Thursday, May 16, 2013
Should transgenders be allowed to fight as women?
On Monday, the NY Times ran a highly sympathetic article about Fallon Fox, the transgendered MMA fighter who is now competing as a woman. It went on at length about Fox's struggle to come to grips with her gender dysphoria, her (his) early marriage, and her eventual acceptance of her new identity. The Times, of course, portrayed Fox as a hero(ine) in the struggle for LGBT equality, and implied that those who would question her right to fight as a woman were retrograde louts.
I don't see it as being that simple.
There are all sorts of athletic advantages a transgendered woman has over someone born a woman. For starters, men have wider shoulders and narrower hips. Wider shoulders make for better leverage when punching, and narrower hips allow for quicker pivoting. Men have larger hands and feet, the better to punch and kick with. And all that testosterone coursing through the system at an early age makes for more muscle, which even after two years of estrogen therapy, won't entirely disappear.
Think of it this way: if you took steroids for two years, then went off them for two years, you'd still be stronger than had you never taken them at all.
The NY Times is hardly a newspaper which, in other contexts, condones men beating up women. Yet, watching Fox compete against a natural born woman, one would not be able to completely escape the impression that that was what was happening.
Fox was born Boyd Burton. His father, also Boyd Burton, had a long record of run-ins with the law, including one for domestic violence. Perhaps Fox inherited this desire to beat up women, but wants to do so in a more respectable manner. Or, at least, more respectable in the eyes of the Times.
Like father, like.....daughter?
The UFC's official reaction to all the publicity has been mixed. When heavyweight Matt Mitrione publicly referred to Fox as a "lying, sick, sociopathic, disgusting freak" the UFC temporarily suspended him. However, former MMA champion and current UFC employee Matt Hughes referred to Fox as "it," but received no censure.
Joe Rogan, the long time color commentator for the UFC, recently said in a podcast, "....She [Fox] wants to be able to fight women. I say no fucking way....I say if you had a dick at one point in time....you're a fucking man.....I don't care if you don't have a dick any more." Rogan, too, escaped censure.
To take this argument to its logical conclusion, how would the Times feel about it if, say, Brock Lesnar, a recent heavyweight champion, decided to undergo an operation and fight as a woman? Perhaps all of Lesnar's brutish posturing was merely an attempt to cover up his feminine side, which he could now fully surrender to -- while continuing, with the Times' explicit approval, to make a living at his sport.
Even after two years of estrogen, it's hard to imagine that the 6' 3", 285 pound Lesnar would be quite as fetching in a bikini as the foxy Fox pictured above. Lesnar would, however, undoubtedly be quite competitive in the women's ranks:
Randy Couture defended his heavyweight championship for the last time at age 45, in 2008. Time has finally passed him by, but it's probably not too late for him to win another championship or two as Randi Couture:
Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva is another candidate. Acromegalic women rarely become supermodels, but at least the 262 pound Silva would be in no great danger of being raped:
Kimbo Slice, despite his legendary street-fighting reputation and fearsome demeanor, turned out to be pretty much of a bust in mixed martial arts. But with the elimination of the last two letters of his first name (along with his two testes), maybe he could finally secure the championship he craved. Who knows, perhaps there's a comely lass hiding behind that beard.
What if one of these men underwent an operation, and then killed a woman in the Octagon? Would the Times view that outcome as a triumph of LGBT equality? Or would they suddenly see things in a different light?
(What would the UFC's reaction be then, for that matter? It's hard to imagine that any organization sanctioning such a fight would not be legally liable.)
I doubt that any of the guys pictured above are about to make the transition. But an honest look at the fairness of women having to fight transgendered women must take that possibility into account.