Renée Richards, Fallon Fox, and Déjà Vu: Transgender Ethics In Sports

MMA-Fighter-Fallon

I think I’ve seen this movie before.

On May 24, Mixed Martial Arts fighter Fallon Fox moved to 3-0 in her MMA career, beating Allana Jones and earning a spot in the finals of the Championship Fighting Alliance’s featherweight tournament.  Her victory was accompanied by a chorus of jeers. Why? Fallon Fox is a transgendered male, now fully female—except for the unremovable Y chromosome—thanks to gender realignment surgery. Her rise through the female martial arts ranks has been greeted by a mixture of horror, ridicule and revulsion. When she came out for her most recent bout, some wit had the Aerosmith song “Dude Looks Like a Lady” blaring  over the loudspeakers. Some of her MMA competitors have declared that they will not fight her, and here’s sports commentator/pundit/personality Joe Rogan opining on her qualifications to compete:

“You can’t fight women. That’s fucking crazy. I don’t know why she thinks that she’s going to be able to do that. If you want to be a woman in the bedroom and you know you want to play house and all of that other shit and you feel like you have, your body is really a woman’s body trapped inside a man’s frame and so you got a operation, that’s all good in the hood. But you can’t fight chicks. Get the fuck out of here. You’re out of your mind. You need to fight men, you know? Period. You need to fight men your size because you’re a man. You’re a man without a dick.”

How quickly they forget. Continue reading

Fairness and the Transgendered Miss Universe Contestant

Changing mores, technology, laws and science create the damnedest ethical problems.

Jenna: too masculine for Miss Universe?

The Miss Universe Canada organizers have kicked contestant Jenna Talackova out of their beauty pageant because she was born male.  Fair? Well, the qualifications for the pageant require that an entrant be a “naturally born female.” I’m sure that was seen as a clear and reasonable restriction when it was devised, but let a few lawyers at it today. Jenna says she was always female, but just trapped in a male body. She was also “naturally born.” Hmmmm.

[UPDATE: (4/10/12) On April 5, the pageant announced that Talackova would be allowed to compete after all, and announced a rules change that will allow transgendered competitors next year.]

Jenna falsely stated on her entrant forms that she was “born female.” Since she has told officials that this wasn’t true, she is obviously no lawyer, but really: why shouldn’t a transexual be able to compete? The issue should be whether she’s a female now, right? The pageant might as well require that all contestants must be born gorgeous. Miss Universe Canada could, I suppose, duck the problem by requiring that no entrant can have appearance-enhancing surgery. Of course, then the pageant would have no contestants at all. Continue reading