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Author Topic: Fallon Fox: Transgendered Athletes in Sports  (Read 1670 times)

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Offline consortium11Topic starter

Fallon Fox: Transgendered Athletes in Sports
« on: April 10, 2013, 08:21:39 AM »
Trigger warning: Transphobic language (especially in quotes and if you follow the links). I apologise if I've used transphobic language myself through ignorance; please feel free to call me on it.

So I thought I'd bring this up for comment.

Mixed Martial Arts is a full-contact sport variously described along the lines of "real" pro-wrestling, cage fighting or kickboxing with takedowns and submissions. It is in essence a codified example of a JCVD movie from the 1980's where martial artists from across the spectrum compete with each other to prove which style/fighter is the best (in truth the "style vs style" aspect dominated early MMA in North America although as it's grown the emphasis is now on athlete vs athlete). These days the largest and most notable promoter is the UFC.

For most of its modern history MMA has been almost entirely a male sport. Women did compete but not on the main shows and not for much money. Over recent years that's changed; the UFC has recently had it's first women's fights and women's champion and women's MMA as a whole has been getting more attention than ever, to the extent that Ronda Rousey, an Olympic Judo bronze medalist and the current UFC women's champion is one of the biggest names in MMA and a woman's only promotion can do pretty well for itself.

Which brings us to Fallon Fox.

Fallon Fox has a professional record of only 2-0, fighting on small shows, but has become one of the biggest and controversial names in MMA. The reason?

I'll leave it to her wiki article to explain:

Quote
Gender transition

After leaving college Fox worked as a trucker to gain money for her gender reassignment surgery. Eventually Fox moved to Chicago, Illinois with her daughter. In 2006 Fox traveled to Bangkok, Thailand and underwent gender reassignment surgery , breast augmentation and hair transplant surgeries at the Bangkok International Hospital.

Followed by...

Quote
Controversy

Fallon Fox came out publicly on March 5, 2013, after her two initial professional fights in an interview with OutSports writer Cyd Zeigler and sportsillustrated.com.[3][4] Controversy swelled over confusion with the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) and Florida’s athletic commission over the licensing process Fox chose to complete in Coral Gables. After publications shed light on the licensing procedure and Fox’s coming out many commentators brought up the issue of whether a person born as a male should be able to fight in women’s divisions in MMA fighting.[4] Most notably UFC color commentator Joe Rogan came out in strong opposition to Fallon Fox receiving licensing on his podcast The Joe Rogan Experience.[5] Video of those statements circulated online leading many other publications and blogs to report on the issue. Due to controversy and the licensing procedure CFA co-founder Jorge De La Noval, who promoted Fallon's fight on March 2 in Florida has postponed Fox’s April 20th, fight. De La Voal has stated since however his organization will not “turn our backs on her… As long as she's licensed, she's always welcome in our promotion. We stand behind her and we give her all of our support.".[6] Fox claimed in her video interview with Cyd Zeigler to be within the rules of organizations like the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for postoperative transsexuals and wishes to continue fighting in MMA.

On April 8, 2013, Matt Mitrione, in an appearance on "The MMA Hour", publicly expressed his dislike regarding Fox. Saying that Fox was "still a man," Mitrione called her an "embarrassment" and stated that Fox is a "lying, sick, sociopathic, disgusting freak." The UFC quickly condemned his comments and, along with publicly referring to itself as "a friend and ally of the LGBT community", immediately suspended Mitrione. [7] The next day Fox issued a statement of her own stating that Mitrione "personally attacked me as a fighter, as a woman, and as a human being"

Suffice to say it hasn't exactly shown MMA fans in the best light... any topic discussing her is riddled with transphobia (a sadly typical one can be found here) and almost certain to includes references to her being a man, calling her a freak, calling her "mentally disturbed" constantly referring to her as a "him" or an "it" and other such insults. Even the more "balanced" comments are often along the lines of "I've got nothing against trannies but he shouldn't be allowed to chop his penis off so he can beat up real women".

So my question is, what is everyone else's thoughts? Both about transgendered athletes competing with and against cisgendered ones in general and in particular in combat sports along the lines of MMA?

