The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has suspended a wrestler for transphobic slurs made against fellow fighter Fallon Fox, who recently came out as a transgender woman.
Matt Mitrione, speaking on the MMA Hour on Monday, launched into a disgusting tirade about Fox, saying she was a fraud and comparing her to Buffalo Bill from Silent Witness. When challenged by the host why Mitrione was so bothered by Fox’s identity, Mitrione replied: ”because she’s not a he. He’s a he.” He continued to misgender Fox throughout the segment, saying:
“He’s chromosomally a man. He had a gender change, not a sex change. He’s still a man. He was a man for thirty-one years. Thirty-one years! That’s a couple years younger than I am. He’s a man. Six years of taking performance de-hancing [sic] drugs, you think is going to change all that? That’s ridiculous…. That is a lying, sick, sociopathic, disgusting freak.
“And I mean that. Because you lied on your license to beat up women. That’s disgusting. You should be embarrassed yourself. And the fact that Florida licensed him because California licensed him or whoever the hell did it, it’s an embarrassment to us as fighters, as a sport, and we all should protest that. The woman that’s fighting him, props to you. I hope you beat his ass, and I hope he gets blackballed and never fights again, because that’s disgusting and I’m appalled by that.”
Fox came out as a transgender woman earlier this year, making her the first known transgender fighter in the UFC.
A number of medical experts have spoken out that, after her long stint on routine courses of hormone treatments, Fox will have no advantage in the ring. They have further said that in terms of drug testing, she will be held to the same standards as other women (there should be little to no discrepancy in testosterone levels) and that Fallon is the same as any other female competitor in the sport.
Fox was not required to declare her gender transition or the date she completed her physical transition (2006) in order to obtain her license from Florida state. A subsequent review has found she broke no rules in the process she went through to obtain a license.
Fox has responded to Mitrione’s comments with grace, saying:
“Matt Mitrione went well beyond disagreeing with the medical experts who say I should be able to compete as a woman, and personally attacked me as a fighter, as a woman, and as a human being.”
“His comments do not reflect the spirit of our sport, where most competitors uphold values like respect and dignity.”
The UFC was quick to issue the following statement regarding Mitrione’s conduct:
“The UFC was appalled by the transphobic comments made by heavyweight Matt Mitrione today in an interview on ‘The MMA Hour,’” the statement read. “The organization finds Mr. Mitrione’s comments offensive and wholly unacceptable and – as a direct result of this significant breach of the UFC’s code of conduct – Mr. Mitrione’s UFC contract has been suspended and the incident is being investigated. The UFC is a friend and ally of the (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community, and expects and requires all 450 of its athletes to treat others with dignity and respect.”
While some fighters have reportedly expressed concerns that Fox may hold an advantage in the ring, Fox has not been short of challengers and will fight Allanna Jones on May 24.
Though, as GLAAD points out, Fox’s disclosure has been a talking point for many commentators, nearly all condemned Mitrione’s public attack on Fallon. Many of those who follow the sport have also gone to lengths, as evidenced here, to ensure a respectful discourse about Fallon’s impact on the sport, though there have been a number of reports that have fallen short of that mark.
The UFC’s handling of this issue – despite some perceived inconsistencies — has won it no small amount of praise, and has served to promote the sport as the Mitrione/Fallon story received national coverage from Yahoo and CNN, to name just a few.
LGBTs in Sports: A Slowly Changing Landscape
In recent years, a number of people in high profiled sports or having just left high-profiled sports have come out.
Most recently, boxer Orlando Cruz made international headlines for coming out, and also for successive wins thereafter. Soccer star Megan Rapinoe made headlines last year when, before representing the USA and winning with her team at the London 2012 Olympics, she confirmed, yes, she is gay.
However, soccer and football largely remain stubbornly entrenched in a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” quagmire.
Ex-soccer player Robbie Rogers came out this year at the same time he announced he was leaving soccer, later revealing that he could not even think about staying in the sport under its current atmosphere. Anton Hysen remains the only out soccer player in the game.
In American football, too, where big money and sponsorship deals shape the discourse, LGBT rights and LGBT inclusion remain an issue of contention. However, things might be about to change.
Outspoken gay rights supporter Brendon Ayanbadejo, recently cut from the Ravens, is quoted as saying that four NFL players are close to coming out, and that they are organizing to come out on the same day so as to create a watershed moment in the sport.
This will not come without a cost, however. We know there are a number of players who have vocally opposed openly gay players in the same way that several UFC fighters — though perhaps not with so much vitriol — are rallying against Fox’s inclusion in the sport.
Being openly LGBT in sports is still difficult. There’s no question about that. However, we have seen and continue to see evidence that with strong leadership, sport governing bodies can set a tone and make LGBT inclusion a reality.
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