Thursday, 28 August 2014

Picking up a bigot's tab: a roll call of Tamikka Brents' sponsors

I wasn't going to write about Tamikka Brents today. I wasn't going to write anything. But then, this morning, Ms Brents posted the following to her Facebook Fan Page, thanking her sponsors:



So I decided to find out what I could about these sponsors. What kind of people, I thought, would support the new face of transphobia in MMA? They're an...interesting bunch, I think you'll agree.

All information below is very much what's in the public domain, by the way. This didn't involve any Woodward and Bernstein stuff, and it's information any enterprising individual could have pulled together in half an hour's Googling after reading Brents' roll call of sponsors (indeed, I didn't even have to turn on my computer: I found all this stuff out mucking around on my phone). I'm going to assume that by sponsoring Brents and allowing her to post about it, the following companies are happy enough to have their names out there. The fact this means they'll now be associated with a woman who stands by and does nothing when her fans throw around hate speech and compare trans women to rapists? That's something they're going to have to deal with.

Keppler Environmental Management is an Illinois excavation and wrecking contractor. Their Facebook page includes the interesting titbit that their owner is apparently a 'God-fearing Christian man'. Strange company for an out lesbian like Brents to keep - but, as the case of Gender Identity Watch and the Pacific Justice Institute shows, there's precedent for self-styled lesbian advocates getting in bed with the religious right when there are trans people's lives to ruin.

Green Hyundai are, unsurprisingly, a Hyundai dealership, also in Illinois. It would seem they employ one Marc Passoni, who Brents names as one of her sponsors. Two questions occur: first, did Mr Passoni seek permission from his employers before allowing Brents to use their name; and, second, how happy are his employers to have their brand associated with the behaviour of Brents' more rabidly bigoted fans?

Spartan Sports Park is an all-American sporting fun palace for kids and families, offering softball and 'sand volleyball', which appears to be beach volleyball only without the beach or bikinis. For such a family-oriented bunch they sure sponsor some interesting people: besides Brents, they also appear as a sponsor for Trevor Ward, the guy who sent me a threatening message for criticising the Fightin' Bigot:

There's a little bit of woo going on with Tamikka's supporters, too. One of her sponsors is 66 Chiropractic, who appear to offer some kind of 'detox' package. I have to confess to being uncertain how back-cracking can aid in the removal of toxins, but then hey, I'm no Simon Singh

Detox through spinal manipulation is not the only bold claim made by a Brents sponsor, though. Brents is also sponsored by Defense Soap, manufacturers of a soap marketed mainly to martial artists on the grounds that it can kill MRSA...because it contains tea tree oil (TTO). The science on this is mixed to say the least: the US National Institutes of Health found that while TTO is 'capable of killing' MRSA 'in a laboratory setting', randomised controlled trials on clinical subjects found no significant difference between TTO and traditional treatments. There's even some concern - and apologies for linking to a Daily Mail article here - that the use of preparations with a low dose of TTO might actually make bacteria stronger, by stressing them without killing them, thus causing them to develop drug-resistance. It's worth nothing in this context that none of the information I found about Defense Soap, in my (admittedly brief) gander at their website, indicates what percentage of TTO their product contains. One review found that Defense Soap didn't measure up well against more traditional, less new-age sounding cleansing products, noting that it has yet to receive FDA approval as an antibacterial treatment. It's not all bad news, though - the reviewer did concede that Defense smelled nicer.

Well, so does this, but that doesn't make it antibacterial


Perhaps the most egregious of Brents' sponsors, however, is the Women's MMA blog Promoting Real Women.  That's a name guaranteed to set off serious alarm bells for any trans activist, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt and checked out their site. It didn't, however, take me long to get their number - check out this interview they did with Allana Jones, Fallon Fox's first opponent after she was forced, due to media pressure, to come out as transgender. Fun fact about Ms Jones: the entrance music she picked for that fight was 'Dude looks like a Lady' by Aerosmith. A class act, I'm sure you'll agree. 



