Dr. Katia Bissonnette, a female psychologist from Saguenay, Canada, recently withdrew from a provincial boxing championship in Quebec after finding out that the boxer against whom she was scheduled to box was a transgender individual named Mya Walmsley. Dr. Bissonnettee alleged that she had not been notified ahead of time that she was scheduled to box against a transgender individual.
The championship in which Dr. Bissonnettee was scheduled to compete was the 2023 Provincial Golden Glove Championship, which took place from October 27 to 29 in the town of Victoriaville, Quebec. The three-day tournament was hosted by a collaborative partnership between the Quebec Boxing Federation and the KO-96 boxing club. The purpose of the tournament was, beyond the usual reasons for boxing, to give novice boxers the opportunity to qualify for December’s Canadian Championship.
Commenting on the background as to why she withdrew from the fight just an hour before it was scheduled to begin, Dr. Bissonnettee said, “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.”
Dr. Bissonnettee added, “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.”
Continuing, Dr. Bissonnettee also argued that studies, such as one from the University of Utah, have shown that there is a risk in female boxers fighting against transgender boxers who underwent puberty as males and that “Women shouldn’t have to bear the physical and psychological risks” of such a fight.
Walmsley attacked Dr. Bissonnettee for her handling of the matter, arguing that it leads to exclusion of transgender athletes and discrimination. “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. 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 said.
This incident is the latest in a long string of incidents in which female athletes refuse to compete against transgender athletes over what they perceive as an unfair athletic differential or a potential safety issue, as was the case here. The issue first rose to the mainstream fore with the debate between Lia Thomas, a transgender swimmer, and Riley Gaines, a female swimmer who argued that competing against Thomas was unfair. Different sports have so far taken varying approaches for dealing with the situation, generally in the hope of not unfairly excluding or discriminating against the individuals involved.