Patricio Manuel, 32, says he spends most of his morning training sessions thinking about the journey that got him to where he is now.
And it’s a long journey as Manuel, from Los Angeles, California, underwent gender-reassignment surgery, becoming the first boxer in US history to fight first as a woman and later as a man.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Manuel detailed the challenges he overcame to get to place where he says he is ‘living his truth’ for the first time.
Manuel’s mother, Loretta Butler, said she knew from an early age that her daughters, Patricia and Megan, were different from other girls.
‘Every Christmas I would be buying toys at Toys ‘R’ Us and everybody would say, “You have two boys at home, huh?” Neither Megan nor Pat played with dolls,’ she told the LA Times. ‘They both wore boys’ clothes.’
Butler says that when she looks back, she can’t believe she missed the clues for both Manuel and his sister Megan, who is gay.
‘There were early signs about probably what [Pat] was going through that I wasn’t educated enough or wise enough to realize,’ Butler said.
‘Men act like this and women act like this. And you have to fit into those two binaries. It’s ridiculous because people don’t fit into that.
‘Pat has always been a male. It’s just Pat was not assigned properly at birth.’
Manuel started the process with hormone treatment in September 2013. In less than five months, he gained 15 pounds, grew facial hair and his voice dropped a couple of octaves.
The following spring, 26 months after his final fight as a woman, Manuel flew to Salt Lake City for surgery, which involved the removal of the breasts and the shaping of a male-contoured chest, a $6,000 surgery that his grandmother paid for.
‘I’m a masculine person but I don’t want to be a man necessarily,’ Manuel said at the time of the surgery.
‘I want to be, I guess, free of those binds. But because we live in a world where it’s male or female, I have to shift over…I want to be able to compete with males.’
‘The toughest part of transitioning has been having pre-set matches inexplicably fall out,’ Manuel said. ‘Vic and I have gone to shows and watched opponents leave without explanation moments after a fight was made official.’
Finally, on the 2016 Cinco de Mayo card at the South El Monte Community Center, Manuel, then-30, made history as the first in US boxing history to feature a fighter who has transitioned from female to male.
‘It’s hard to describe if you’ve never been so uncomfortable in your own skin. It’s like I’m finally living my truth,’ he said. ‘For a long time I forced a narrative that I didn’t really believe just because I didn’t feel I had another way around it.’