Fallon Fox hasn’t forgiven Joe Rogan. She will be able to’t forgive Joe Rogan. Seven years in the past, the now-retired Fox turned the primary combined martial arts fighter to publicly come out as trans—an act of bravery that was met with a torrent of abuse and groaning bigotry. Not simply from Rogan, now an exceedingly rich and influential podcaster, however throughout the sport, together with UFC President Dana White, ex-champ turned WWE wrestler Ronda Rousey, her fellow MMA fighters, and the extraordinarily vocal followers who went after her.
The hostility and prejudice persists to this present day. She’d stepped away from social media for a couple of years, however has began making her voice heard once more of late.
At any time when she does so, the harassment rears its ugly head as soon as once more, Fox advised The Every day Beast. Regardless of all of her efforts to clarify why none of their spittle-flecked insults or science-free musings maintain as much as the slightest little bit of credible scrutiny, and regardless of no matter progress has been made in terms of trans points, there are those that can’t be swayed.
In an excellent world, the 44-year-old Fox would love to have the ability to “let bygones be bygones,” she stated. However the blinkered assertions Rogan made—and continues to make—have in some ways framed how trans athletes are perceived and buttressed the continued efforts to maintain trans athletes from competing in sports activities, in response to Fox. (Rogan didn’t reply to an emailed request for remark.)
“I’m nonetheless coping with the ramifications,” she stated, sustaining a steely calm that by no means wavered all through the interview. “I don’t suppose it will be a good suggestion to decrease my guard in that regard when he hasn’t apologized or retracted his statements.”
Whereas Fox by no means got down to be a “pioneer,” as The New York Occasions described her in 2013, or the face of a political motion, her refusal to again down within the face of relentless transphobia meant shouldering that at-times burdensome function. As Cyd Zeigler, who, together with Sports activities Illustrated, first broke the story of Fox’s resolution to come back out, advised The Every day Beast, “She actually kick-started conversations about trans athletes.” It was and is heroic, making Fox a deserving inductee into the Nationwide Homosexual and Lesbian Sports activities Corridor of Fame. By Zeigler’s estimation, Fox is “the bravest athlete in historical past.”
For many who weren’t paying consideration on the time, the reminiscence of what Fox endured could have pale. It shouldn’t. “The depth of the vicious hatred that was thrown at her is not possible to overstate,” stated Zeigler. “It’s a miracle that Fallon continues to be alive.”
Rising up in East Toledo, Ohio, in a deeply non secular family, the time period “transgender” didn’t even enter Fox’s consciousness till she heard it on TV at age 17. As Fox defined to GQ, she experimented with carrying woman’s clothes at a really younger age, an act that in and of itself felt like some form of betrayal. “I used to be introduced up with the concept that God is watching always,” she stated in a 2014 episode of HBO’s Actual Sports activities. “So I felt soiled. I felt nugatory. I felt like I used to be going to hell only for placing on ladies’s garments.”
After graduating highschool and fathering a daughter out of wedlock, Fox did a four-year stint within the Navy. She studied graphic design in faculty for a bit, however didn’t earn her diploma. To help herself and her household, Fox drove a giant rig cross-country, however over the course of six years, Fox started to understand who she was and what she needed to be. (After popping out to her dad and mom, they prescribed a “Christian reparative-counseling group,” in response to GQ.)
In 2006, at age 30, Fox lastly saved sufficient money for gender-reassignment surgical procedure in Thailand. “The primary time I obtained known as ‘Miss’ that felt superb,” she advised HBO. “Superb, superb, superb, superb.”
On the time, Fox was residing in Chicago and making an attempt to drop a couple of kilos. She stumbled throughout a health club on-line and commenced to coach in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a martial artwork that has served because the baseline for MMA fighters going again to the game’s inception a century in the past. For 2 years, she continued working and bettering her abilities, ultimately changing into a purple belt, and testing out her still-nascent ability set in submission tournaments. Following a yr spent studying Muay Thai, Fox discovered a health club that focused on growing MMA fighters. She prevailed in her first three newbie featherweight fights beginning in June 2011, and her first two professional bouts over the next two years—until one night time in March 2013, when a reporter obtained in contact and intimated he deliberate to out her.
The one possibility left to Fox was seizing management of the narrative. “I felt that I ought to most likely go round him and try to inform my story earlier than he did,” she stated. “There was no telling how he was going to current my story. Given how the media has represented trans folks prior to now, particularly at that time, I felt it was going to be adverse.”
Fox’s prediction proved correct. “It was a right away tidal wave of a refrain from fighters, followers, and journalists who actually had no thought what they had been speaking about,” Zeigler, the co-founder of Outsports.com and creator of Truthful Play: How LGBT Athletes are Claiming their Rightful Place in Sports activities stated. “[They] had been placing out rubbish details about the realities of science and medication, distorting info, and flat-out mendacity.”
When questioned as as to whether Fox can be combating within the UFC some day, president Dana White casually and cruelly misgendered her after which downplayed her earlier wins. “He was a person and now he’s a girl—he’s combating ladies who’ve dropping information,” White stated. “Earlier than you get too loopy about him being within the UFC, he’s so freaking removed from being within the UFC that it’s not even humorous.” (White has not responded to a request for remark.)
