BY ALEX CASTRO
The boxing world was turned upside down after Patricio Manuel, the first transgender boxer, returned to the ring.
After falling short in the 2012 Summer Olympic trials with a debilitating injury, Manuel chose to pursue personal interests and began her transformation to the opposite sex, against the long-established gender roles of the sport.
In an industry whose history has long been dominated by men, Manuel has defied the stereotype of the traditional “athlete” and personifies the progress of radical inclusion within the world of competitive sporting as the long-standing gender roles constricting the capabilities and opportunities of the Lesbian, Gay. Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community begin to diminish.
Despite the significant achievements of the LGBTQ community and the sports industry to become more inclusive, athletes have experienced a considerable backlash in the form of scathing and demeaning comments online and at the events. Therefore, it is no secret as to why such individual progress has been so limited, given the constant discouragement they face in the professional field.
Since the beginning, the professional sports industry has made a noticeable effort to include players of all races. These changes were spearheaded by figures such as Jackie Robinson, Panama Al Brown, and Jack Palmer, advocates for equality and inspired others of their race to strive for more. They convinced major sports leagues to change policies and rules in order to benefit the majority. Yet, these liberties have overlooked the LGBTQ community.
Although the industry has begun to acknowledge and support its athletes who identify with the LGBTQ community, some sports have yet to be changed. As this tradition persists, it becomes more evident that this transition is notable, but far from complete, given that parts of the athletic world have not accepted the new societal norms that continue to conform the world.
On a larger scale, Manuel has joined several athletes in defying the well-established social norms towards the movement for transgender equality as the first of their kinds who encourage the acceptance of transgender rights and athletes in their respective areas.
In 1999, boxer Nong Toom underwent sex reassignment surgery and soon proceeded to become a world-class Thailand kickboxer. Amongst her numerous achievements, Toom succeeded in raising awareness for transgender athletes in the east and bringing attention to the distinct lack of criticisms against her. Differently, from the United States, the east has known about transgenders and their skills for some time, there has been much more acceptance of them compared to the United State’s current opinions.
Not long after, Fallon Fox began her campaign as the first transgender to either join or transition during their fighting career. Now, she competes as a woman in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) rings around the world. She sparked a controversy that still persists today and posed the question of fairness and skill differences between the sexes.
While there has been measurable criticism of transgender athletes, we are beginning to see attitudes look up and together, through these pioneers who are paving the sports world over with societal acceptance and inclusion.
All in all, this change is admirable but is not complete. It is critical that sports begin to accept transgender athletes in order to set forth a new standard in cultural acceptance. Millions of fans worship the sports industry and its collective opinion, if it were to begin to show signs of cultural progression, other important industries would follow.
Athletes are beginning to see signs of change around the world and in the sports industry as a whole. This wave of acceptance is sweeping toward sports. First MMA, boxing and eventually the rest of sports will follow.