I'm aware of my own ignorance about the topic of the actual transition phase and the effect of hormones and the like. As a general rule men have physical advantages over women that mean that in the majority of high profile sports they have significant advantages, especially in those those emphasise physical abilities such as strength. Would Fox have lost these advantages through the transitioning process or would she have an advantage over cisgendered women? Is that fact she transitioned relatively late in her life (when 30 or so) have given her more of an advantage than someone who transitioned earlier? Do issues such as bone structure or bone density have an impact and have these been changed in any way due to Fox's transition?

And I guess most of all... is it fair for transgendered and cisgendered athletes to compete against each other, especially in sports where one of the primary aims is to punch your opponent in the face?

Offline Avis habilis

Re: Fallon Fox: Transgendered Athletes in Sports
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2013, 08:35:18 AM »
And I guess most of all... is it fair for transgendered and cisgendered athletes to compete against each other, especially in sports where one of the primary aims is to punch your opponent in the face?

As long as they're fighting in the appropriate weight class, I don't see why not.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Fallon Fox: Transgendered Athletes in Sports
« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2013, 08:45:08 AM »
I've seen cis-gendered women who could take on a cis-gendered man in a fair fight (Chyna, anyone?  And I'd lay money on the Awesome Kong, too.  Yes, I know that's 'pro wrestling' and not MMA, but I'd bet on them in a non-choreographed match, too.)

You know you're going in there to beat the snot out of each other.  What's under the singlet - even to the chromosomal level - doesn't matter.

Offline Avis habilis

Re: Fallon Fox: Transgendered Athletes in Sports
« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2013, 08:54:39 AM »
Rowdy Ronda routinely beats the holy spirit out of guys who are currently & have lived their whole lives as men, so it seems to me a fighter trained for the level she's competing at could deal with an opponent who was previously male.

Offline consortium11Topic starter

Re: Fallon Fox: Transgendered Athletes in Sports
« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2013, 09:15:08 AM »
On the points you raise.

I'm sure many female fighters could beat up men. I'm sure the Williams sisters could destroy me in a game of tennis. Hell, I'm sure some of "lesser" female tennis stars could utterly embarrass me at tennis.

But if you paired up the men's and women's rankings in tennis, could the women beat their equally ranked counterpart? I'd suggest not and that the actual figures would be a near whitewash for the men.

Can Rousey beat up men? Of course. She's an Olympian and a trained MMA fighter. Could she beat up the male 135lbs champ? No, it would be an embarrassment to watch. Could she beat up any of the top 10 men? I doubt it. Top 20? Probably still not. Top  30? I think she'd still struggle.

There's a reason there is a split between male and female sports, one of the major ones of which is that by nature men will generally be stronger and more athletic than women. If there was no division how many women would get into an NFL team? Despite Cuban's recent publicity stunts how many would get into an NBA team? An MLB team? A premiership football squad? A Super 15 rugby squad? There are reasons beyond mere historical flotsam and defined gender roles why we don't allow men to compete against women in certain sports; normally to the female athletes benefit.

So my question is do transgendered women distort that? I ask from a position of ignorance as I'm not sure quite what the transitioning process (if that's even the correct term) entails. By being transgendered does Fallon Fox have an advantage over someone otherwise near identical but who was born into a female body and so didn't need to transition?

Offline Koren

Re: Fallon Fox: Transgendered Athletes in Sports
« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2013, 09:21:46 AM »
I think this is a key example of how an attempt to protect can also have negitive consequences.
These days there is a lot of focus on respecting women and not hurting them and stopping domestic abuse, that men hitting women is such a horrible thing to be avoided at all costs.
Because of that, the fact that Fox once was biologically a man, people can no longer see past that and cant see what she is now, because they are all focusing on the horror of a man hitting a women and struggle to see past that binary.

Unfortunetly the western culture acceptance of binary is incredibly harmful and this is just a way.
But also I think that in part, sports in general still have a long way to go compared to society in terms of acceptance and agreement. Sports fans often share a mob mentality that drives problems like this, as also seen with the racist comments in the AFL here in australia of late, and even sexist ones, and as it is seem as a male dominated field, sports are a 'guys thing' there is still a lot of horror at the idea of women being involved in it, especially when they cross over like in situations here.

