Patricio Manuel Talks Living As a Transgender Boxer & Living His Truth
LOS ANGELES—The world’s first known transgender boxer is now the new face of Everlast, a history-making moment for the iconic boxing company and a leap of support for LGBTQ evolution in sports.
Patricio Manuel, 34, has made history twice. He became the world’s first transgender professional boxer to defeat a cisgender man in December 2018 and, on September 26, he did it again—becoming the new image of the boxing company, a position previously held by boxing legends Jack Dempsey, Sugar Ray Robinson and Canelo Álvarez, according to CNBC.
But, the fight that he fought for the hardest was the fight to become himself—as he medically transitioned and finally lived authentically as the man and boxer he always knew he was. In a video released by Everlast to promote the company’s “Be First” Campaign, Manuel said that it was “boxing” that brought him back into his body.
“ … it was boxing that allowed me to be proud of actually what I was physically able to do, but boxing also taught me to really be introspective and be like ‘okay what do I really want, and how am I going to have to work for it, because, unfortunately, when you deviate from the norms that society has constructed, you have to fight for that identity and you have to really make it yourself,” Manuel said in the video.
Not being true to himself
He also delved into how living an inauthentic life wounded him emotionally, even though prior to transitioning he acquired 5 different national amateur champions before a shoulder injury made him stop and reconnect with who he always was—a man.
“When I was a little kid, I always thought of myself as a boy,” said the Los Angeles boxer. “But you learn really early on that someone like me is immediately going to be told that they’re a girl. So, I learned to be quiet, I learned to stifle that part of me. But the thing is anything that you push down long enough, it will have a bad reaction. And that reaction for me was that I completely disconnected from myself. I just mentally checked out so that I could continue coping through life.”
And he came back and fought in California as a physical man this time around and won.
“There’s so many people that said it’s impossible for someone like me, a trans man to be able to compete against a non-trans man and win,” he said via the video. “And I proved them all wrong that night. I walked out of that fight with my first victory and it was a victory greater than just having my successful pro debut.”
A lie worth risking it all
His discontent with himself and his then sense of self was so much a hindrance that Manuel preferred to start from scratch rather than continue to live without his truth out in the open.
“That’s how bad I felt living that lie. If it meant that much to me to risk the love of my life, boxing. Then they knew that it was something that was valid,” he said. “No one just throws away a possible chance at going to the Olympics or being a world champion because this is something that they’re half in about. This is something that is going to hurt. Living in your truth is going to hurt, but it’s worth it.”
An impossible task?
Many people, he said, told him that it was impossible to compete against a non-trans (cisgender) man and win.
“I proved them all wrong that night,” he said. “I walked out of that fight with my first victory. … I think that it challenged a lot of people’s assumption about what people like me are able to do.”
The trans reality explained
Those who still question him over his transition, Manuel explains, did not know the inner cons of not living authentically.
“A lot of people in boxing, they would come to me and say, ‘You could’ve been one of the greatest female world champions, but you would throw it all away to be yourself?” he recalls. “And I tell them, ‘That’s how bad I felt living that lie.’”
The “Be First” campaign, according to an Everlast statement to Newsweek, “challeng[es] consumers to carve their own path to success. The campaign is modeled after the well-known boxing term ‘Be First,’ which is associated with dictating the pace of a fight by making your opponent follow your lead. The Be First campaign embodies this concept, challenging people to carve their own paths, and dictate the pace of their life, goals, and personal journey.”