Patricio Manuel has once again made LGBTQ history.
The world’s first out transgender professional male boxer has been tapped as the new face of Everlast’s “Be First” campaign.
The campaign “challenges people to carve their own paths, and dictate the pace of their life, goals, and personal journey,” according to a statement from the 109-year-old fitness brand, which became world-famous through past sponsorships of boxing greats like Larry Holmes and Muhammad Ali.
Manuel, 34, certainly fits the “Be First” bill. The boxer made headlines in December for becoming the first trans male boxer to compete — and win — a match; he bested cisgender opponent Hugo Aguilar in a super-featherweight match at a casino in Indio, Calif. Historically, Manuel competed seven years ago in the Olympic trials and was named a national amateur female champion five times before transitioning.
However, his path to greatness was no crystal stair. Manuel spent years in the closet and then encountered discrimination after coming out as transgender. The athlete lost both his coach and training facility at the time.
Manuel recounted his story in a video released Thursday for Everlast’s “Be First” campaign.
“When I was a little kid, I always thought of myself as a boy,” said the boxer. “But you learn really early on that someone like me is immediately going to be told that they’re a girl. So I learned to be quiet. I learned to stifle that part of me. But the thing is anything that you push down long enough, it will have a bad reaction. And that reaction for me was that I completely disconnected from myself. I just mentally checked out so that I could continue coping through life.”
“It was boxing that brought me back into my body,” he said.
In the video, Manuel delivered an inspiring message about the importance of being oneself in a world that forces people to conform. “So many of us are being forced into these restrictive boxes of identification but very few of us actually fit,” he said. “And I want to see all of us be celebrated when we fight against those specific restrictive norms.”
“My name is Patricia Manuel, I’m from Los Angeles California, and I am the first professional male boxer who is transgender. I may be the first, but I’m not the last.”
Watch the video below.