Transgender MMA Fighter Fallon Fox Responds to 'Dr. V' ESPN Controversy

Scott HarrisMMA Lead WriterJanuary 22, 2014

MMA fighter Fallon Fox
MMA fighter Fallon FoxMMA Weekly

Fallon Fox, the transgender MMA fighter who drew widespread attention after her professional debut in 2012, has written an open letter to journalists and editors criticizing the media's treatment of transgender individuals and detailing her own struggles with gender dysphoria, including contemplation of suicide.

The letter, which appeared Wednesday on the website of Time magazine, was triggered by the ongoing controversy surrounding "Dr. V's Magical Putter," a feature article published last week on ESPN's Grantland website. The Grantland feature profiled mysterious inventor Essay Anne Vanderbilt and her innovative golf putter design. The article eventually revealed that Vanderbilt was a transgender woman and that Vanderbilt committed suicide not long before the article's publication.

"I just heard about [the article] today and it just about made me vomit," Fox wrote in her response. "It unfortunately highlights the ignorance, lack of empathy, and exploitation of trans people. ... I've sat and pondered why some in media can be so cruel to us."

Fox pulled no punches in her response to the article and the wider controversy, taking members of the media and the general public to task for mistreating, misunderstanding and excessively scrutinizing transgender individuals.

She also admitted that she herself has considered taking her own life because of her struggles. A 2010 study from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found that 41 percent of transgender individuals reported attempting suicide, compared to less than two percent of the general population.

"And yes, I've been close to suicide myself over this," Fox wrote. "Fortunately, I had a support network in place, teammates and loved ones around me who actually care about me existing. They supported me, and it helped me stay here."

The 38-year-old Fox (3-1) is an active competitor in the women's featherweight division. Most recently, she fought in October, suffering her first professional defeat to Ashlee Evans-Smith for the Florida-based Championship Fighting Alliance.

Last April, UFC heavyweight Matt Mitrione was fined and suspended after calling Fox a "disgusting freak," among other things, during an episode of The MMA Hour broadcast. 

Grantland Editor-in-Chief Bill Simmons, himself a very well-known sportswriter, wrote a lengthy apology a few days after the Dr. V story was published.