Amita Swadhin and Patricio Manuel pose in the photo booth at a fundraiser supporting Manuel's pro debut. (Courtesy of Patricio Manuel)
Patricio Manuel and Amita Swadhin might seem like an unlikely couple. One is a professional boxer, the other is an anti-violence advocate.
In December 2018, Manuel — who goes by the name "Cacahuate" in the ring — became the first transgender boxer to fight and win a pro match in the U.S.
Swadhin (who uses the pronoun they) heads Mirror Memoirs, an organization that collects stories of sexual assault survivors. They also testified in front of Congress in early 2017 against the appointment of Jeff Sessions as attorney general, citing the childhood sexual assault they endured at the hands of their father and Session’s record on sexual assault and LGBTQ issues.
Manuel and Swadhin have been together for four years, and share a home in Los Angeles, where they joined the California Report Magazine from a studio to talk about what they have learned from each other about strength, vulnerability and fighting for what they believe in — in and out of the ring.
Here's an excerpt of that conversation:
On meeting and falling in love:
Amita Swadhin: We met in 2014, but we didn't really get to know each other until I hired Patricio as my personal trainer about six months later. He is a very professional trainer and I'm sure he would tell anyone that he has never dated a client before ... but it became really apparent to me that I was falling for him. I actually wrote a note in a book [asking him out].
Patricio Manuel: There's definitely a lot about Amita that draws people in. For me, one of the things that stands out the most [is] I am so invested in my authenticity, and Amita being who they are — speaking about being a [childhood sexual assault] survivor and holding space for survivors — I think that was really the main thing that drew me to them.
On Manuel's historic boxing win in December:
Manuel: I was definitely very happy, but I had already imagined that victory so many times that it wasn't a surprise. It was just like this was meant to be, and it happened.
Swadhin: My favorite moment, of course, was being able to jump into his arms backstage after the fight and have a moment to bask in the victory with him.
On being booed in the ring:
Manuel: As a black trans man, prejudice isn't something that's new to me. So having these people try to ruin my moment by booing, honestly it didn't even make me falter at all.
On boxing as a violent sport:
Swadhin: When your partner is a black man in the United States, you fear for him the minute he walks out the door of your house. I worry a lot more about the threat of police violence against his life than I do about the impact of boxing.
On testifying in front of Congress:
Swadhin: I felt a deep responsibility because I had been asked by the Democratic Party to testify on behalf of all survivors of sexual violence and all members of the LGBTQ population in the United States, so that's literally millions of people ... I just really wanted to put into public record something that made sense for the people that I am in solidarity with and the communities that I'm a part of.
On vulnerability and strength:
Swadhin: What I have learned most is that masculinity is not inherently patriarchal [and] toxic. There's just an energy to masculinity and it is a choice. But I feel like I benefit so much from being in relationship with [Manuel] to see the ways that masculinity can be strong and tender and vulnerable and in partnership with femininity. And that's such a gift.
Manuel: A big lesson Amita has taught me ... is how we all have the ability to heal ourselves, but most importantly how we can heal each other. And I think this relationship is allowing me to help heal other people, and I'm incredibly grateful for that.
On their plans for the future:
Manuel: I'm looking to build something big with Amita for the long haul ... I don't believe we can't achieve any of our goals.
Swadhin: I agree, the sky's the limit. Especially in terms of being able to use our love as fuel to create more networks and resources for our people to become as free and as well as we can be in this world.