Ill agree that what that guy said was completely transphobic, you dont cant call someone a disgusting freak without it being a personal attack, its impossible, and clearly it was directed at Fox's transition, but the fact that this guy is being defended because of his fame and the UFC is seem as just covering its ass (which it may well be doing) speaks that people cant get past the idea of these groups and catagories, and mobs get defensive about 'their territory and reputation' and we see that. The company's reputation as a buisness. The fans' mentality of not wanting these 'taboos' in their world.

Now on the other side of that, in a sport such as wrestling I do think that maybe it is importaint to have this division between male and female ONLY because of the biology behind the things they need to fight with. Some women can be stronger yes, but their strength, stamina and even down to things like balence works on a very different level in women as opposed to men and visa versa. So while Fox being put into the right weight class may be a good thing and may solve that, she, like ever other athelete, does need to be evaluated properly to make sure that it is still fair.
I do think its wrong that some sports are being defined as 'male sports' and 'women sports', for example id love to see the womens football leauge on TV over here as opposed to the AFL, but for those sports that do cross over, for right now, there is a reason those divisions exist, even if that line will get blurred every now and again.

Just my own personal views

Offline Avis habilis

Re: Fallon Fox: Transgendered Athletes in Sports
« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2013, 09:53:35 AM »
Could she beat up the male 135lbs champ? No, it would be an embarrassment to watch.

I'm not sure that would be true. Someone who's gone through puberty as a male might have an upper body strength advantage that lends itself to harder punching, but could a cis woman's lower center of gravity give her the advantage in takedowns? Then once they're grappling, I'm not convinced someone born male must have such a brute force advantage over someone born female that even superior technique couldn't win it for her.

Offline Moraline

Re: Fallon Fox: Transgendered Athletes in Sports
« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2013, 10:07:55 AM »
Maybe what we should do is eliminate all gender separation in sports and in fighting sports we should divide them by weight only and see what happens?

Speaking as a woman that's been involved in martial arts most of my life. I think we would fair poorly against equally trained men in the same weight class. However, I think everyone deserves equal opportunity to prove themselves.

Offline consortium11Topic starter

Re: Fallon Fox: Transgendered Athletes in Sports
« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2013, 10:20:52 AM »
I'm not sure that would be true. Someone who's gone through puberty as a male might have an upper body strength advantage that lends itself to harder punching, but could a cis woman's lower center of gravity give her the advantage in takedowns? Then once they're grappling, I'm not convinced someone born male must have such a brute force advantage over someone born female that even superior technique couldn't win it for her.

I'm 100% certain it's true. Watching the likes of Barão, Cruz, Faber or McDonald face Rousey would be a misogynist's wet dream.

Even in pure grappling (be it wrestling or sub-grappling) the man is going to have a distinct advantage. As talented as the likes of Gabrielle Garcia are if they were placed against a man who weighed the same amount and had comparable skills they would struggle. That's not to say she couldn't turn an untrained man into a pretzel or even beat some trained men but against anyone who was even on the periphery of world class she'd be beaten badly.

Offline Healergirl

Re: Fallon Fox: Transgendered Athletes in Sports
« Reply #9 on: April 10, 2013, 12:34:58 PM »
+1 to what Moraline said. 

I know how to fight, I've subdued my share of mean drunks while a bartender (bouncers were always on the way before the fight ended, often before it even started, I'm very happy to say) and I've been in a real fight for very high stakes indeed.  f i was fighting a man who was in my weight class, and even close to my age, training, experience and fitness.... unless he was ingorant of my abilities when the fight started, I  would have no confidence of victory.
 

Now ground fighting... a lot of variables, most real fights end up on the ground, and while headed down, who lands on top of the other is a HUGE factor.

 Especially if the top lander has a knee in the bottom lander's gut.

I would not take the challenge, nope, not this girl.


