Of the many mediums of art and self expression, one of the most overlooked is martial arts. Some may argue this point, but as someone who has experienced both sanctioned fighting and the creation of conventional art, I can say that combat is art. Each punch has its own identity, just like a brush stroke or the pluck of a guitar string.
When you can embrace your opponent after a battle, you know that your violence was not hateful. This is something that most people don’t understand, unless they’ve tried it. I think of this when I see transgender fighters like Fallon Fox, Patricio Manuel, or most recently, Alana McLaughlin. These are people with unique paths through gender who want to express who they are, using the skills they know. They are artists. Just as much as Van Gogh or Marina Abramović. They should be able to fight.
In an article written by Blaze Media, a headline reads “Former US Army Special Forces member turned transgender MMA fighter beats woman to submission in debut”. Notice the use of the term, “beats woman to submission”. This is typical in media that aims to paint transgender athletes as villains. Note the sensationalism in the click bait title. One could have easily written, “Alana McLaughlin Wins MMA Debut by Submission.” Or, in order to keep the title full of fear-mongering-toxicity, “Former Special Forces Member wins in Pro MMA Debut.” When you purposely use, transgender-woman-beats-woman-to-submission you are both inaccurate and adding to the hatred that these articles usually fuel.
This is far from the only article written on the subject by people who do not have the safety of the transgender community in mind. We don’t need to list some of the more salacious articles about Alana, but it’s needless to say that she has faced aggressive backlash after her MMA debut. Fortunately, some of the more socially conscious media outlets including The Guardian and The New York Post have managed to use appropriate headlines and descriptions of the fighter.
Political scapegoats are nothing new. Painting groups of people as monsters is a textbook tactic for desperate politicians and it works (it’s working). People react to fear. If you can convince people that transgender women are terrorizing cisgender people in the bathrooms and in the cage, you can easily convince them you are the only thing that can save them. This is just another example of this trend.
In Alana’s debut she fights french fighter, Celene Provost who in a pre-fight interview is very clear that she is okay with fighting a transgender woman. She simply wants to fight. During the fight you can see that both fighters are equally matched with Provost gaining the upper-hand with her striking ability and reach advantage. In the second round, Alana is able to outlast her on the ground and win by submission.
CW: DO NOT read the comments. Transphobia abound.
In a perfect world, perhaps combat sports wouldn’t exist and the need to bludgeon another human being for sport wouldn’t be necessary. But in a more evolved world, we’d be able to watch Alana and Celene fight each other and say, “Wow! Two equally matched, consenting adults, are fighting. How entertaining!” This could be the end of the thought process. Until then we have to hope, at some point more people will put more faith in science.
The science about transgender athletes, when able to resist the strong bias of hatred, is still developing. It’s mostly in favor of transgender athletes being able to compete with their cisgender counterparts. This shouldn’t matter, especially in MMA because of weight class restrictions, strict testing standards, and the fact that an opponent has to agree to who they fight.
It’s sad to see so much hatred against transgender people. It goes without saying this that hatred is more pronounced for Black transgender women. This is where it starts. With news article suggesting that transgender women are purposely attacking their wives and daughters. Politicians who gain votes by conditioning their constituents to believe they need to be saved from the trans-agenda. And comedians who care more about their laughs per minute count than transgender lives. We can change this all in a moment. All we need is a good fight plan.