As part of Metro.co.uk’s Pride Takeover, UFC star Molly McCann shares her story and discusses the challenges she has faced and continues to face as a proud gay woman.
When I go back through it all, it was so hard for me as a kid to entertain the fact that I might be gay.
Just because of the choice of language and some of the behaviour that was constantly around me and because of the way I was made feel about gay people, from the people I would hang around with. And being from an Irish Catholic family, it just wasn’t accepted.
That took a long time for me to get my head around. When I was a kid and I used to hear those words and those attitudes towards gay people, I just ran away from it.
In my 20s, I started mixed martial arts and I found the culture of MMA is very accepting. I was made to feel safe in the gyms and eventually I chose to tell my mum. I say I chose to tell her – I couldn’t do it, she just asked me and I burst into tears. So I think she knew.
It was a tough time because I felt like I had shamed the family. My mum told the whole family and they all rang me telling me how proud they were. And it changed the perception. Not one of them said some of the things I thought they might say. It was quite a powerful moment, one to be celebrated for being my true self after hiding it away for so long.
The world of MMA and UFC has been so accepting. It is my home. My gym family, we push ourselves to our limits every day. You train your training partners to go win fights. And sometimes that means pushing them to their breaking point, to the point where they are in tears, hurting them.
It’s a bond that cannot be broken. It’s kind of like being in the army, the idea of the band of brothers. In my gym I have never been made to feel any other way than proud and appreciated for what I am.
Of course, there are still incidents when language that isn’t appropriate is used at me or around me. Sometimes it is a case of having to pick and choose your battles. Sometimes if people are being offensive, or have said a certain thing, I just ask them: ‘Why did you say that?’ And a lot of the time, it is simply because they were unaware that it was offensive.
Other times, all I would have to do is give a look and they would know. It is rare, but you still get that and that is the no1 thing that people try to hit me with to hurt me. It just depends how you are feeling that day.
Sometimes it feels like it is an empty cup. Every homophobic slur is like a drop of water and it drips and drips and drips and you take it. And some days it just overflows and you just lose the plot or feel sad. But predominantly it is all good, I feel like there has been a real language and vocabulary shift the last two or three years.
Molly McCann: Factfile
- Molly ‘Meatball’ McCann is a flyweight UFC athlete from Liverpool and was the first English female fighter to win in the Octagon.
- Molly made her MMA debut in 2015.
- In 2018, she won the Cage Warriors flyweight championship, joining UFC later that year.
- She has won five of her eight fights with UFC, including a devastating spinning elbow knockout in London in March.
- Molly’s next fight will be against Hannah Goldy at the O2, London, on July 23rd. Tickets available now.
- Follow Molly on Twitter here, and keep up-to-date with UFC Europe here.
My Pride post at the start of the month was a thank you to the allies and everyone who has changed their vocabulary and their attitudes and educated themselves and that was very powerful and very touching because it showed people want to understand.
And you have only got to ask the question. People don’t know they are being offensive half the time, you just have to tell them. That is all.
Pride month is about that, but it is also about understanding that it all started out of riots, not because of how many things can be sold or advertised this month because suddenly it’s got a rainbow on it. It’s because people just had enough of being locked up and battered because of their sexuality. It was a movement. A positive riot.
It’s all about education. I still don’t think enough people know that and yet every day across the world, people can still be murdered in some countries for openly acting upon their sexual preferences. It is just naivety – people aren’t there so they don’t feel that.
Being out and remembering how hard it was to come out as a gay woman, I hope that people are able to draw something and take strength from my story and what I have been through. It is no different to anyone else’s, it is probably a bit mild. For me, it took a very long time to understand who I was. And then be ok with it.
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Metro.co.uk celebrates 50 years of Pride
This year marks 50 years of Pride, so it seems only fitting that Metro.co.uk goes above and beyond in our ongoing LGBTQ+ support, through a wealth of content that not only celebrates all things Pride, but also share stories, take time to reflect and raises awareness for the community this Pride Month.
MORE: Find all of Metro.co.uk’s Pride coverage right here
And we’ve got some great names on board to help us, too. From a list of famous guest editors taking over the site for a week that includes Rob Rinder, Nicola Adams, Peter Tatchell, Kimberly Hart-Simpson, John Whaite, Anna Richardson and Dr Ranj, we’ll also have the likes Sir Ian McKellen and Drag Race stars The Vivienne, Lawrence Chaney and Tia Kofi offering their insights.
During Pride Month, which runs from 1 – 30 June, Metro.co.uk will also be supporting Kyiv Pride, a Ukrainian charity forced to work harder than ever to protect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community during times of conflict, and youth homelessness charity AKT. To find out more about their work, and what you can do to support them, click here.