As a boxer, Pat Manuel has seen his fair share of fights inside the ring. But one of his most important fights took place outside the ring. Though his birth certificate said he was female, Pat always knew himself to male, and he fought to realize his true identity.
For years, Pat struggled to maintain confidence while others repeatedly told him, “No, you’re a girl.” Thinking back Pat said, “I can’t really explain to people unless they’ve been through it how soul crushing it is to feel yourself to be one thing, and then everyone tell you, ‘No, you’re wrong’ over and over again.”
Amita, Pat’s girlfriend, admires Pat’s self assuredness. “He’s also got a really big heart…How could you not love a guy like that,” she adds smiling. Amita’s love and support has also allowed Pat to become more confident in his identity and push his boundaries as an athlete and businessman.
Despite the love and support, Pat still worries that intolerance will lead to he and others in the transgender community being placed in dangerous environments. Around the country, including here in California, legislatures have considered laws that would mean that Pat would be forced to use a women’s restroom. “As a black man going into a women’s restroom, what is that going to look like? There will be police involvement and that generally doesn’t end well for people like me,” Pat worries. This, in addition to the discrimination already faced by transgender people, means that there are still miles to go towards creating safe environments for all. For his part, Pat continues to advocate for the rights of transgender individuals, especially in the world of athletics.
When Pat finally transitioned, he was also able to find himself and acceptance through boxing. “One of the most gratifying experiences I’ve ever experienced in my life is going into the gym and being seen as just one of the guys and it’s the only place where I feel like I can let go of any other labels.” Here, Pat was able to cultivate an ethic of hard work and discipline to make him not just a better fighter, but a better person.
For Pat, living as himself mean also meant finally feeling whole, being seen as the person he always was: a boxer, a businessman, a boyfriend.