We are pleased and honored to present today’s reflection on body image and the impact of gender role models by professional martial artist and trans athlete Fallon Fox.
My name is Fallon Fox. I am a professional MMA fighter and trans athlete. As a fighter I have trained heavily in Jiu Jiutsu, Muay Thai, Wrestling, and Mixed Martial Arts for over five years. I’ve competed and medaled at the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation World Championships, the Pan American Jiu Jitsu Chamionships, have multiple North American Grappling Association gold medal wins, and competed in Amateur and Professional Mixed Martial Arts. All of this was years after my physical transition.
Before I transitioned from male to female, I took very good care of my body. A year of high school wrestling, and 4 years of military service in the U.S. Navy taught me methods to keep in shape and gave me confidence in everyday life. I stayed true to the lessons I learned in sport and institution for years after participated in them.
During and after the process of my physical transition, I stopped working out for a matter of years. The role models in the magazines, movies, and TV screens were always very thin, non-athletic looking females. This model of an ultra feminized–one size fits few–woman affected my psyche negatively. It was not just the more socially accepted body style that I felt that I had to fit into, it was also the ultra feminine persona lacking in toughness or assertiveness. It was at this time that I bought into the idea that a woman must be weak and passive in order to be accepted by society. Feeling that in order to survive and be a “passable” trans woman I needed to align myself as close as possible to this model in order to not be “found out” and survive.
But I struggled with this dilemma for a while. For one, I desired to get in shape as years of being lethargic were beginning to add unwanted fat to my body, and I feared the ever looming prospect of becoming overweight. Running was an OK thing to do.
But I feared picking up weights, and I had no idea what that would do to me. I joined a physical fitness gym and noticed what the women were doing around me. The vast majority of them were using smaller weights and doing cardio to burn fat. Only a few were trying to actually gain muscle. It seemed as though most women were scared of breaking past the typical female role also. However, I missed the inner strength I gained when I wrestled in high school, and trained in the military. I missed the assertiveness, and confidence I once had when I knew that I could take care of myself while alone. Walking alone at night became more of a scary thing post transition. I pondered over and over again why I felt this way. It was not that I wanted to be male again. I loved being female and was quite happy with my new sex! But I was feeling restricted within it.
Fortunately, a physical trainer introduced me to a martial arts gym. It was there I began to see new female role models. There were women hitting punching bags, wrestling, sparring each other in boxing, doing hard core Jiu Jitsu, and lifting heavy weights. There I was, face to face with the opposite female role models I was told that I could be. They took me in and helped train me in Martial Arts, and over the years I became who I am today.
I enjoy the idea of this Bodyimage4justice project, and I plan to bring to others the lessons I have learned. I’d like to share that a woman does not have to lose her femininity to be strong or powerful, that toughness does not equate to masculinity, and share ways to empower and take care of oneself as a woman, man, or anything else one may consider themselves.