For Pride month, we’ve dedicated each day of June to an individual athlete or coach whose shining moment changed LGBTQ sports.
Today, we revisit Dec. 8, 2018, when Pat Manuel became the first trans man to win a professional boxing match.
Flirting with history was a concept all too familiar to boxer Pat Manuel long before even stepping in the ring in Indio, Calif. on Dec. 8, 2018.
The five-time amateur champion’s super featherweight bout with Hugo Aguilar on that night represented the first time an out transgender man would fight professionally. But the journey to that night took root in 2012, when Manuel made the difficult decision to delay his transition for the opportunity to compete in the Olympics’ first women’s boxing competition.
A shoulder injury cut that quest short, but it also freed Manuel from all qualms about his transition. He wouldn’t step between the ropes again until a 2016 amateur bout, making him U.S. boxing’s first trans male boxer to compete at any level. He triumphed over his in-ring opponent and internalized dysphoria that night.
“It’s hard to describe if you’ve never been so uncomfortable in your own skin. It’s like I’m finally living my truth … for a long time I forced a narrative that I didn’t really believe just because I didn’t feel I had another way around it,” Manuel told the Los Angeles Times.
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Life is like a solid punch in the teeth sometimes. Been working my ass off all year waiting for an opportunity, training going great, overall feeling real good about myself. And then like a sneaky ass sucker punch, nagging infection leads to my eye swelling shut for a week+ and forcing me outta the fight ♂️ . But what else can ya do but keep pressing forward (and maybe learn to keep your damn hands up)? Fortunately, I’m built for this shit. Be back in no time . . : Terry Pierson
After a two year layoff, Manuel, with his California State Athletic Commission license in hand, made history once again, becoming the first trans man to compete in a professional boxing match. He upped that by defeating Aguilar by unanimous decision in the four-round bout.
Manuel shared the historic victory with the friends, family and boxing peers that supported him through his transition and push to continue his boxing career during the post-fight interview. “I couldn’t be here without you. I really needed that support to help push me to this point,” Manuel exclaimed. “There’s so many people that just wanted me to be here, and I’m so happy that I could perform for them.”
We’ll have another Moment of Pride tomorrow and every day in June.