Pharrell Shaymar was in a deep depression. He just started taking hormones to begin his transition, and felt very alone.
Some mornings, he struggled to get out of bed. Then he started to get into the ring. His love for boxing and kickboxing gave him a reason to start each day.
“I had extreme depression, and I was lucky I was even waking up, that’s how bad my depression was,” Shaymar told Outsports. “Kickboxing and boxing gave me a drive that I couldn’t imagine.”
With his experience in mind, Shaymar now dedicates himself to pushing for LGBTQ inclusion in boxing. To help achieve his goal, the native Australian partnered with Martin Stark, who founded the World Gay Boxing Championships. Much like Shaymar, Stark credits boxing with helping him survive his darkest moments, including his recovery from two induced comas and multiple major surgeries.
Outsports profiled Stark, who’s gone from ICU beds to the squared circle, last year. There are expected to be 200 competitors at the inaugural WGBC tournament next February in Sydney.
Shaymar won’t be one of those boxers, despite some urging from his coach to fight competitively. He wants to save his strength for his most important battle: ensuring that LGBTQ people feel comfortable in combat sports.
“I knew at that moment, I didn’t need to fight, because I had already won all my battles outside the ring,” said Shaymar. “I had finally stopped fighting to fit in, fighting to prove myself, fighting for everyone’s approval, fighting to be accepted. I now choose to fight as a team to support the community.”
One of the reasons why Shaymar enjoys boxing is the independence that it teaches. Boxers are alone when they step into the ring, meaning discipline and self-confidence are key.
That’s no problem for Shaymar, who says boxing helped him become in touch with his emotions, and discover his purpose.
“Boxing and kickboxing changes so many lives,” he said. “It is one of the most important sports for our society, the opportunity to grow as an individual and to find ourselves, to feel empowered, to decrease stress and negative energy, and to support ourselves is a blessing in itself without anyone realizing.”
Shaymar, otherwise known as the “trans technician,” films video tutorials about boxing skills, such as footwork and jabbing. A former trainer himself, he has the technicalities down.
It means something for an out transgender boxer to film training videos and open up the sport to trans and non-binary individuals. There are few out transgender pro boxers: Most notably, Pat Manual became the first out trans male fighter to win a professional match in 2018.
More recently, Danny Baker became Britain’s first out trans boxer to make his semi-professional debut in June. He'll be participating in the WGBC next year.
The event promises to be a celebration of inclusion and independence. As a young child, Shaymar wondered if he would ever be the man he wanted to be.
Now he is. Boxing played a big role in helping him get to this celebratory point.
“I looked into the mirror one day — just glanced — and I went back to when I was that young girl in my backyard playing alone, and I see myself walking up to this young girl, sitting down with her and and smiling,” said Shaymar. “She no longer had to worry, as the man she was spending her whole life looking for was right in front of her.”