Each month Athlete Ally and Huffington Post will feature a new Voice to Voice segment featuring LGBT and ally people of color leading the movement to end homophobia, biphobia, sexism and transphobia in athletics. The discussions will focus on the interplays of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, and how those relationships affect LGBT inclusion and allyship in sports. Topics may include faith, family, health, body, immigration, community, stigma, visibility, economic status, violence, masculinities and femininities, language and more. Kye Allums, Ashland Johnson and Akil Patterson, all active and accomplished LGBTQ advocates, will act as lead moderators for the initiative. They will be joined by guest moderators Katheryn King and Alyssa Puno.
This month Kye Allums talks with boxing champion and founder of BuffButch.com, Pat Manuel.
Kye Allums: So It's been awhile since you've been boxing right? Let's go back to the beginning -- bring me back to your first boxing match? When was it and what was going through your mind?
Pat Manuel: Oh, the first match did not go so well. I think it was like the sumer of 2003, and it was the Diamond Belt tournament in Los Angeles at Lincoln Park. This was, at the time, for female boxers when they didn't have a novice or open division (novice is someone who has 0-10 and open is 11-300 fights). I was 17 and I ended up fighting this woman who was 32 years old and had like 30 matches. I wasn't hurt, but I got overwhelmed and within 30 seconds they stopped the fight.
It definitely took me awhile to get my groove down... and then you know, suddenly one year I went from being 9 and 6, to then going up the next year to 17 and 1, and that's when I started picking up national championships.
Kye: How would you define "transgender"?
Pat: It's an umbrella term right now that includes people that identify as transsexual, or people that just identify as transgender. I'm really coming to grips as to whether or not I want to identify as a trans man or trans masculine.
I definitely felt more genderqueer when I was younger, and still trying to have some sort of semblance of femininity so that I could still compete as a female athlete. But you know, I guess transgender also allows you fluidity too. You don't have to just stay within a binary, you can kind of shift your identity more depending on what spectrum you feel like at the moment, and that may change for each person.
Kye: Many people believe that trans people shouldn't fight, especially trans* women, because they feel like they have an unfair advantage. How do you feel about that?
Pat: I mean, I think that's stupid. It really stems from the perception that anyone female assigned at birth is weaker. Like it assumes that these well-trained female athletes are automatically weaker then someone who was male assigned at birth, just because of that. I never understood why other female athletes are supporting that because it's like you're insulting yourself.
When I was a female boxer I would have no issue fighting a trans* feminine person, because I assume that I am better than anyone in the ring with me and I don't understand why other female athletes are assuming that these trans women have some sort of advantage when they don't.
Kye: If you could have any super power what would it be and why?
Pat: I wish I could take the way people are expressing an emotion and force it onto someone else who may not have sympathy for that person, just so they can experience that. I think that would change peoples' perceptions of a lot of things -- when they really feel the way other people feel. Why would you want someone else to be hurt if you could actually experience that emotion yourself?
Kye: How do you self identify racially?
Pat: I'm mixed race, but I definitely self identify as black.
Kye: Regardless of who the person is, what would you say is the role of an ally?
Pat: The role of an ally is to be a support system and basically use their privileges to help the person their being an ally to, but not be in the spotlight. It's not your job to cultivate attention to yourself just based off you helping someone. When I help someone it should just be to help them, and if I have a position of power where I can allow people to be in the spotlight then I push those people to the spotlight, and then I step back.
Kye: Why is allyship important?
Pat: It's definitely important for people like me that make the mainstream uncomfortable. If ive got people pushing for me, and sheading visiblity on me, then you cant ignore me at that point. I need those people to open up doors, because im not naive. I know that someone like me could very easily be left out of the conversation, but if there is enough people that are pushing for me that are my allys, then there comes a point where there are so many doors open there are so many lights on me that people have to take notice of me.
Kye: Could we expect to see you in the ring any time soon?
Pat: I hope so, that is to be continued!
Kye: I know you mentioned this earlier, but Buff Butch, what is it and how can people get involved?
Pat: Buff Butch is me basically trying to carve out a niche for our community, the queer community, in the fitness industry. There is not a lot of information or even resources geared towards our population at all and I feel like that does a disservice to a lot of people who really would like to gain access to this type of training, and its really important, that we remain in touch with our body, and also learn how to craft a physical narrative that that fits our identity rather than what the mainstream pushes on us.
Right now we are still in the stages of building up, but we have been launching different blog posts, in regards to queer peoples' interests and fitness and also doing interviews with people in the community, so if anyone wants to get involved with that just go ahead and log onto buffbutch.com. You can grab a free tactical training guide and sign up for our newsletters so you can find out about the updates we keep rolling out as bigger and bigger things will continue to come as we roll into the next year.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Manuel's first match was in 2013. This has been corrected.