Kellie Maloney, formerly known as Frank Maloney, discussed with CNN her experience of becoming a woman in a man’s world of boxing.
Frank Maloney was known for being the tough manager of the former heavyweight champion of the world, Lennox Lewis. Three years ago, on Christmas Day, Frank Maloney tried to end his life with liquor and prescription drugs. The well-known British sports personality was recognized by passers-by–yet today, nearly three years later, Maloney is nearly unrecognizable.
Maloney underwent gender reassignment in March of 2014, and now goes by Kellie.
“For the first time in my life I feel complete and whole,” says Kellie. “I don’t see myself as transsexual, or transgender, or trans anything. I see myself as a woman and a human being.”
Maloney retired in 2013 but has now returned to the boxing industry to manage–for the first time as a woman–two boxers. “Whereas I was once at the top of the pile, I am now at the bottom and slowly have to work my way up in this world of boxing,” she says. “And I’m doing this as the person I always believed I should be: Kellie Maloney.”
Kellie says that the overly masculine world of boxing provided her with a way to suppress who she felt she was inside. “I had to be this larger-than-life character, I had to keep up with this tough guy image. I never had much chance to think about it during the day. It was only at night when I was alone in the hotel bedroom that the feelings would come back and I’d have the odd fear.”
Maloney says she knew she was different from her two younger brothers at three years old. “In all my dreams as a child, I was always a girl–never a boy. But I just tried to do what my brothers [had] done. In them days you couldn’t afford to be different.”
At sixteen years old, Maloney read a newspaper article about one of Britain’s first transsexuals, April Ashley. It was then that Maloney was able to pinpoint the reason she felt so different from her brothers and the other boys. “I thought, ‘My God, this is how I feel. This is me.'”
After years of leading a double life–buying and dressing in women’s clothing when going out, growing her hair long, etc–Kellie Maloney finally came out in 2009 after the truth became too much to handle on her own. After decades of living with a secret that was weighing so heavily on her that it caused her to acquire extreme depression, Kellie revealed her secret to her wife Tracey, who’s also the mother of her three children, Emma, Sophie and Libbie.
“Tracey must have heard me sobbing my heart out in the kitchen and she came down and put her arm around me and said: ‘What’s the matter? What have I done? Are you having another relationship? Are you gay? Are you dying?’ And I looked at her and said, ‘I’m like you. I’ve always believed, and I’ve always known, that I should have been born a woman.’ And as I said that I knew my marriage was over. I could see it in her eyes,” recalls Kellie.
After her attempted suicide, Kellie began her transformation. “I lived sixty to seventy percent of the time as Kellie, and I was still Frank when I went to work. But Frank was slowly disappearing. His hair was growing, his clothes were becoming more flamboyant. […] I’d look in my wardrobe and Frank’s clothes were getting smaller, while Kellie’s were expanding.”
Maloney had initially planned to go through the transition in private, but the press had other plans–threats forced her to come out in public in August of last year. “The public has been great,” says Kellie. “I’ve seen some idiots on Twitter and certain boxing websites. But when I go back to the hall, fans are very respectful. There’s the odd joke–‘You here to do the ring cards, Kellie?’–but that’s just boys being boys.”
Maloney’s daughters have also been very accepting and supportive of her transition, and Kellie’s love of boxing hasn’t changed in the slightest. “I just love the excitement of it. The negotiations, the deal making, the deal breaking. Even if I was born in my female gender, I still would have gone into boxing.”