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Japan’s world boxing champ struggles with gender identity

Japan’s world boxing champ struggles with gender identity

In May, 26-year-old Go Shindo, often likened to comic strip sailor Popeye’s girl Olive because of her scrawniness, became the world women’s boxing flyweight champion, thrashing defending champion Renata Szebeledi of Hungary.

However, that knockout was only part of Shindo’s battles.

After the victory, the 26-year-old remained seriously perturbed, wondering if she should continue to remain in women’s boxing since she felt like a man.

As a youngster, Shindo, born Megumi Hashimoto, was considered to be a tomboy, struggling to wear a skirt in school and falling in love with a senior girl student in high school.

She says she was bullied in university, was discriminated against, and tried to drown her sorrows and frustration in drinks. At one point, she also thought of killing herself.

When doctors told her she had gender identity disorder, Shindo left school and became a nocturnal creature, seeking the company of transgenders, lesbians and others struggling with the genders they were assigned at birth.

But after a word of advice from a kindly nightclub hostess, Shindo started ‘going public with her situation’, first telling her parents and then friends.

She also went back to sports, where she had always shone.

In 2007, she joined the Kuratoki Boxing Gym in Wakayama city and the next year, when Japan allowed women to become professional boxers, the head of the gym persuaded Shindo to have a go at it.

So the confused woman who wanted to be a firefighter became a boxer instead, going on to win the championship.

Shindo told the Japan Times that she had mulled undergoing sex-reassignment surgery and changing her sex in the family registry.

However, she decided to leave things as they are after her psychiatrist advised to take the plunge some day if ‘life is completely miserable’ but till then, with her future looking bright, she should not take any hasty decisions.

So for now, Shindo is trying to take things as they come, realizing that even if she has an operation and becomes a man, she is still likely to keep on facing discrimination.

‘I hope that when others see what I’m doing, they will also find the strength to hang in there and keep trying,’ she told the daily.