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.
Trigger warning for transmisogynistic slurs.
As a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) athlete with three amateur and two professional wins on her record, Fallon Fox’s world drastically shifted on March 5, 2013, when news broke that she had undergone sex reassignment surgery six years earlier. That news sparked a contentious debate within the MMA community as to whether or not Fox should be allowed to continue to fight professionally.
In becoming the first openly/out trans woman in the MMA, a myriad of questions have been posed about the safety of Fox’s opponents and the perceived legitimacy of her fighting license. By all accounts, these questions are baseless, yet legalities around her MMA license were reviewed for nearly a month before Florida’s Department of Business & Professional Regulation closed the investigation, allowing Fox to compete professionally. It also looks as though the Championship Fighting Alliance (CFA) will continue to back Fox since they have her scheduled in the women’s featherweight tournament and set to spar with Al-Lanna Jones at Championship Fighting Alliance 11 on May 24.
Fox, most importantly, identifies as a woman and is considered a woman in all biological, social and legal respects; yet, each time ‘a first’ happens in sport that confronts systemic oppression, opponents of the trans community (in this instance), hurl misinformed vitriol that provides no space for dialogue. This hate speech does not recognize that when it comes to gender identity, how a person chooses to self-identify trumps external categories. After a particularly violent outburst, the UFC suspended Matt Mitrione for calling Fox a “lying, sick, sociopathic disgusting freak," during an interview with The MMA Hour.
One of the most vocal opponents to Fox is Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) commentator Joe Rogan. In a recent podcast he went on record to say, “She [Fox] wants to be able to fight women in MMA. I say no fucking way. I say if you had a dick at one point in time, you also have all the bone structure that comes with having a dick. You have bigger hands, you have bigger shoulder joints. You’re a fucking man. That’s a man, OK? You can’t have… that’s… I don’t care if you don’t have a dick any more…you can’t fight women, that’s fucking crazy.”
Based on comments like these, there appears to be a great deal of confusion within the MMA’s cisgender community that needs clarifying. For instance, cisgender people are born with a biological sex that matches their gender identity, but for transgender people, it does not. Gender identity is a conscious state of maleness, femaleness, or a combination thereof on a kaleidoscope of identities. Gender identity is evident in a social context and separate and distinct from biological sex.