A journalist’s account of why he decided to train as a boxer and become the first transgender man to fight a cisgender man in Madison Square Garden.
McBee (Man Alive: A True Story of Violence, Forgiveness and Becoming a Man, 2014) began his transition to manhood at age 30. Although he loved the new coherence between his inner and outer selves, he was also aware that becoming a man also meant becoming an heir to toxic masculinity. He searched for “good men” to imitate until the day his girlfriend suggested that his real task was “to face [his] worst fears about who [he was]” rather than seeking outside role models. With her words in mind, he decided to take up boxing at a local New York gym to better understand the “brutal intimacies” of male relationships. He cleared his first inner hurdle by coming out to his trainers and earning their respect for his honesty. At the same time, the author also became “wary of [the] new…warrior-like ego” he saw emerge within himself. He then signed up to fight in a charity match at MSG, and he continued to work through his remaining fears about masculinity, many of which surfaced during sessions with a female boxer. She threatened him not only because she was a better fighter, but also because she forced him to grapple with his own internalized sexism and romanticized notions of manhood. Training with her eventually made him understand that he could actively rewrite inherited social scripts about masculinity. McBee also realized a core truth about men and boxing: Males seeking out other males to learn the art of fighting were not necessarily seeking blood or violence. Rather, they were looking for a bond by exposing vulnerabilities and learning to overcome their deficits within the protected space of the gym or boxing ring. In this lyrical, courageous book, the author eloquently probes his inner life as he searches for the meaning of gender identity in a world limited by binary thinking.
Provocative and illuminating—a winning follow-up to McBee’s acclaimed debut.