I have taken a relatively neutral stance on this issue for the most part. I empathize with Fox's situation. Fox is technically stuck between a rock and a hard place currently. Fox's license is in flux; Fox's mixed martial arts future is in question. However, while I have all the empathy on the world for Fox, the vast majority of her problems stem from a choice that she made.
This Op-Ed piece will focus mainly on Fallon Fox's March 2nd bout with Ericka Newsome and the Florida State Boxing Commission (as that is her last fight and her most recent failure to disclose this information to either the fighter or to the commission).
Fallon Fox's Apparent Lack of Disclosure
Currently, there exists a major discrepancy in what is supposed to be disclosed to athletic commissions. It is certainly wise to place part of the blame on said commissions for creating this discrepancy (it is quite obvious that there was no contingency plan in place in most commissions for the possibility of a transgendered MMA professional). However, after reading through the medical records requirements of the Florida State Boxing Commission, nothing conclusive can be said because of how laughably unorganized, disjointed, and vague the rules actually are.
The current requirements of the FBSC for a fighter are here:
4. What are the requirements for licensure as a professional fighter?
• 18 years or older
• Have an amateur background (provide proof of five (5) amateur competitions with an
approved amateur sanctioning organization.)
• Have three references not including your trainer
• Negative Hepatitis B surface antigen test (good for one year from date taken)
• Negative Hepatitis C antibody test (good for one year from date taken)
• Negative HIV test (good for one year from date taken)
• Ophthalmological dilated eye examination to be performed by an Ophthalmologist (good for
one year from date taken)
• Female fighters are required to have a pregnancy test at the weigh-in with a negative outcome. Female fighters will be tested by Commission Physicians at the weigh-in.
So, as per the requirements, Fox was on notice that she was required to have a pregnancy test. This should have been the first indication to Fox that she should have disclosed her situation to the commission. She is clearly going to fail a pregnancy test because she is physically unable to become pregnant under any circumstance (save a Junior moment).
011 July Page 4 of 9 DBPR: Boxing FAQs
13. What is the deadline for submitting to the Commission for their approval the participant medical records and fight card for an upcoming event?
All matchmakers are required to submit a Proposed Bout Sheet at least ten days in advance of the date of the proposed event. Each proposed participant must have an official record. For boxing participants the fighter records must be obtained from Fight Fax, Inc. For mixed martial arts participants the fighter record must be obtained from Battle Base website.
It is the responsibility of the promoter and matchmaker to ensure that the participants required supporting documentation is received prior to the weigh-in and no later then at the conclusion of the weigh-in.
Under this rule, Fox's medical records are supposed to be submitted to the commission for certification (and this is also where fault lies on the commission in some regards, but it's really hard to fault an unknowing party that supposedly received all relevant records -- according to Fox). Is Fox's transgender surgery somehow not a "medical record?" This seems like, again, an intentional omission by Fox. There is no rhyme or reason for Fox not to submit her full list of medical records.
Edit: The original rules were amateur requirements. I have since removed them.
Something does not seem right/clear in all of this. The commission clearly requires these records yet they were never disclosed to the commission. The question as to why begs for a response. So far, the only response given by Fox is that she did not know the records were required and that she does not feel that she should be required to submit these records to the commission for approval.
It is now questionable whether or not the amateur sanctioning bodies even knew of Fox's sexual change surgery. As we now know from outlets such as ESPN and Sports Illustrated, Fox failed to disclose any of this information to the professional commissions overseeing her fights. It is, then, questionable whether or not Fox disclosed this information to the amateur commissions (even though it appears she was required to do so by the rules of the FSBC).
It is becoming clear that Fox intentionally withheld the records of her surgery. It's unclear as to why she actually did withhold these records, because her story about not knowing would certainly seem contrary to the FSBC requirements.
Ericka Newsome is currently appealing her March 2nd loss to Fox. Ericka Newsome recently appeared on CNN to discuss this matter. During her interview, Newsome claims that Fox never disclosed the sexual re-assignment procedure to her. It's hard to claim that Fox had a legal duty to disclose this information to Newsome, but Fox had, at the minimum, an ethical and moral duty to disclose this information. Newsome was given a choice to accept the fight in the beginning and clearly thought that she was facing a natural woman. Not a former man who has become a woman.
Fox intentionally failed to disclose this information to Newsome thus robbing her of a true, informed decision whether to accept the fight with Fox or to turn it down.
Athletes around the country are required to disclose hormone therapy and other medical endeavors to the commissions they are fighting under. Fallon Fox apparently doesn't view herself in the same category as these other fighters and contends that she had no duty to disclose any of this information. A failure to disclose a TRT treatment may net a fighter up to a year of suspension. Why does Fallon Fox think her failure to disclose was "OK" in any possible scenario?
The general rule is: "When in doubt, disclose." Any good manager, attorney, etc. should/would have told Fox that she had a duty to disclose this information to both the commission and to the fighter. Instead, we now have a pattern of Fox failing to disclose her situation to both fighters and commissions alike. It is hard to find any sympathy for Fox when she apparently feels that the rules do not apply to her.
Medical Proof that Fox is "Equal" to That of an Average Female
The second aspect of this to look at is whether or not there is even enough evidence to license Fox in the future. Does Fox truly have an unfair advantage or is Fox the equivalent of your average female fighter?
Rosi Sexton's argument is primarily composed of four essential points:
4) Contrary to some of the assertions by Fox’s supporters in the media, there appears to be no good scientific evidence that proves Fox does not have a performance advantage over someone who was born female. Expert opinion is still just opinion – and it seems divided on the subject. Experts may also have their own biases. Specialists in gender reassignment may not be equally knowledgeable about exercise physiology.
