Attention sports radio: when covering trans athletes, reign in your uninformed hosts

When news broke widely of female MMA fighter Fallon Fox coming out as trans, I figured it was only a matter of time before the incident reports started rolling in about sports radio.  This happened last fall with the Gabby Ludwig story (resulting in suspensions for two hosts) and it was almost certainly going to happen again.  And sure enough, last night and this morning they started.

Apparently Tom Tolbert from KNBR in San Francisco said of Fallon something along the lines of "I could put on some lipstick and chop off my crank and still be able to punch a hole in that wall."

And it seems like the morning guys on WDVE in Pittsburgh repeatedly called Fallon "he," and said things like "apparently he got a sex change operation just so he could beat the crap out of women in the octogon." 

(We've reached out to management at both stations.)

There's a 'perfect storm' of sorts at play here.

On one side you've got transgender women, one of the most marginalized groups in our society, and a group whose very existence challenges the idea of the gender binary.

On the other side you've got sports radio - the one element of sports culture that perhaps is clinging the tightest to the notions that kept LGBT people out of sports for so long, even as other media, the leagues, and the athletes themselves have now become more welcoming.  And as anyone who's worked in radio knows, 'controversy is king.'  Whatever you can do to get those phones lighting up, you do it.

It's personally frustrating for me, because I grew up on sports radio, and I wish that world was evolving along with the rest of the sports world on these issues. And on the 'gay' side of things, to some extent it has. Boston's sports radio stalwart WEEI welcomed Steve Buckley with open arms after he came out a couple of years ago. But it's just not there yet on trans issues.  There's still that instinct to poke fun - to further marginalize - to dehumanize - for the sake of a cheap laugh, or to stir up a few callers. 

I've reached out to all of the stations we've received incident reports regarding thus far, and I am hopeful for positive outcomes with all of them.  But for now, I ask all of our constituents to keep your ears out for stories about Fallon. And station managers - let your guys know that they're more than welcome to talk about Fallon's story seriously, but that she is not a punching bag or a punchline.

And that she could probably kick all of their asses. 

 

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