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How the word ‘skull’ has been used to attack trans athletes, and Fallon Fox in particular

People who oppose trans women in female sports obfuscate the conversation with the word ‘skull,’ and Fallon Fox’s MMA career in particular.

Fallon Fox
Fallon Fox, known as the “Queen of Swords,” was 5-1 in her professional MMA career.

Fallon Fox, who wrote a new chapter in the history books when she came out as a trans woman in mixed martial arts a decade ago, has been maligned for years by anti-trans-athlete advocates and people across the sports world using one word:

Skull.

The context? In 2014, Fox fought Tamikka Brents and won the match by TKO in the first round. During the match, Fox broke Brents’ orbital bone. These are the facts.

Yet anti-trans advocates and others have seized on this — intentionally messaging a “broken orbital bone” as a “fractured skull” — to claim it’s evidence that trans women competing against cis women is unsafe and unfair. “Fracturing an opponent’s skull,” they claimed, is so rare that this must be evidence of safety and fairness issues.

Some people even digitally altered video of the fight to make it seem worse, according to Reuters.

Their efforts worked, as it was Fox’s last professional fight.

So how common is a “broken orbital” in MMA? It’s not uncommon, including in women’s MMA. Nine other examples of media reports about a “broken orbital bone”...

What do all of these stories have in common? Not one of them mention the word “skull,” and certainly not that it was “fractured.”

Yet, that word — “skull” — keeps being used to describe the broken orbital bone Brents suffered during her fight against Fox.

A broken nose is also technically a skull fracture. This is technically true.

Yet, have you ever in your life heard of a “broken nose” referred to as a “fractured skull”?

Of course not.

And you’ve never heard — except in this case — a “broken orbital” called a “fractured skull,” either.

In this case, the use of the word “skull” with the broken orbital is intentional. It popped up a few years ago, elevated by anti-trans members of the media, and even political aspirants, to confuse the public.

When most people think about the “skull,” they think about the hard back side of our head.

That word is used in reference to a broken orbital bone only for this one fight, to make the injury seem more severe and more rare, all at the hands of a trans woman.

In fact, Outsports could not find a single MMA story in the media that equated a “broken orbital bone” with a “fractured skull,” except in the situation involving Fox.

“I’m held to a different standard than any other MMA fighter,” Fox told Outsports. “It’s ridiculous. They do it because I’m trans and they just want to support their transphobic agenda.”

To be sure, Fox herself used the word “skull” once, in a moment of frustration and lashing-out against the cruel people calling her a “cheat,” “dangerous” and other awful words.

“I made a post on Twitter one time, and I used the word ‘skull’ because I was upset,” Fox said. “I used the wrong terminology because they were using it.”

Been there!

Given the intense vitriol Fox has experienced over the last decade, since coming out publicly as a trans woman in women’s MMA, any reasonable person can understand how she might lose her cool and misspeak, or in this situation mis-tweet.

There are reasonable conversations to be had about the inclusion of trans women in the female sports category. Fox herself — who had transitioned six years before her first pro fight — has talked about the need for some transition requirements.

Yet saying Fox “fractured an opponent’s skull” when everyone else “broke an opponent’s orbital bone” is an intentional misdirection specifically designed to obfuscate the conversation and vilify trans athletes.