A transgender man will be the new face of the iconic boxing brand Everlast, in a move lauded for showing that there are "many ways to be a man."
Patricio Manuel is the first professional transgender male boxer in the U.S., and one of the newest faces for Everlast as part of their "Be First" campaign -- which also features an amputee fighter and an immigrant family.
Prior to transitioning, Manuel was the USA National Amateur Boxing Champion when competing as a female.
" A lot of people in boxing who I talk to, they would come to me and say, 'You could have been, you know, one of the greatest female world champions, they’re like, you would throw it all away to be yourself?'" he said in a video for Everlast. "And I tell them, 'That’s how bad I felt living that lie.'"
"If it meant that much to me, to risk the love of my life, boxing, then they knew that it was valid," he added.
While he said he "always thought of myself as a boy" growing up, "you learn early on that someone like me is immediately going to be told they're a girl."
"So I learned to be quiet, I learned to stifle that part of me," he said, saying that eventually he felt "completely disconnected from myself."
"It was boxing that brought me back into my body, and it was boxing that allowed me to be proud of actually what I was physically able to do," he said. "Unfortunately, when you deviate from the norms that society has constructed you have to fight for that identity. "
Chris Zoller, the vice president of marketing and product development at Everlast, said that the stories of Manuel and the other boxers "not only humanize the world of fightsports, but they also relate to many struggles people face around the world today," in a statement.
"We hope these stories inspire you to rise above and be first," he added.
Everlast is one of the latest brands to be lauded for its inclusiveness of the transgender community. In May, an ad for the razor company Gillette that featured a dad teaching his transgender son to shave for the first time went viral.
Thomas Page McBee, 38, a writer who has studied masculinity and an amateur boxer who became the first transgender man to fight in New York City's iconic Madison Square Garden, said he feels Manuel's story shows that there are "many ways to be a man."
"This is one example where you have an iconic company like Everlast saying that Pat's masculinity is valid," he said. "I see all of these campaigns as signs of change, and I personally welcome it."
Still, having Manuel as the face of Everlast is "certainly beneficial way beyond the trans community," McBee said.
"Pat is just an incredibly talented athlete who had to do something that I don't think most athletes can even fathom," he said. "And really re-train your body ... I know for me my center of balance shifted when I transitioned … in boxing that center of balance is so important."
That level of athleticism is "inspiring to everybody," he added.
"He is able to be both a compelling and thoughtful person and able to dominate in the sport that's about aggression," McBee said.