Under most circumstances, men do not box against women in the ring. It is meant to be an acknowledging nod in the way of biology; males receive the advantage of testosterone. Females do not receive the same amount of this performance-enhancing naturally induced hormone. Therefore, why pit one advantaged person over a disadvantaged opponent?
This is the rationale used by those who oppose trans-inclusive sports. A cisgender man, for example, would have the advantage of a high level of testosterone since the onset of puberty. A transgender man would have had a shorter period of time to benefit from higher levels of testosterone. The unequal exposure to the hormone would advantage the cis man and disadvantage the trans man. However, this precedent was decided by judges, the USA Boxing Guidebook, and the Association of Boxing Commissions, all groups of which are predominantly, if not entirely, made of cisgender individuals.
But has anyone asked the perspective of the disadvantaged side? Why would you want to be matched in a slanted fight that you knew you would lose? Bruised, bloodied and emasculated is no way for a fighter to feel dignified during a loss.
“It seems like being in crisis is a natural reaction to being a man, any man … , ” wrote Thomas Page McBee in his 2018 book “Amateur” (McBee, 12). The pinnacle of the book recollects his legendary boxing match in Madison Square Garden. As the first trans man to fight in the arena, history lay on his sweat-dripped, lean and muscled shoulders. The arena was dark, vast and roaring. His opponent towered 15 pounds and several inches over McBee.
Grimacing and growling through their mouthguards, each man left no room for fear or doubt. Each man was naked, raw and clawing for the win. On this nationally televised program, only a handful of onlookers knew McBee was transgender. In this broadly sensationalized age of monster-in-your-closet queerness, how was McBee able to overcome the politics of gender identity in order to fight? Could audiences root for the man, or would they instead protest him and the charity that he represented? Simple: he didn’t tell anyone that he was transgender. The journalist went undercover to better understand weaponizing one’s body in the world of boxing.
McBee held his own. Eric Cohen, his opponent, had gained several pounds more than the weight they’d previously agreed upon. This provided Cohen with significant leverage over McBee. Under normal circumstances, boxers are divided into weight classes in order to ensure some level of equity in the fight. Still, the two were tied.
“Amateur” narrates McBee’s internal dialogue.
At this moment, he represents all transmasculine athletes.
If he were to win, what would this mean to Cohen? Would he think that he’d lost to a girl? McBee was hardly going easy on the man, but what would the world’s reaction be to this turn of events? What would it mean for transgender people?
McBee would not win this match.
Under most circumstances, cis men do not box trans men. But is it because of a perceived disadvantage? Or is it because cis people don’t want to lose?
Jamie is a student at Ohio University. Please note the views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of The Post.