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Transgender MMA fighter tearing down LGBT barriers in sport

Last Updated Jul 14, 2015 at 7:11 pm EDT

While thousands of athletes from around the world are competing in the Pan Am Games in Toronto, the first openly transgender fighter in mixed martial arts history is trying to pave the way for a more inclusive sporting world.

Fallon Fox is headlining Huddle 2015 — part of a three-day summit aimed at breaking down barriers surrounding LGBT culture in sports, especially at the recreational level.

“My big message is about inclusion,” she said. “And about including younger LGBT athletes in sport and making them feel more welcome and how do we do this?”

Fox began transitioning to a woman in 2006.

“I had feelings that I was female inside,” she said. “That I wanted to be a woman. There’s this thing called gender dysphoria where you start to dislike your body in relation to sex and gender and your brain doesn’t match up with your body and that’s something that I was going through.”

Fox said her desire to be honest to her young daughter helped prompt her decision. “I just let her know in so many words, daddy is going to become mommy.”

She was embraced by the LGBT community, but faced challenges gaining acceptance in the hyper-masculine world of mixed martial arts.

“I try to respond to (criticism) with education,” she said. “Some people believe I have an automatic advantage.”

But medical experts say she could actually be at a disadvantageous due to testosterone-blocking hormones she takes.

Either way, she’s pleased to see the world starting to embrace transgender people.

“With Caitlyn Jenner, with me, a lot of people are beginning to understand a lot more about transgender issues,” she said. “We’re not exactly where we need to be yet and we’ve got a long way to go.”

Leaders at the sports inclusion summit will come up with a series of recommendations to make a more inclusive recreational sport environment, here in Toronto, and around the world.