Asexual, bigender, transexual or cis, can't we all just be kind to each other?
Promoter Frank Maloney stunned the boxing world by changing sex, but he's still the same person
Published 17/08/2014 | 02:30
Are you "asexual" (have no gender), "bigender" (switching between both genders), "genderqueer" (a gender other than man or woman) or "two-spirit" (mixed gender roles found among Native Americans)? asks Facebook.
If none of those ticks your box, fear not. Facebook offers 50 "custom gender options", which - it might be a relief to you - include those with which you probably identify, which are termed by politically-correct Facebook as "Cis Female" or "Cis Male".
Now, for those of you who don't keep up with gender politics, you need to know that "Cis" means that your "gender matches the behaviour considered appropriate for one's sex". Some transsexuals (which Facebook defines as "a subset of transgender, and refers generally to people who identify as a sex other than that they were assigned at birth") use it as a term of abuse, but I'll get back to that later.
First, may I mention my dentist, an upright man of such respectability that if he drives to Paris for a Saturday rugby match he's back home in good time for the Sunday roast. Before he gets to work on me we usually talk about how he's getting on with trying to improve National Health Service dentistry provision or his annual fortnight in Burma where he fixes the teeth of pain-wracked, destitute children.
He's an apparently conventional man who avoids controversy, so I was rather surprised that as he was assembling his dental kit last Wednesday he asked me what I thought about the news that the boxing promoter Frank Maloney had announced he was having a sex change. I hadn't even heard of Maloney until I had read that morning that he was now living as a woman called Kellie, but I said I was happy for him and glad that his most famous protégé, Lennox Lewis (whom even I knew had been world champion), had expressed support.
The dentist nodded agreement, and as he began work he mused on how long it would be before a Premier League player came out as gay. Soccer was a tough old world, he said, and he feared it would take great courage. Still, we agreed, there were so many going public with their sexuality these days and public opinion was so much kinder, that it was only a matter of time.
Cheered by this, I read up on the career of 61-year-old second-generation-Irish Kellie, who as Frank Maloney had steered his protégés to glory in a sport where certain promoters do not play by the Queensberry rules. His public persona was that of the tough-guy Millwall-supporter in the Union Jack suit who had a Cockney quip for all occasions and who, when he ran as UKIP candidate for the London mayoralty, remarked that he didn't like gays "openly flaunting their sexuality".
Privately, it was another story. "In my head, I always knew I was different,'' Kellie explains. "My body didn't match my brain. When I looked in the mirror, I couldn't understand what I saw." After a lifetime of telling no one except a telephone counsellor, Frank could no longer bear it and told his wife. Though she has been supportive, it brought an end to the Maloney marriage.
The National Health Service insists that would-be transexuals have to live in their new gender for two years before surgery, so Frank retired from boxing last October and began living in the shadows as Kellie, while undergoing hormone therapy, hair-removal electrolysis, voice coaching and so on. Fear of being outed spurred her to go public.
I wasn't surprised that her three daughters (13, 19 and 36) were on her side, for these days the young are as splendidly relaxed about sexuality as they are about race or religion. Not for them the prejudices of earlier generations that made miserable many people struggling with their sexual proclivities or gender confusion. One reason Frank had kept his turmoil to himself for so long was his his fear of being disowned by his father, whose death four years ago made a fundamental shift in his thinking.
But what was encouraging was the volume and quality of support from the most macho quarters. Lennox Lewis had clearly got in touch with his feminine side when he tweeted: "ALL people should be allowed to live their lives in a way that brings them harmony and inner peace. I respect Kellie's decision and say that if this is what brings about true happiness in her life, than so be it. #LiveAndLetLive."
Kellie wants to re-enter the boxing world: 'I used to be a Marathon Bar, but now I'm a Snickers. Different packaging, same contents." I hope she succeeds once more in that world and that her acceptance by the macho brigade encourages other tormented people to pluck up their courage and tell the truth. Because so many went public, gays and lesbians are now accepted and respected in a way that would have been unthinkable only a couple of decades ago.
I hope that Kellie also gives short shrift to those tiresome gender-studies types who are now trying to persuade militant transsexuals to complain about "cisgender privilege" - the "unearned advantages" of those of us who think we are what we were assigned at birth. One school of thought says we should be renamed "non-trans".
It seems to me that we should all follow Lennox Lewis's advice. Cis, trans or anything else, let's just live and let live and be kind to each other.
ruthdudleyedwards.com Twitter @ruthde