Fallon Fox, believed to be the only active U.S. transgender professional athlete, is part of the documentary “Game Face,” which opened the 10th annual Seattle Transgender Film Festival on Thursday at Northwest Film Forum.
As an estimated 17 million people were captivated by every word Bruce Jenner spoke during a recent interview with ABC — the former Olympian declaring “I am a woman” — one person you’d expect to be watching couldn’t.
Mixed-martial-arts fighter Fallon Fox, 39, is believed to be the only active U.S. transgender professional athlete. She completed her transition from male to female in 2006 and began competing in MMA in 2012.
The way Jenner was treated by some people and in tabloid magazines before the April 24 interview dragged Fox back to a period she has tried to move past. Death threats still find their way to her doorstep, and negative comments about being transgender still grab headlines.
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“I wasn’t ready for it because of how I was treated when I came out to tell my story,” Fox said of viewing the Jenner show live. She watched the interview this week. “It was inspiring, and it gets people talking about transgender issues. That’s what we need.”
Jenner, 65, is helping fuel Fox, whose story is part of the documentary “Game Face.” The film opened the 10th annual Seattle Transgender Film Festival on Thursday at the Northwest Film Forum.
The festival, dubbed “Translations,” runs through Sunday.
“It feels like right now is our time,” Fox said. “What we’re trying to do with ‘Game Face’ is show everybody the intersectionality of sport and how the oppression transfers into the work force and everyday life.”
Fox said in the film that she often finds herself talking to herself to prepare for questions from people wanting to understand. She didn’t come “out” as a transgender fighter until 2013.
The documentary begins before Fox’s announcement, which was made in a Sports Illustrated article. She’s had six fights (four sanctioned), posting a 5-1 record.
“If people would lay off me, I’d just get back to fighting,” quipped Fox, who said her coming out was forced by a reporter wanting to sensationalize her being transgender. Yet, when Fox made her admission, the backlash she feared happened and tainted her message.
“I’m no chump,” she said. “I’m in this until this (discrimination) ends. And it doesn’t even end with transgender, this is a fight for all of humanity. But I got into MMA for the sport. I love fighting.”
Many believe Fox has an unfair advantage in MMA because she was born male. She hasn’t been granted a UFC fight or match with Invicta FC, the all-women’s pro MMA fight series.
In the documentary Fox explains the science of how estrogen changes your body’s speed and strength as much as it does your appearance, reasons the International Olympic Committee allows post-op trans athletes to compete.
Fox had three gender-assignment surgeries and several minor procedures to change the body she’s proud of today. The photo attached to her account on Twitter is of Fox in a bikini, not to prove she’s a woman, but because she loves her sexuality.
A poignant moment for her when watching the Jenner interview was when he looked at a photo of himself competing at the 1976 Olympics and considered himself a woman who wants to “kick butt.”
What: Translations: The Seattle Transgender Film Festival.
Where: Northwest Film Forum and 12th Ave. Arts Building.
Jenner said he hasn’t had any gender-assignment operations, but Fox said relating his femininity with his athletic prowess helps challenge sexist views.
“If the UFC would listen to reason on transgendered athletes, it could help change the sport for the better,” Fox said. “I was built to be a fighter, to be a warrior just like Ronda Rousey was built to be a warrior and Bruce Jenner is getting back to being the hardcore person, the warrior that he is. … Bruce and transgendered kids who are coming out today, they give me hope. And that’s what this film ‘Game Face’ does — gives hope and understanding.”