Offline Ephiral

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Re: Fallon Fox: Transgendered Athletes in Sports
« Reply #10 on: April 10, 2013, 01:46:45 PM »
It's pretty well-documented that a large reduction in androgens (anti-androgen therapy or bottom surgery) causes significant bone density loss in subjects born male, to the point that it's a significant health risk that needs measures to mitigate it in people who aren't MMA fighters. Decreased muscle mass is a well-known side effect of MtF estrogen treatment. Potentially just as relevant to an MMA fighter, but unfortunately only studied in cis women as far as I can tell, is a significant loss in grip strength with androgen loss.

This seems to address all questions on the issue that even approach legitimacy. Why is this controversial, again?

Aslo, fuck Matt Mitrione. And Stephen Crowder. And Joe Rogan. And Joe Rogan again while we're at it.

Offline Healergirl

Re: Fallon Fox: Transgendered Athletes in Sports
« Reply #11 on: April 10, 2013, 02:20:06 PM »
Ephiral,

Thank you for those links, nothing like reading words typed by commentator's own hands.... but I do feel a need to soak my eyes in bleach now.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Fallon Fox: Transgendered Athletes in Sports
« Reply #12 on: April 10, 2013, 02:24:44 PM »
You're more than welcome. The sad part about it is... the only remarkable bit is that people are actually standing up and saying "Not cool."

Offline Healergirl

Re: Fallon Fox: Transgendered Athletes in Sports
« Reply #13 on: April 10, 2013, 02:35:46 PM »
Oh, I didn't dare look at the comments sections for those links.

That is good to hear.

Offline consortium11Topic starter

Re: Fallon Fox: Transgendered Athletes in Sports
« Reply #14 on: April 10, 2013, 02:43:37 PM »
It's pretty well-documented that a large reduction in androgens (anti-androgen therapy or bottom surgery) causes significant bone density loss in subjects born male, to the point that it's a significant health risk that needs measures to mitigate it in people who aren't MMA fighters. Decreased muscle mass is a well-known side effect of MtF estrogen treatment. Potentially just as relevant to an MMA fighter, but unfortunately only studied in cis women as far as I can tell, is a significant loss in grip strength with androgen loss.

This seems to address all questions on the issue that even approach legitimacy. Why is this controversial, again?

Thanks for this; it was basically what I was looking for.

So why the controversy? Ignorance of the above facts combined with a nice heaping of transphobia.

Aslo, fuck Matt Mitrione. And Stephen Crowder. And Joe Rogan. And Joe Rogan again while we're at it.

Indeed. Crowder occasionally posts on Sherdog, an MMA forum I'm a member of.

Suffice to say it's not a highlight of my day when he does. That said the entire politics forum there is basically a quagmire...

And I dislike Rogan enough as a commentator even without his "comedy" and "opinions".

Online Silk

Re: Fallon Fox: Transgendered Athletes in Sports
« Reply #15 on: April 11, 2013, 02:58:01 AM »
Considering the hormone treatment's are more likely to leave a person at a disadvantage in comparison to born females, I don't see why it's such a huge issue. The sheer amount of health risks that comes with MtF treatment's are immense and quite a large factor in Transgendered people not wishing to go with the transition.

Offline Healergirl

Re: Fallon Fox: Transgendered Athletes in Sports
« Reply #16 on: April 11, 2013, 06:48:33 AM »
Silk,

In a word:  Ignorance.

The general public thinks only of the large scale surgical alterations in a gender change.  They do not stop to consider - usually are not even waare of - the implications of the hormone therapy part of the process.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Fallon Fox: Transgendered Athletes in Sports
« Reply #17 on: April 11, 2013, 10:08:21 AM »
Considering the hormone treatment's are more likely to leave a person at a disadvantage in comparison to born females, I don't see why it's such a huge issue. The sheer amount of health risks that comes with MtF treatment's are immense and quite a large factor in Transgendered people not wishing to go with the transition.
Or being unable to do so. Can't believe I forgot this in my earlier post, but HRT also significantly raises the risk of heart problems - I have a friend whose endocrinologist refuses to begin HRT because it, combined with other factors, would make her risk of heart failure far too high.

Offline Caehlim

Re: Fallon Fox: Transgendered Athletes in Sports
« Reply #18 on: April 12, 2013, 01:12:22 PM »
I'm not a competitive sport person, so I don't really get the context behind this whole thing.