It's all becoming a little bit clearer now, isn't it? Recall, if you will, that I first took an interest in this story after Brents made comments in an interview that amounted to dog-whistle transphobia. Brents, the self-styled LGBT advocate, drew an implicit distinction between Fox, a 'transgender fighter' and 'the female fighters who earn it': a position which eerily mimics that of the Bleacher Report's Jonathan Snowden, who - as I pointed out yesterday - took to touting the view that Fox is getting publicity she doesn't deserve only after Fox's first loss put paid to the line that she was an Unbeatable Trans Monster. Brents, though, did choose to throw in a little dehumanisation of Fox for good measure, comparing her to something one would find in a 'side show' - a freak, in other words. 

Tamikka Brents is sponsored by a provocatively-named blog which takes an openly anti-Fox position, and has promoted her opponents in the past. Tamikka Brents gives an interview in which she gives off subtle signals that she, too, doesn't consider Fox a 'real' woman. Tamikka Brents refuses to disavow the transphobia of her fans despite repeated calls to do so, and refuses even to disassociate herself from Cathy Brennan, a bigoted zealot known for trying to ruin trans peoples' lives - including the life of a teenage girl who was put on suicide watch after harassment by the aforementioned Pacific Justice Institute. 

I'm not really sure how much more evidence is needed, so at this point I am just going to say it: it is my opinion that the actions of Tamikka Brents are consistent with the attitudes of the organised group of self-styled 'feminist' bigots that many progressives in the LGBT community refer to as Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists, or TERFs, for short. And I encourage every organisation that sponsors Ms Brents to familiarise themselves with this site, which offers a comprehensive overview of this hate group's genocidal ideology, and damaging actions. I would urge them also to read the following two posts from The TransAdvocate, outlining the fact that ideologues belonging to this hate faction threatened to engage in acts of terrorism against a record company that employed a trans woman, and physically assaulted two feminists of a less bigoted persuasion who attempted to defend another trans woman from their attacks. And I would urge them to ask themselves this question: is this what you want to be associated with?

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Smears and Spinning at the Bleacher Report: how politics will trump sports, every time

The late Hunter S Thompson was a man of strong views and weak morals, and one of the things on which he had strong views was sports journalism. Sports journalists, he wrote, were 'a kind of rude and brainless subculture of fascist drunks whose only real function is to publicize and sell whatever the sports editor sends them out to cover'.

Well...that seems a pretty good description of Thompson himself, at his worst (maybe not the 'fascist' part, per se, but you have to watch those hippy types...) and - again without the fascist part - it probably wouldn't make for an entirely bad description of this writer (I draw the line, however, at tarring my sportswriting colleagues at So So Gay with this brush). The occasional bout of sports journalism, or something very like it, is something I seem to have fallen into since I began branching out of poetry into writing for So So Gay. Partly this is because I feel we should be covering more women's sport, and I try to get it into the magazine whenever I can - and partly this is because I think covering a sports beat isn't really bad training for a writer. Thompson again: '...none of the people I wrote about seemed to give a hoot in Hell what kind of lunatic gibberish I wrote about them, just as long as it moved. They wanted Action, Color, Speed, Violence...' and it's no bad thing to practice giving a piece of writing those things. The artist and poet Alec Finlay once created a work that involved tranforming a celebrated soccer goal into Labanotation, a technique for notating moves more often used in dance than sport: the sports journalist has to perform a similar kind of alchemy in reverse, taking the dry, factual matter of scores and statistics and turning it into something that excites and interests the reader. There is a certain type of sports fan who is hot for numbers, but most prefer narrative, and the sports journalist's job is to give them that. 

