Female martial artists have come forward to reveal that male athletes claiming to be transgender have completely overtaken the women’s categories of a major grappling association, leaving them fearing for their safety in many instances. One of the men, Corissa Griffith, took home four gold medals in the women’s category during a tournament in Georgia on October 21.
The North American Grappling Association (NAGA) is the largest submission grappling association in the world, and facilitates standards and tournaments in various martial arts, including Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. But while NAGA has provided competition categories for males and females since its inception in 1995, it has recently become the subject of controversy after a number of female athletes were found to have been matched up against trans-identified males.
The issue first received widespread attention in September after it was learned that a female Brazilian jiu-jitsu athlete had not been informed she would be competing against a male. Taelor Moore posted a clip of her fight against James “Alice” McPike on her Instagram, noting that there was a 65lbs weight difference between them.
Following the clip going viral, NAGA was prompted to issue a statement clarifying its policies on the inclusion of trans-identified males in the women’s category.
“NAGA does not require biological women to compete against transgender women. Instead, we give the choice to the biological women and if they decline, they compete in a division only with other biological women.”
NAGA also provided a link to their official policy, which reads: “For those who chose not to compete with the transgender female, we will inquire if they have an interest in entering a separate division which includes the transgender female. This additional division will be offered at no cost to those competitors. However, if individuals decline this opportunity, the transgender female will be directed to compete with the males in their respective weight and skill level category.”
But despite claiming to have had a policy in place that required female athletes to be informed, many are coming forward to reveal that NAGA has continued to pair women against trans-identified males without their knowledge and depriving them of the opportunity to opt out in many instances.
Speaking to Reduxx, professional martial artists Jayden Alexander and Ansleigh Wilk highlighted their experience being made to fight against males with no prior warning until stepping onto the mat.
“I honestly never thought this would actually happen in a contact sport, especially not MY contact sport,” Alexander, who is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blue belt, said. “When I saw him, I was so shocked I didn’t know how to respond.”
Both Alexander and Wilk fought against Cordelia Gregory of Temporal Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy, who is one of many trans-identified males currently participating in NAGA women’s tournaments. Both women describe that they were not informed they would be competing against a male until the it was too late during their July tournaments.
“I hadn’t been notified. The only thing that brought it to my attention was my teammates. They kept asking me ‘are you fighting a man’ and I was honestly too focused on coaching the rest of the crew to really pay attention to my opponent,” Wilk said.
“I realized very quickly I couldn’t muscle them like most girls,” Wilk, who is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt and coach, added. “Well obviously, because it wasn’t a girl! Then not long after, I had to do a second match of which Cordelia threw a tantrum saying [he] ‘didn’t tap [out].’ I was sincerely scared [he] was going to punch me when I stuck my hand out to shake [his].”
Both women also note that the experience of fighting Gregory was distinctly different than fighting a woman.
“The fact of the matter is that he had a man’s strength. I train with men and women and the difference is massive,” Alexander explains. “After my match with Cordelia, I sat mat-side and cried as my teammates massaged out my cramping forearms.”
But despite NAGA’s September claim that its policy was to inform female athletes if their competitor was a biological man, watchdogs have noted that no enforcement of the policy appears to be taking place, even since their September announcement.
“A rule is only effective if a federation will follow it and, most importantly, enforce it,” says Marshi Smith, the co-founder of Independent Council on Women’s Sports (ICONS). She noted that on October 21, a female grappler was “blindsided” into fighting not one, but two trans-identified males during a tournament.
Danielle Lenane, one of the only females involved in the competition, was made to fight Cordelia Gregory and Corissa Griffith, the latter representing Odyssey Jiu-Jitsu. Following the fight, Lenane asked for her record to be wiped clean of any indication she had fought either one of the men.
Smith said that during the October 21 tournament, there were more males participating than women in some of the women’s divisions.
In the Women’s No-Gi fight for the 160-169lbs weight class, only Griffith and Gregory participated and took home medals. On his Instagram, Griffith joked about the match, posting a scene from a Japanese “softcore” pornography series and suggesting the two women depicted represented him and Gregory.
Jayden Alexander says that she and other females were set to compete in the October 21 tournament, but dropped out after seeing how many males were involved.
“There was not just one, but two trans-identified males who were signed up in a bracket that me and several other women should have been able to sign up for but couldn’t because we didn’t want to go against the men,” Alexander explains. “And for a man to be able to come in and sign up in the women’s bracket and discourage us from even being able to compete at all is absolutely heartbreaking and honestly scary.”
Ansleigh Wilk affirmed Alexander’s sentiment, and added that most female participants feel unable to vocally protest the gender self-identification policies.
“The majority of the women feel scared to even speak out about this matter. They don’t want to be labeled a bigot or transphobic,” Wilk said. “There’s so many girls just not signing up now because they are allowing this. Women’s sports will cease to exist if this keeps up. Medals, belts, records, and money are going to be stripped right away from women.”
Marshi Smith similarly notes that women have been self-excluding from the competitions, but that attempts to formally lodge complaints about being paired up against males have fallen on deaf ears.
“I have now spoken to four women who have all fought male fighters in the combat sport of Jiu Jitsu. They are extremely upset. They are self-excluding. They are emailing federation leadership and being dismissed. These organizations and teams that are encouraging this dangerous display of violence against women need to be publicly shamed into doing what is right for women or reap the outrage that comes with cowardice.”
Special thank you to The Independent Council on Women’s Sports for their assistance.
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