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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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