5) The experts supporting Fox have been quite cautious in their assessment. "She probably does not have a significant advantage" and "her musculature is comparable to that of a woman" are a long way from saying "we know for a fact that she does not have a performance advantage over someone born female".
6) The differences between men and women in sport depend on a great deal more than current hormone levels and muscle mass. For example, men have a higher ratio of type II to type I muscle fibres, which is associated with improved speed and explosive power, and a heart that is larger relative to body size. It’s not clear to what extent either of these would change after sex-reassignment surgery, or what implications that would have for performance in this case. Because of the bone structure that is developed while still growing, men also have a greater lung capacity and a narrower pelvis, giving a biomechanical advantage – factors which are highly unlikely to be reversed by hormone treatment.There are likely to be other factors that differ between men and women in terms of athletic performance that we aren’t even aware of.
7) Fox’s supporters point to the fact that male to female transgender athletes are allowed to compete as female in the olympics to support their argument that she should be able to compete in the women’s division in MMA. The IOC appears to base it’s policy on the principle that without firm evidence that an unfair advantage exists, transgender fighters should be allowed to compete in the interests of inclusivity. I agree that equality of participation is a nice ideal, and it’s a reasonable argument if we’re talking about sports like tennis or kayaking. But in a sport where one participant is trying to do physical damage to another, the burden of proof should be reversed. We need good scientific evidence to support the assertion that Fox has no advantage as a result of having been born male. Lack of evidence of an advantage isn’t sufficient – especially when so little evidence exists.
As Sexton points out, any current medical testimony from experts has largely been speculative. We have not seen orthopedic surgeons actually analyze Fox's bone density. We have not seen other doctors analyze Fox's muscle structure. We haven't even had doctors compare the size of Fox's hands/limbs to those of her female opponents. And in all fairness to Fox, even the doctors that currently oppose Fox fighting cannot offer conclusive evidence -- which clearly stems from the lack of studying similarly situated transgender athletes.
The question becomes this: Do we simply throw caution to the wind and allow Fox to fight knowing that there is a significant potential that she does have an unfair advantage over her opponents? Do we place the safety of her opponents in the hands of this speculation that she may/should/possibly/maybe/etc. be on equal footing as her opponents? It comes down to a risk-reward proposition, essentially. You risk the health and well-being of Fox's opponents for the reward of allowing Fox to fight without conclusive studies showing that she should be able to fight.
As a proponent of safety in MMA, it is my opinion that further tests should be performed on Fox, other women, etc. that conclusively show that Fox has no significant advantage. We simply cannot place the health and safety of other fighters in jeopardy to placate Fox's desire to fight. While it's certainly an admirable thing and could even potentially be viewed as progress for the LGBT community, there is just not enough evidence currently that suggests and confirms that Fox truly is on equal footing as her opponents are.
As Sexton indicated, this is a combat sport. MMA is not running. MMA is not ping pong. This is a sport where fighters are already faced with head trauma on a daily basis (in training or in an actual match). It is simply not in the best interests of Fox's opponents' health and safety to allow her to fight currently.
As previously stated, it is easy to find empathy for Fox in general. It's clearly not a pleasant situation to deal with -- being trapped in the wrong body. However, Fox's feelings and insecurities about her decision should simply not outweigh her lack of disclosure to both fighters and commissions. It was both ethically and morally wrong to purposefully not disclose this information. It is also likely legally wrong as well (at least in terms of the commission's bylaws).
Unfortunately for Fox, there is currently no concrete science that shows that Fox is not given an unfair advantage. There is no concrete science showing that allowing Fox to fight is not putting her opponents in needless danger due to this potential advantage. Fox should not be license to fight women (and for that matter men) until there is conclusive science showing that she has no advantage.
This is an unfortunate scenario for Fox, because she may be de facto retired due to this, but there is simply no reason to place her opponents in potential danger out of her desire to fight. This is not gender discrimination, this is not workplace inequality, etc. Fox has no actual right to be a mixed martial arts professional. She is beholden to the licensing commissions around the country and can be denied a license for a number of reasons. But we have to place the health and well-being of our sport's competitors far, far above the desire of one single person's desire to fight. It is imperative that we protect the health of our fighters.
The lack of disclosure is the main reason for this even being as big of an issue as it is currently. If Fox had come out and disclosed this when she was required to, we would not have a scenario where people are going onto CNN to complain about her. We would not have opponents trying to have her victories overturned. We would not have any of this animosity towards her that we have seen (or, at least, we would have far less animosity because you wouldn't have fighters angry about the lack of disclosure).
Fox, at the very least, had an ethical and moral duty to disclose this situation to the women who stepped into the cage with her. These women should have known what they were getting themselves into when it came to this fight. Their health and well-being is at stake. Fox is not some special snowflake who should be able to hide information from both the commission and her opponents. It is disturbing that Fox somehow thought she was in the right to not disclose this information (and whoever gave her that advice should be ashamed of themselves).
Hopefully some conclusive studies are done. I have no real objection to a transgendered fighter fighting if it can be conclusively proven that she has no unfair advantage or poses any serious danger to her opponents. But until then, Fox and any potential future transgendered fighter should be forced to wait on the sidelines. Their desire to fight should never, ever come before the safety and well being of their would-be opponents.
I have spent hours scouring the internet for information on this. It, as I have mentioned previously, is a potentially dubious claim that Fox is legally liable for anything. Her failure to disclose is more akin to that of a complete moral and ethical failure as opposed to actually breaching the rules of the FSBC (although that remains up for debate and is not conclusive at all).
With all of this said, there is one thing that certainly needs to occur. The FSBC and commissions around the country need to create statutes that are not as vague and ambiguous as the current statutes are.