B/R: Note to Dana White: Transgender Fighter Fallon Fox Is a Woman
By: Matt Juul
Regardless of where you stand on the issue, whether you think that she should be able to compete against female fighters or not, there is one fact that you can’t deny about transgender mixed martial artist Fallon Fox: mentally, physically, and legally she is considered a woman.
By the International Olympic Committee’s and the NCAA’s standards, Fox meets all the medical requirements necessary to compete as a female, and even her Illinois state issued driver’s license lists her as a woman.
So when UFC president Dana White referred to Fox as a man in a recent interview with MMAJunkie.com, I couldn’t help but shake my head. Here’s what the big boss had to say:
So before you even think about fighting in the UFC or whatever – he was a man and now he’s a woman – he’s fighting girls who have losing records. Before you get too crazy about him being in the UFC, he’s so freaking far from being in the UFC that it’s not even funny.
Now, I have no problem with the actual points White made. Sporting just a 2-0 record with wins against fighters with a combined 0-5 record, Fox has a lot to prove before she can ever consider stepping foot inside the Octagon. And at 37 years of age, who knows how much MMA is even left in her gas tank.
I don’t even take issue with people debating whether Fox has a physical advantage over female fighters or not. No, my problem with this issue is the way the MMA community and society at large talks about the topic of transgenderism.
We all know that White isn’t the most politically correct person in the world, so I doubt there was any malicious intent behind his statement, but when an issue as divisive as this comes up, we must be mindful of our words. Not for political correctness’ sake, but purely out of respect for the parties involved.
Most of us will never know the hardship and struggle Fox and other transgender individuals have to endure while dealing with this topic throughout their lives. While it’s fair to debate the possible advantages of Fox’s physical attributes (although there’s increasing scientific evidence that she has zero advantages), referring to her as a man is disrespectful and is not even close to being factually accurate.
The problem when it comes to the terminology used to describe a transgender person is knowing the difference between sex and gender. And as much as close-minded critics hate to admit it, these distinctions are important and not even close to being black and white.
The World Health Organization refers to sex as, “the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women,” as in the actual physical traits a person is born with. The organization describes gender as being “the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women,” or basically the mental associations one has with being either masculine or feminine.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation makes even clearer distinctions when it comes to gender, breaking it into two parts: gender identity, or one’s internal sense of being a man or a woman, and gender expression, or one’s external manifestation of one’s gender identity.
These are important to note in Fox’s case because, while her sex prior to her hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery was male, both her gender identity and gender expression indicated that she’s a woman. Now that she’s had her surgery and been on hormone therapy for years, biologically and mentally Fox is a full-fledged woman.
Now critics can argue all day long on whether this should be the case or not, but if the law and major athletic committees say she’s a woman, then who are we to disagree?