Boxer Patricio “Cacahuate” Manuel does not identify within rigid male or female gender identities, but fights in a sports world that relies on those categories. The boxer, who uses the pronouns he and his, addresses this quandary and other aspects of his path from amateur boxing to his upcoming pro debut in an article and accompanying half-hour documentary published by the Los Angeles Times on Friday (August 4).
“I’m a masculine person, but I don’t want to be a man necessarily,” says Manuel, who the Times reports is the first U.S. boxer to compete in both women’s and men’s groups. “I want to be, I guess, free of those binds. But because we live in a world where it’s male or female, I have to shift over.”
That shift included reassignment surgery, which Manuel began almost two years after he injured his shoulder during a 2012 Summer Olympics’ women’s boxing trial—the first Olympics to award women’s boxing medals. While the multiracial boxer (the Times says he’s of Black, Mexican and Irish descent) encountered discrimination along the path to winning five amateur women’s titles, it took a different direction when he resumed training. The Carson, California, gym where he trained dropped him the day he came out as trans, and several fighters pulled out of previously scheduled matches.
“The toughest part of transitioning has been having pre-set matches inexplicably fall out,” Manuel says. “[Trainer Vic Valenzuela] and I have gone to shows and watched opponents leave without explanation moments after a fight was made official.” The USA Boxing regulatory organization approved Manuel’s domestic fighting license after the International Olympic Committee ruled last year to let trans athletes compete in the groups that align with their gender identity—a policy that forces non-confirming athletes like Manuel to pick a gender. Still, USA Boxing cannot force boxers to fight.
Meanwhile, the 32-year-old boxer still trains, and is on the ticket for a to-be-determined professional match later this year.
Read the full profile and watch the documentary, which cover three years of Manuel’s transition and training, at LATimes.com.
(H/t The Guardian)