An MMA victory for a transgender MMA fighter – who served in the US Army Special Forces until 2010 – over a French opponent has led to a strong backlash across social media.
Many commenting expressed their belief that it is unfair for a trans woman to compete against a biological female in the sport.
Alana McLaughin, 38, a biological male, donned a t-shirt emblazoned with the words “end trans genocide” and used a rear-naked choke hold on Celine Provost, 32, bringing the fight to en end after 3 minutes.
Her pain and his delight at causing it. Nauseating pic.twitter.com/tdg5BqlR1i
— Iris_I am woman 🇪🇨 💚🤍💜 🇬🇧 (@Ecuadorian_Mum) September 11, 2021
McLaughlin was declared victorious no more than 32 seconds into round two of the match which took place in Florida on Friday. An immediate backlash erupted across social media in the aftermath of the fight, with critics stating that McLaughlin’s swift victory over Provost, of France, amounted to ‘cheating and robbery’.
“A biological male getting into a cage and kicking a woman around’ is not progress”, argued conservative talk show host Benedict Spence.
In a sarcastic tweet, UK academic and university lecturer Adrian Hilton wrote: ‘When a former US Army Special Forces soldier becomes a trans woman #MMA fighter and chokes a female competitor into submission, I’m not sure the opportunity for women in sport is any longer endless.”
McLaughin has hit back at the backlash, responding on Twitter:
“I’m getting a lot of variations of the same nasty messages calling me a cheater like I didn’t just get beat on for a round and a half. Y’all need to show Céline Provost some respect and take your concern trolling elsewhere.”
The MMA fighter’s tone was defiant:
“’Transphobes are just making my block hand stronger.”
McLaughlin spent 6 years in the US Army Special Forces before beginning the transition process in 2010.
Referencing this, Combat sports podcaster Angel David Castro wrote: “Alana McLaughlin transitioned 5 years ago, which means that “she” lived 33 years of her life as a man…Tonight McLaughlin fought and beat a biological woman… what a shock.”
“Welcome to 2021 in women’s sports! Apparently “inclusion” is more important than LOGIC,” Castro added, in a separate tweet posted on Sunday.
MMA commentator @SafeBetMMA wrote:
“I think people can identify with whatever they like but I don’t think this has a place in combat sports.”
As news of McLaughin’s MMA debut win spread, many took to Twiiter and other online platforms to question the fairness of the move in letting a biological male fight a biological female.
On Facebook, one user reacted:
“I just find this so painful. When are the scales going to fall from people’s eyes? …this is taking us right back to the suffragette era.”
Others blasted the move as “disgraceful”, “ridiculous” and “horrendous”.
Another female user commented: “This is absolutely terrible for women’s sports – women are still fighting for equality in sport and we are expected to stand aside for trans women thus losing so many hard fought gains…there needs to be a separate category for trans athletes.”
“I respect trans rights; however, how is this fair, seriously?” wrote another commentator on Twitter.
Jessica O’Donnell, a writer for the Blaze took to the replies section to a New York Post article to slam the win.
“Alternative headline: Man cheats,” O’Donnell wrote in a blistering response.
“Thrilled to be choking a woman”
Others in feminist circles went as far as to cite the win as an example of abuse. Genevieve Gluck, a contributer to Canadian feminist website Feminist Current, was scathing:
”Male violence against women as a public sport? #NoThankYou,” she posted.
In another tweet over the weekend, she shared a disturbing screenshot of McLaughin posted by Twitter user @Equadorian_Mum, which was captioned: “Her pain and his delight at causing it. Nauseating.”
“Many women have commented on the disturbing expressions made by McLaughlin, who seemed thrilled to be choking a woman, and compared the image to violent pornography.”
Many agreed, labelling the incident “stomach turning”, “truly grotesque” and “awful”.
Another user replied:
“As someone who, as a child, watched my father beat my mother I found this nauseating and that it is being shown as ‘sport’ and ‘entertainment’ just shows how morally bankrupt our society has become.”
Another replied: “This is so upsetting to see. Did she know he was a male ?”
It has been reported that Provost, 35, a school teacher from Paris, said she had no hesitation about getting into the ring with an opponent who was born a man. Little is known about Provost, who is reportedly an MMA fighter who has been training on and off for a decade.
Ahead of Friday’s contentious fight, Provost told The Guardian, “I train with men that are stronger than me all of the time…It doesn’t bother me at all. We need to show that MMA is an inclusive sport.”
Some critics, however, accused Provost of being “naive”.
“She seems naive to all the physical advantages her transgender opponent has over her,” wrote one Twitter user.
Others said the legality of the situation defied belief, writing:
“I can’t believe this is even legal in the name of sport.”
“This is not sport. It’s cheating and robbery,” another user said. Many users added the hashtag #SaveWomensSports to their responses.
Despite the widespread criticism, some on social media also offered support and congratulated McLaughlin on the win.
“You did AMAZING,’ tweeted Young Journalism Initiative reporter Jessica Durling. ‘They’re just mad sports aren’t just for cis people.’
‘I support you so much and hope you don’t take the horrible bigoted comments to heart. You’re wonderful,’ wrote another Twitter user.
McLaughlin is the second openly transgender athlete to fight MMA professionally in the US, following Fallon Fox who made history in 2012, retiring two years later.
‘I want to pick up the mantle that Fallon put down,’ McLaughlin told Outsports prior to the fight.
Despite support from some users on Twitter, many others also drew attention to Fox’s perceived taking pleasure in injuring biological females.
One user shared a screenshot of an old Tweet from Fox, writing alongside it: “The UFC will not even allow these fights and have been criticised for it.
““For the record, I knocked two out. One woman’s skull was fractured, the other not. And just so you know, I enjoyed it.”
Further comments highlighted the danger of such a biological male competing against a biological female.
“Doesn’t matter what you call it, all I see is a dude trying to beat girl up,” another user posed.
“The difference in aggression, movement & coordination is striking, even at the poor level McLaughlin is showing,” one user wrote, while another concerned commenter said that “condoning this will eventually lead to tragic accidents”.