For Fallon Fox, the following comments are par for the course as she enters one of her MMA fights:
"Kick her in the nuts!" yells a guy waving a Dos Equis, breaking the silence as his girlfriend shushes him in mock horror. That's all it takes: The cracks start to fly, fast and nasty. "I bet she's got it folded up somewhere in there!" someone shouts from across the pool.
The 37-year-old, born Boyd Burton, is MMA's first transgender contender and it's not been an easy road, writes GQ. After accepting, at 30-years-old, that she was meant to be in the body of a woman, Fox paid for top and bottom surgery in Thailand and later found her calling to be pounding out opponents in cage fights.
"People think it's weird, I know, that I want to do this, spend so much of my time with these kinds of guys, but one-on-one they're mostly okay," Fox says over dinner at an Italian restaurant a mile down the road from the Newport Beachside. ...
"MMA is the most dangerous sport there is for a transgender, with all the body contact, I know that," she says. "But it just turned out that I was good at it, you know? You pursue what you're good at.... I realize that it's kind of amazing that I hit girls. You're brought up not to hit girls, that it's the worst sin, and that's what I do. But you know, gender is the last thing I think about when I'm fighting. It's the one situation where I don't think of gender at all."
Fox, who has a teenage daughter from before her gender reassignment, trained every day with men in a gym where they respected her skills and dedication. She found a trainer named Joe Smith, began booking fights, won and that's when the shit hit the fan about her past and cruelty began to ooze out of the very place she'd found so much joy.
A blogger discovered her transsexuality and threatened to report the story, but Fox's manager opted to give the scoop to Sports Illustrated on their own terms instead. But that was only the beginning of the backlash.
The Florida State Boxing Commission responded by putting her license under review, railroading her next fight (and potentially her career). Then a UCLA geneticist who has worked with the International Olympic Committee on similar gender issues came to her defense, reviewing her records and declaring that Fox had more than fulfilled the standard requirements for trans athletes by having had surgery and getting hormones for at least two years afterward. Bone density, admittedly higher in the average man, was irrelevant to athletic performance, he said. Due to the surgery—no more gonads—and her drug regimen, the levels of male hormones in her blood were virtually nonexistent. Paradoxically, in fact, some of her female opponents would have more male chemical mojo pumping through their veins.
TMZ posted an image of Fox as Boyd Burton along with a short interview with an ex-girlfriend and one opponent even played Aerosmith's "Dude Looks Like a Lady" when she entered the ring for their bout. Other athletes like NFL player-cum-MMA fighter Matt Mitrione came out against her calling Fox a "lying, sick, sociopathic, disgusting freak." Yeah, people suck.
These days, Fox is training, waiting for a new rumble and taking it one day at a time. On the bright side, her victories, and losses it seems, after her transsexuality became public validated her skills as a female fighter. Even in the male dominated gym where Fox trains, she's broken barriers. Her trainer and former sparring partners who trained with her before the news, just go on about their business with her as usual, but Smith is clear that his reaction has been positive because he knew Fox before learning of her past.
"I'm not saying I would be that cool with this, with who she is, if I hadn't met her before," he says. "But she walked into the gym, and I got to know her. It makes you start to think about politics, about all the other things you assumed, and you go, wow, maybe I've been an asshole this whole time about a lot of it."
Gotta start somewhere, right?
Image via FallonFox.com.