The Case of Transgender MMA Fighter, Fallon Fox
Disclaimer: This column, as is the case with most things that I write, is an MMA op-ed column. The opinions and views expressed are my own and may not necessarily reflect CBS Sports, the 920 AM affiliate, or insideSTL Enterprises, LLC.
This summer has been a landmark one for the LGBT movement with the passing of same-sex marriage across the nation, which had previously been a longstanding controversy. Around this same time, the sports world has started to reflect societal change with both retired, and more importantly, active pro athletes coming out.
The list includes the NBA’s Jason Collins (after coming out in April of 2013, he played for the Brooklyn Nets in 2014 before retirement), football player Michael Sam, former Rugby player Gareth Thomas, boxer Orlando Cruz (active), and WWE Superstars (if you want to get technical) Fred Rosser III aka Darren Young, and the late Chris Klucsarits aka Chris Kanyon (post-release) just to name a few. Additionally, former WWE Superstar Orlando Jordan is bisexual and still an active pro wrestler.
Now the MMA community is home to a member of the movement, Fallon Fox, and it hasn’t gone over well.
From what I have read and have seen, the issue has nothing with Fox, who had male-to-female reassignment surgery in 2006, being transgender but rather having alleged advantages by previously being male and fighting women.
In a November, 2014 guest editorial on BloodyElbow.com, Fox writes:
“What I find is a focal point of the video (above article) and Joe Rogan's argument are claims of what is happening with my bones. My bones have been an issue with him since I came out. Just the other day Joe Rogan said in a tweet, "It's biased because it's not supported by medical facts or science. Adding estrogen actually preserves bone density" This he tweeted in response to a Vice Sports article about the history of transgender athletes in sports. The article also pointed out what the author believed as an argument from Joe which was not based in actual science.
Yes, Joe is correct (in a way) about estrogen and bone density. If transgender women do not take estrogen they will likely get osteoporosis, which is the weakening of the bones. Estrogen does help fight bone loss in this way. However, (and this is a gigantic however) It is important to realize that: A - Testosterone helps make bones more dense and healthy. B - Estrogen helps make bones more dense and healthy. They both do this…
Massive amounts of testosterone will make ones bones a little more dense than massive amounts of estrogen. If testosterone is drastically starved, and massive amounts of estrogen are introduced, the bones will lose the density that testosterone allows. Then, the bones will weaken to the level that massive amounts of estrogen will allow. When people say that "estrogen" causes bone density changes, this is what they mean…”
For the rest of the editorial visit BloodyElbow.com.
I will say this, although Fox would have had to have done her research before the operation, and she does continue on by writing, “...Doctors on commissions have known all of this for years. And bone density has been no issue in fighting. Have you ever heard of anyone talking about bone density in any sport as a competitive advantage? I highly doubt it…”, she did NOT cite SPECIFIC doctors or have any DIRECT QUOTES from medical PROFESSIONALS on the issue.
“He [Rogan] is saying that I have an advantage that, to my knowledge, medical authorities, commissions and others in the know have never seen. Do commissions and medical authorities have evidence of the "male frame" being able to generate far higher amounts of force VS the "female frame?" I don't think so.”
I am PRO-LGBT, and think that Fox has a right to be transgender, and a right to be an athlete. However, if she is going to counter Rogan and other detractors, she should come to war with specifics from individuals with degrees and medical experience, even in addition to being directly involved in the process.
What I think will happen: Every time Fox fights and (and wins by anything other than the decision of judges) there will be controversy. Many people will think there is an advantage.
It would be nice to see an official document stating that Fox’s testosterone is either completely gone (which I’m not sure is possible), or her levels are either the same as the average woman (based on a sample size of however many necessary women), or are the same as many female fighters (assuming female athletes would have more testosterone than a non-at
hlete), then compared with male fighters and proven to be lower. Until then, I am inclined to think that she would have an advantage in building muscle. This is where strength and power would come into play in my opinion.
She seems to be handling all of this controversy well, but will she be willing to deal with this type of issue for her entire career?
I believe that:
A) Eventually someone will refuse to license her and Fox will sue that promotion, unless she stays where she is for her whole career, being that she is already licensed.
B) Fox will drastically injure another female fighter, meaning born female, and that fighter will sue Fox/ the promotion.
C) Other fighters will eventually start refusing to fight Fox, “freezing her out”, possibly into retirement.
Why Fox can still fight: As it stands, the 5-1 Chicago-based “Queen of Swords” is licensed as a professional, as a woman by state athletic commissions who have their own doctors. Therefore, the responsibility and/or potential fault is placed on those commissions. Others who compete against her know exactly what they are getting into. If they want to complain, don't take the fight.
Fox deserves to be treated with respect and dignity (not just) as a transgender woman, but as a human being. She deserves to be transgender if she pleases. What someone else does with their own life in this context doesn’t affect my life. She also deserves to be an athlete. I’m happy the LGBT community has another face in Fox, but I still think that combat was the wrong path because of this kind of issue.
By the way, her only loss was a knockout. Maybe losing will, in part, help her.
I wish her the best.