Matt Mitrione went additional. Throughout an interview with MMA reporter Ariel Helwani, the UFC heavyweight jokingly in contrast Fox to the serial killer in The Silence of the Lambs and known as her a “sick, sociopathic, disgusting freak.”
Requested why he bore a lot hostility towards Fox, Mitroine doubled down. “As a result of she’s not a he,” Mitrione replied. “He’s a he. He’s chromosomally a person. He had a gender change, not a intercourse change. He’s nonetheless a person. He was a person for 31 years… Six years of taking efficiency de-hancing medicine, you suppose goes to vary all that? That’s ridiculous.” (The UFC suspended Mitrione for his feedback about Fox, however his transient timeout ended 16 days later. Fox accepted his post-rant apology.)
“That tranny, you’re a fucking man. You possibly can’t have…that’s…I don’t care should you don’t have a dick anymore.”
— Joe Rogan
Former UFC champion Ronda Rousey equally noticed her presence in MMA as a problem. Even when Fox selected to “attempt hormones, chop her pecker off, it’s nonetheless the identical bone construction a person has,” she advised The New York Publish. “It’s a bonus. I don’t suppose it’s honest.” A yr later, Rousey reiterated that she had no want to battle towards a trans girl, pinning her rationale to junk science.
The query of bone density and its impression on “equity” has been a specific bugaboo for these against trans participation in sports activities, significantly MMA. Rogan has carped on the subject extensively. “That tranny,” he stated, referring to Fox, on his podcast in 2013, “you’re a fucking man. You possibly can’t have… that’s… I don’t care should you don’t have a dick anymore.” Rogan has continued to rail towards the presence of trans folks in sports activities and weigh in on non-sports trans points alike, although he swears none of it’s born out of animus or prejudice.
In a 2018 podcast, Rogan stated anybody who disagreed with him was “fucking loopy,” including, “You guys can kiss my fucking ass. You’re out of your thoughts.” As a comparability, he requested what the response can be if UFC champion Brock Lesnar selected to “chop his dick off” and fought a cis girl. Rogan went to the identical nicely in 2019 and warned that cis ladies are being put in hurt’s approach and/or positioned at a drawback.
To be clear, that argument was and is bunk. In Fox’s case, the Florida boxing fee, plus the Worldwide Olympics Committee and the NCAA, gave her their stamp of approval, Zeigler defined. “For all these folks to scream and leap and holler, they actually had been going towards each governing physique that’s checked out this difficulty,” he stated. (Again in 2014, Fox additionally painstakingly broke down why Rogan and his ilk had been within the fallacious.)
To be clear, nobody Zeigler’s been involved with is arguing for zero tips being imposed in terms of trans athletes who compete in ladies’s sports activities. That doesn’t imply accepting at face worth the plain try at concern-trolling coming from Donald Trump Jr.—who devoted a couple of fact-free paragraphs of his e-book to Fox—and others on the correct who’ve handled trans civil rights as one more culture-war battle and legislative wedge difficulty.
(Particularly, Trump Jr. took umbrage with “a person,” he wrote, referencing Fox, “who was dropping bouts to different males, so he determined he needed to beat up ladies as a substitute.” Along with misgendering her, that is patently false. Fox is a girl who has by no means fought, professionally or in any other case, towards a person in her life, not to mention misplaced.)
“Joe Rogan is just not about defending ladies’s sports activities,” Zeigler insisted. “It’s merely transphobia. There’s no different approach round it.”
Regardless of all of that—the lies, the near-constant battles to justify her existence and the dying threats Fox says each she and her daughter acquired, Fox swore to proceed combating. “It was disheartening. It was arduous to take,” she admitted. And whereas the abuse grew so terrible she had suicidal ideas in 2014, Fox made it clear that it doesn’t matter what, “I wasn’t going to again down and allow them to dictate my future.”
Fox’s athletic profession got here to an finish shortly after she got here out. She fought three extra instances, successful twice, however quickly afterwards, the gives dwindled after which vanished completely. Following a string of debilitating accidents, and after being out for too lengthy, she hung up her gloves. This yr, Fox had frolicked making an attempt to get again in combating form. Hopefully, that’d embody an MMA battle of some kind, she stated, however COVID-19 shut down gyms throughout the nation, placing an finish to her hopes of a comeback.
As an athlete, it hurts. “I miss having the ability to throw down with different elite-level ladies, to be thought of among the many finest. That problem of hanging in there with them and the joys of being considered one of them is uncommon to expertise,” she stated by way of textual content message. “I want I might share with everybody what that’s like.”
If she had her druthers—and to be clear, that is a wholly hypothetical suggestion—it’d imply taking over none aside from J.Ok. Rowling, who’s been within the information extra for her personal extraordinarily loud anti-trans beliefs of late than her literary output. (Fox described her as “the modern-day Janice Raymond.”) If solely to degree the taking part in discipline, Fox is keen to provide her would-be opponent “a couple of years coaching and a few fights beforehand,” she stated. ”It wouldn’t be honest in any other case.”
Regardless that it’s been years since Fox has been within the highlight, she nonetheless recurrently hears from trans folks, each athletes and never, and each out and in of the closet. They’ve advised Fox that her visibility made an infinite distinction.
“[It] has helped them cope with being trans and popping out to their household or simply motivation for them residing their each day lives,” Fox stated. “It feels actually good to listen to them say that. It makes me really feel like what I did was worthwhile.”