and reconstructive surgery. She is a pioneer in the sense that she identifies as a transgender woman and has performed hundreds of sex reassignment surgeries. Bowers told the Bloody Elbow, an MMA and UFC news outlet, that Fox would not have any physical advantage beyond the normal variations in body type that exist in all females.
She said, “People think it [gender verification testing] should be based on chromosomes, but the problem with that is when they went back in 1988 and tested female athletes, they found that nine of them had tested positive for Y chromosomes, so there are a lot of intersex conditions that basically dictate that the only way you can do it, is by genital and hormonal status.”
In an interview with Sports Illustrated on the topic, Helen J. Carroll, Director of the National Centre for Lesbian Rights’ Sports Project said, “The short answer is the transgender woman is a woman, and when she transitions, she takes testosterone-blocking hormones, so when she does end up competing, she has less testosterone in her system than her competitors do." Carroll went on to mention that female trans athletes have to work harder at keeping on muscle mass and strength than athletes who are cisgender women, and that lower testosterone can have adverse effects on speed and weight retention.
Some have brought up the fact that trans women have higher bone density than their cisgender counterparts, assuming that this must give Fox a competitive edge. These arguments overlook the fact that all competitors in the MMA are categorized by weight. Regardless of the distribution of that weight in bones and muscle, competing against Fox is no different from competing against a cisgender competitor in the same weight class. This begs the question: what if we classified fighters by weight, or by a combination of weight and skill level? Why is there such a rampant fixation on and conflation of gender identity with biological sex?
Fox also meets the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) standards for trans athletes. The IOC changed its regulations in 2004 so that transgender athletes could compete two years following sex reassignment surgery, which Fox completed six years ago.
This is nothing new for professional sports. Trans athletes have competed in professional golf, tennis, boxing, and skiing, to name a few. The IOC, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) have all determined that after a certain period of time while transitioning, there is no longer a natural advantage to prevent trans women from competing with other female athletes.
A documentary on Fox’s experience is currently being filmed. After 10 years of hormone therapy, and six years following her surgery, here’s hoping that the film ends with the fight being shifted back into the ring.
To follow Fox’s story and show support, visit her Facebook page.