For example I don't understand; Why is being abnormally strong for one reason (genetics or training) acceptable for competition but being abnormally strong for another reason (performance enhancing drugs) not?

So I don't really understand the issues involved in men's and women's leagues and how this would apply to a trans fighter applying to either league. I just don't really have an opinion here on whether this person should or should not be allowed to fight within the women's league.

Regardless, I think she should be able to make the application and have it be considered in a reasoned and rational way without her being subjected to abuse and ridicule. The statements people have linked to above were just rude and completely unnecessary.

Offline Kythia

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Re: Fallon Fox: Transgendered Athletes in Sports
« Reply #19 on: April 16, 2013, 10:11:40 AM »
I'm not a competitive sport person, so I don't really get the context behind this whole thing.

For example I don't understand; Why is being abnormally strong for one reason (genetics or training) acceptable for competition but being abnormally strong for another reason (performance enhancing drugs) not?

I've always thought the same, actually.  I wanna see people run/jump/punch/whatever as best they can.  If they wanna take drugs to do it then so much the better.  But...

Quote
So I don't really understand the issues involved in men's and women's leagues and how this would apply to a trans fighter applying to either league. I just don't really have an opinion here on whether this person should or should not be allowed to fight within the women's league.

20 teams in the UK premiership (football/soccer).  25 players in each team, 500 players in total.  Now, its a men's league so as it stands only men play.  But if that rule were removed I am absolutely confident that, on skill alone, it would still end up with 500 men.  I think the best 500 people playing football in the UK are all male.  There's a load of reasons for that - physique, culture, encouragement, etc - but that doesn't change anything.  If the teams were forced to have female players then they would be, comparatively, rubbish, would ruin the game and would become laughing stocks.

So without the women's leagues, women wouldn't play at all.  At least in Football, which is the only sport I know well enough to comment on, split leagues are the only way forwards. 

Offline ofDelusions

Re: Fallon Fox: Transgendered Athletes in Sports
« Reply #20 on: April 16, 2013, 10:20:28 AM »
I'm not a competitive sport person, so I don't really get the context behind this whole thing.

For example I don't understand; Why is being abnormally strong for one reason (genetics or training) acceptable for competition but being abnormally strong for another reason (performance enhancing drugs) not?



If those drugs were allowed everyone would be forced to use them and they have some serious health risks. Thats reason enough.

Offline Kythia

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Re: Fallon Fox: Transgendered Athletes in Sports
« Reply #21 on: April 16, 2013, 10:23:53 AM »
If those drugs were allowed everyone would be forced to use them and they have some serious health risks. Thats reason enough.

Well, many sports also carry a serious health risk.  Bodybuilding springs to mind quite easily.  Not even starting on the never ending spree of torn ligaments, etc, that most professional athletes face.

Offline ofDelusions

Re: Fallon Fox: Transgendered Athletes in Sports
« Reply #22 on: April 16, 2013, 10:40:55 AM »
Well, many sports also carry a serious health risk.  Bodybuilding springs to mind quite easily.  Not even starting on the never ending spree of torn ligaments, etc, that most professional athletes face.

So the steroids would new add health risks on top of those, so I don't think its a good argument for allowing drug use in sports. Once they are allowed to be used, everyone has to use to have a chance to compete.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Fallon Fox: Transgendered Athletes in Sports
« Reply #23 on: April 16, 2013, 11:07:55 AM »
Two words guaranteed to stop young men from using steroids:

Testicular atrophy.

Offline Aiden

Re: Fallon Fox: Transgendered Athletes in Sports
« Reply #24 on: April 16, 2013, 11:26:00 AM »
I think it blurs the lines between the sport to much and for that reason alone should be left alone. Could a well trained woman take on a man, I am sure there are many cases, but there has been a division in sports for as long as I can remember.

My person example-
I think guys were expected to finish a mile in 8 min, girls in 10.
Did some girls smoke us? Yes, did some guys come in past 10, yea, but the "norm" was 8 an 10.

(Spare me the, then should blacks still be segregated, or marriage equality stuff counter argument.)

I'm not saying it is right, but its what it is.