Sunday, 17 August 2014

Tamikka Brents - you are NOT the advocate we're looking for

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I'm a big fan of trans MMA fighter Fallon Fox. One of my most popular poems at gigs is one I wrote about her, in response to the super-classy comments made by her opponent Ashlee Evans-Smith after she handed Fallon her only professional loss, but still had the cheek to complain that it was somehow 'unfair' for Fallon to fight her.

So when I learned that Fallon had a new fight lined up, against one Tamikka Brents, I naturally took an interest. Tamikka looked like a tough opponent, but she also had a look about her that made her seem...well, the only word I can think of is 'honourable'. She had a certain kind of square-jawed, noble bearing, I thought, which gave me hope that here, perhaps, might be an opponent who wouldn't make Fallon's trans status an issue. Here, I thought, is someone who would accept that she was fighting another woman, and approach the fight with honour and respect.

Well, folks, that shows you how much faith to place in my judgement. Because it turns out Tamikka Brents is not an honourable woman - she only pretends to be one in photoshoots.

'Tamikka Brents has heard enough about Fallon Fox and she's ready to prove to the world that she will back up her words,' according to a barely-disguised press release posted on the site of Brents' sponsors, 'Intimidation' Clothing. She goes on (and boy, does she go on...):

'I'm tired of Fox getting all this publicity just for being a transgender fighter rather than having great skills...go ahead and ride that free publicity train as long as you can. I'll gladly derail that s#*t [prudishness in the original - apparently Oooh-aren't-we-scary Clobber are happy to publish transphobic screeds, but fearful of saying the word 'shit' lest they come across as something other than PG-13 - AJ] so the world can go back to giving the publicity and notice to the female fighters who earn it. It just pisses me off that Women's MMA has fought to get away from being seen as a side show. She's using that to further her career while setting Women's MMA back in the process.'

Funny, that. I thought Fox was just trying to make her career in MMA like any other sportswoman. In fact, as I recall, she was forced to come out as trans only after a mud-grubbing journalist threatened to out her without her permission. But you go ahead and talk that trash, Tamikka, you pretend this is about Fallon seeking publicity instead of handling a setback which could have derailed her career with dignity and panache. Oh, and don't think I don't see those not-so-subtle digs you're throwing in there: that little 'sideshow' remark, for one - because what belongs in a sideshow? Freaks, of course. Yeah. You stay classy there, Ms Brents.

And then there's the not-so-subtle comparison of Fox to 'the female fighters who earn it'. Not all that subtle but unusually so for a transphobe, that. Heck, I thought - why doesn't she just accuse Fallon of not being a 'real girl', like they always do?

Turns out, Tamikka does have a reason to try not to sound too transphobic when she denounces Fox - a reason to speak in dog whistles and codes. Because, you see, this woman who compares trans people to sideshow freaks and accuses trans pioneers of being attention-seeking publicity-hounds (a classic tactic used to silence women both cis and trans, as I pointed out here) - well, she wants to be an LGBT rights advocate. 

And what's the extent of Ms Brents' activism? Where Fallon Fox has attended the White House, spoken out about the rights of trans women at a number of major events, and written about trans issues for TIME magazine and the TransAdvocate, what has Tamikka Brents done? Well, it turns out that on not one, no, not one but two - count 'em, two! - occasions, Tamikka Brents...has carried a rainbow flag to the cage. 

That's it. A woman who has carried a piece of cloth a dozen yards or so twice and parlayed that into a nauseating Bleacher Report puff piece has the nerve to deride a dedicated activist as a publicity seeker? I don't think so. So next time you fight, leave the rainbow flag behind, Tamikka, because I'm one of the stripes in that rainbow, and so is Fallon, and while I can't speak for her I do not take kindly to people wrapping themselves in my banner one moment and engaging in dog-whistle transphobia the next.

And as to your dreams of 'being an LGBT advocate'? Forget it. When even Stonewall are trying to be more trans-inclusive, when even the HRC have came out against the transphobic rally that is MichFest, there's no place in the struggle for people who think they can treat the last of those four initials as something to be at best ignored and at worst derided. The rainbow flag isn't something you can wrap yourself in when it suits, without having to live up to the obligation to represent the full LGBT spectrum. If you're gonna talk that talk, you better walk the walk too, every step of the way. And that means not walking backwards when it comes to trans issues.

No-one gives you a job as an advocate, Ms Brents. It's not a promotion: it's a responsibility you can take on any time you want. And you, Ms Brents, don't want responsibility - you want publicity. You're not an advocate for LGBT rights: you never really were, and unless you shape up and learn some lessons fast, you never will be. You're not the advocate we want; you're not the advocate we need: and you, Ms Brents, are not the advocate we're looking for.

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