CANADA : A female boxer withdrew from a provincial championship in Quebec after learning that her opponent was biologically male, leading to him winning the competition by default. Dr. Katia Bissonnette of Saguenay says she was matched against transgender fighter Mya Walmsley with no notice.
The 2023 Provincial Golden Glove Championship took place on October 27 and 29 in Victoriaville, Quebec, hosted by the Quebec Boxing Federation in collaboration with the KO-96 boxing club. But the tournament, which intended to give novices the opportunity to qualify for the Canadian Championship in December, attracted controversy after Bisonnette announced her withdrawal.
Speaking to Reduxx, Bissonnette, who works as a psychologist in Jonquière, explains that she learned Walmsley was male one hour before she was set to step in the ring.
“I came down from my hotel room to head towards the room where all the boxers were warming up. My coach suddenly took me aside and told me he received information by text message, which he had then validated, that my opponent was not a woman by birth. We did not have any other additional information,” she says.
While information on Walmsley is limited, Bissonnette says he has absolutely no history fighting against women in Canadian tournaments, suggesting his identification into women’s sport was recent. Walmsley is originally from Australia, but moved to Canada around 2 years ago to attend Concordia University.
“[Walmsley] would have boxed as a man in Australia,” Bissonnette says. “In Quebec, on his file, it is mentioned that he had 0 fights as a woman.”
Since moving to Canada, Walmsley has been involved in political activism at the University-level as a Master’s student and teaching assistant in the philosophy department. Recent interviews with Walmsley show he has an overtly masculine appearance.
Following Bissonnette’s withdrawal, Walmsley issued a statement to the press accusing her of “outing” him and warning that similar actions would have a negative impact on female athletes.
“Rather than turning to me, my coach or the Quebec Olympic Boxing Federation for more information, she decided to turn directly to the media to out me,” wrote Walmsley. “This kind of behavior puts athletes at risk of being excluded or receiving personal attacks based on hearsay … I am afraid that this type of accusation could eventually be used to delegitimize athletes in the women’s category, and justify arbitrary and invasive regulations.”
Walmsley went on to assert that the best policy for gender self-identification in sport was for athletes to “trust” each other, and defer to coaches and policies in assumption that matches were made fairly.
But Bissonnette rejects Walmsley’s apparent call for handshake-based policies, noting that even under established guidelines it was unclear how he had been allowed to enter the match.
“The rule issued from Boxing Canada to the Quebec Boxing Federation was not to reveal that the opponent was transsexual, so that the latter would not be discriminated against. However, after confirmation, this policy only applies when a sex change has taken place before puberty,” she explains, noting that because Walmsley is a foreign national, his transition history is entirely unclear.
Following Bissonnette’s withdrawal, the competition was unable to find another woman in the super welterweight category (165lbs) to match against Walmsley, and he won by default.
The Quebec Boxing Federation was reportedly aware of Walmsley’s biological sex, but justified the fight by stating they had chosen an appropriate referee for the match. Ultimately, Bissonnette says her decision to withdraw came down to safety.
“According to a study, a male blow has 163% more impact than a women’s, even adjusted for weight,” she says, referring to a 2020 study on strength published by researchers at the University of Utah. “In the group studied, the weakest man remains physically superior to the strongest woman.”
Bissonnette goes on to note that women’s participation in combat sports is relatively recent, but may not last much longer if females are continuously paired up to fight males.
“Women shouldn’t have to bear the physical and psychological risks brought by a man’s decisions regarding his personal life and identity,” she continues. “There should be two categories: biological male and female.”
Bissonnette’s decision to refuse to fight Walmsley comes on the heels of several instances of similar protests by women across the sporting world.
As previously reported by Reduxx, women abandoned a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournament in Georgia last month in protest of the participation of multiple trans-identified males. As a result, one of the men took home four gold medals in the women’s category, and, in one of the divisions, only males were on the winner’s podium.
Female martial artists Jayden Alexander and Ansleigh Wilk spoke out against the North American Grappling Association (NAGA) for their gender self-identification policy, sparking a wildfire of backlash that ultimately resulted in NAGA fully segregating the divisions based on biological sex with “no exceptions.”
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