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The Fallon Fox Fallacy

MMA: Strikeforce-Tate vs KedzieI know this constitutes serious self abuse already (not the Biblical kind where some bearded old patriarch wacked off into a fire), but I just had to scroll down to the comments section when I saw another CNN article about Fallon Fox. In case you aren’t aware, Ms Fox is a highly trained female fighter in the MMA who recently came out as a post-operative MTF transsexual. The legally mandated amount of hoopla around this revelation was achieved in typical media soap-opera fashion.
To ensure the story didn’t peter out with people saying, “Well, looks like another one of them managed to make good.”, someone decided to webcast a particularly cantankerous  UFC fighter, Matt Mitrione, giving the usual misinformed bigoted diatribe. Good catch, I did make it sound like this was all orchestrated. You can’t tell me this loudmouth boob was quiet as a church mouse on the subject before he found himself in front of a camera and exploded out of nowhere. In any case, it was a good opportunity for the UFC management to make it clear they are not copacetic with this kind of personal attack and suspended him. So, cool points to the UFC, which is not something I thought I would ever find myself saying.

Let’s get to the reactionary comments, shall we? In general, lots of misinformation, ranting, and declaring of Mitrione a true American hero of free speech right up there with old Tom Payne. I was actually gratified to see that for the most part, members of the trans community declined to get down in the mud and wrestle with the pigs on this. People who are taking the time to let their opinion be known on an online forum, yet cannot take the 3 minutes to do a quick search and see if their little factoids have any merit whatsoever are generally not worth listening to. On top of that, many of them made sure to highlight their pedigree by craftily inserting single words in all caps. “You are so stooped its because MR Fox is a MALE MAN!!!” Well, everyone knows that seeing a word in all caps will assuredly sway people on the fence into their camp, and better yet, draw some of the opposition who are tired of well reasoned, lower case arguments.

The primary point of view, and one also held by Mr Mitrione, is that trans women have a significant male advantage when it comes to physical competition. I so wish that anyone who made such an argument had the opportunity spend 6 months going through hormone replacement therapy. Every bit of natural male strength and endurance enjoyed previously, without even having to do anything, just evaporates like a little wisp of smoke. Speaking subjectively, I’d also add that it can be considered a significant disadvantage to experience a big drop in base level ability rather than start there from the beginning.

All medical studies on fully transitioned trans women indicate a comparative level of strength and endurance with a female of the same age and fitness demographic. A lack of androgen levels the playing field quite well. As a runner, I experienced this first hand. In 2010 and 2011 I ramped up from 2 mile season initial runs to 5 miles within 4 weeks, and ended the season doing 8 and 9 mile runs. In 2012 and this year, whole different story. Last year I ran more miles than any other year, yet at the end I only managed one 5.5 mile run without stopping. Big, big difference.

A few of the more persistent commenters took it a step further and attempted to argue that her original male skeletal frame was still intact. This is true; it is. When looking at strict averages, male skeletal frames are taller, broader shouldered and contain longer reaches than female skeletal frames. While the averages are distinctly different, the degree of overlap between the two groups is not. The vast majority of the population, male and female, falls well into the overlap portion. It’s very difficult not to. While Ms Fox has a frame larger than that of an average woman, it remains within that of the total female population, as do many of the other female MMA or UFC fighters (honestly, I’m not clear on what the difference is), some of whom may have larger frames than Fallon.

I think it’s fairly clear that if Fallon’s base strength and endurance are comparable to that of demographically similar females, and her ability to train, ramp up and increase her abilities falls along the same curve as well, she is quite fairly categorized correctly. In regards to frame size, she is well within the expected variance to the mean in the female population. Even so, it doesn’t appear that the MMA or UFC categorizes and segregates players based on this. Nor most sports, or we would expect to have football and basketball leagues split up into interplaying divisions based on height and bulk.

Sufficed to say, I’m calling bullshit on this line of reasoning. It’s a trumped up and unsound method to justify trans discrimination where there is no credible reason for there being any. While I’ve never exactly been a fighting fan, I’ll be rooting for Fallon all the way.

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About michellelianna

I'm a transgender woman now in the maintenance stages of transition having all the electrolysis and surgery one can reasonably be expected to undertake. While busy exploring my new world, I took to blogging about it with dubiously popular results. I don't have quite as much to say as I used to, but I'm not quite done yet either.

9 responses »

  1. Pingback: Michelle Begs to Differ: Trans Female Competative Advantage | Michellelianna

  2. nobody you know

    There is not exactly a wealth of medical evidence out there that meets scientific standards for the purposes of determining how much of a natural advantage a born-male retains despite beginning HRT in their 30’s. By that time, the reality is that they have had the benefits of a lifetime of testosterone at levels that would result in born-female competitors being banned for life from their chosen sport. And, from some of the stories I have seen, the training done by Fox for MMA began prior to their medical treatments, which (if true) makes the testosterone advantage that much more pronounced. And of the few ‘studies’ that might exist (ie. something other than isolated anecdotal claims), I doubt very many of them involved persons seeking to compete professionally in athletic endeavors.

    Competition at a professional level in sports is VERY different than someone deciding they want to transition in their workplace, whether behind a desk or using various industrial tools. I would opine this is even more so in the case of a sport where the very essence of the “sport” is beating the ever-loving shit out of your opponent. I’ve been on a professional Tour and practiced against men as I geared up for each season- they were my measuring stick so to speak. And that training was very different than the amateur might engage in, if they trained at all- when your livelihood depends on results, it is very different from the person who just goes out every so often.

    It is not so simple as saying two people may be of similar size. I competed in competition in other sports (both professionally and at the recreational level) and there was absolutely no question that men who were my size had a physical advantage in those instances where both men and women were in the same event (not a physically-combative sport). I may have had height (5’10”-ish) in some instances, but my 125lb self was not generally a winning match even against the few men who were also in the 120’s.

    I did also look, albeit very briefly, at boxing including having had training with some of the best women fighters Texas had to offer at the time. I had worked elsewhere with one of the belt-holders and she had persuaded me to take a look at it. By that time, I had added a few pounds and I ultimately decided not to pursue it any farther when I saw who would be in my weight class. In the course of doing so, I also know what the paperwork would have required to be licensed to compete. I doubt the forms have begun asking for less information than was required a decade or so ago- and the questions were of a nature that Fox has to have deliberately omitted information in order to gain the ‘privilege’ of beating up on born-females. I fail to see how ANYONE can condone that sort of an omission.

    Believing that someone has an inherent physical advantage is NOT discrimination nor is it ‘trans discrimination’ for females who are forbidden from using testosterone in their training not to want to get into a cage match with someone who was NOT born a female. Acknowledging that biology is a very real presence in physical competition is just a reality.

    Reply
    • I’m not sure what exactly you’re proposing, because all you seem to be saying is that there is a lack of scientific evidence showing anything at all. I don’t think a lack of evidence should be enough to justify barring someone from professional competition.

      Are we also going to make it against the rules for women who have ever been diagnosed PCOS to compete with other women and make them compete with men because she MIGHT also have an unfair testosterone advantage, even though her condition is controlled now? If you’re going to make something against the rules, there SHOULD be legitimate scientific evidence conclusively showing that this person definitely has an unfair advantage when competing against other women. Until then, I see no reason anyone should want to deny these women the ability to compete except because of pure prejudicial bias.

      Reply
      • nobody you know

        Wow, really? You want to compare a very real and medically verifiable condition (PCOS) with a self-diagnosed disorder and make it seem as though they are on par with each other? Really? Trans* never ceases to reach new lows.

        And yes, I would propose keeping someone born male from being able to try and beat the hell out of someone who was born female. The physical reality is that Fox has an advantage over most women who were born female and did not have a testosterone-fueled puberty and adulthood. You can bleat on all you like about loss of strength due to HRT but it won’t change skeletal (read, biological)reality.

        Reply
        • They are on par with each other because PCOS often exposes women to abnormally high testosterone levels, which could give them an unfair advantage when fighting other women. Every single one of your other points have already been addressed and refuted as blatantly untrue. Repeating misleading half-truths (the bone structure argument again? Really? I was born female, I’m just as tall as she is, MY hands and joints are bigger than hers, and you’re still trying to convince people that her bones somehow give her an unfair advantage over cis women?) and insisting that you still believe this applies to all trans women when it’s already been demonstratively shown that they don’t apply to her does not somehow make your assertions true.

  3. Hiya Sis,

    Well reasoned and explained refutation of a clearly uninformed bigot. Which begs the question, “Why invest so much energy and time trying to explain things to someone who gets hit in the head for a living?” For that matter, what are the odds that any of the types of people who enjoy watching people get hit in the head for a living will understand or appreciate your line of argument?

    I love that you explain these things so well. I just sometimes think you are banging your head against a wall.

    Love,

    Becky

    Reply
    • You guys clearly did not read his entire response, which was in large part due to the fact that Fox lied on her fighting license application- she did not admit to being a transgender on it.

      Reply
      • Thank you for proving my point.

        Since you have taken on the awesome responsibility of being smarter than everyone else on the planet to the extent that you feel the need to correct complete strangers, you might want to know that it is not a lie for a post-operative transsexual who has had the gender markers changed on their ID documents to identify themselves in their acquired gender.

        I’m guessing that the application did not have the enlightened question that is now appearing on many applications asking if your current gender is that same as at your birth. If there was a box for M and a box for F and she ticked F, she wasn’t lying.

        Now please go back to watching people kick each other in the head and keep your nose out of things you clearly know nothing about.

        Reply
      • The 3rd option was inter-sex. Transsexual is not the same as intersex. There was no lie.

        Reply

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