That said...there's a reason Hunter S Thompson is remembered, and it has little to do with his sports journalism, at least in a conventional sense. Thompson's real beat, even when he was writing press releases for a pro-wrestling promoter, was always politics. Thompson's first great piece of journalism, 'The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved',  quickly veers away from examining the titular horse-race into examining the bizarre class make-up of the audience for said spectacle. Thompson's best known book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, was an attempt to recreate the trick of this piece following a much-hyped motorcycle race, which veered away from its ostensible subject even more quickly. But Thompson's best piece of sports journalism doesn't seem to be sports journalism at all - because it's about politics. 

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 is my favourite of Thompson's books because he brings all that 'action, color, speed, violence' to bear in describing the US Presidential election of that year, the one that brought Richard Nixon back into the White House. Thompson follows the campaign with the fever and the fervor of an addicted punter, considering the odds, weighing up the competitors, and giving a real sense of the visceral excitement of a Presidential race. It's almost as if you're reading about the birth of something which has became harder and harder to ignore in our own time: the sense that politics has just become an obscure, wonky branch of sports, more like a derby match than the working out of Big Ideas, where teams periodically don their colours and hoot, jeer and wail at the opposing side in quest for possession of a largely symbolic object: FA Cup or Oval Office - it's just the same old hunt for glory.

What lifts Campaign Trail over such simplistic analysis, and far above the later political journalism Thompson practised, in which he hammered the idea of politics-as-sports into the ground until it became a bad joke, is that Thompson is aware of the ways in which politics matters, and he gives voice to that, too. Memorably admitting that in the later stages of the election, he went with his heart, not his head, and threw his support behind the McGovern campaign, Thompson's final sentence, in which he walks 'several blocks down La Cienega Boulevard to the Loser's Club', seems, to me at least, to be an image of American defeatedness to rival the last sentence of The Great Gatsby (it helps, perhaps, to know - from earlier in the book - that the Loser's Club is a strip joint recommended to Thompson by Warren Beatty). 

Thompson was a sports journalist but he got politics on the Romantic level, too, which is why he's remembered when many of those who started out covering the sports beat at the same time as he did are long forgotten. Because ultimately politics is about more than sport, and if you've spent your life hunkered down in the Gorilla Position watching your own tiny corner of the media through curtains that make it seem like it's the whole world, politics will wrong-foot you every time you try to write about it. It will slip past you because it is too fast and Protean for you to get a grip on, and it will beat you down because it is bigger than you, chump, and that's just the way it is. You need a fast, vast mind to keep up with politics because you have to remind yourself that it is about more than Labanotation: and when you try to drag it down to your level, all you do is give it a chance to mount you and pound you down. 

This is why it's so cringeworthy to see the sports hacks at the Bleacher Report swallowing Tamikka Brents' claims to want to be an LGBT advocate; and just as cringeworthy to come across, in my continuing look at this story, the following piece by one Jonathan Snowden about Brents' opponent on September 13th, Fallon Fox. The former is a fine example of why Thompson said one of the keys to success as a sportswriter was 'a blind willingness to believe anything you're told by the coaches, flacks, hustlers and other "official spokesmen" for the team-owners who provide the free booze'; the latter is a dispiriting glimpse of why only ever seeing the world from ringside can warp your ability to perceive it. 

There's the dismissive headline. There's the emotive description of Fox's opponent in her second professional fight as 'poor Ericka Newsome' (if I were Newsome I'd sue for that on gender discrimination grounds: can you really see Snowden taking such a pitying tone in describing a losing male fighter?). There's the selective emboldening of quotations: did you notice that? I did. Quotes from Fox and people who support her are given in plain type, but quotes from transphobic scumbags like Joe Rogan and Ronda 'The reason AJ is not watching Expendables 3' Rousey are heavily indented in bold to make them super-readable. A nice touch that: cute as a shit-house rat.

And Snowden is cute about his transphobic editorialising, because he knows he has to walk a line that allows him to pretend to be all 'fair and balanced', so he drops in a little sermonising. Referring to the risible Rousey's description of Cris Cyborg as 'it', he piously opines that 'if change is coming, it's on a slow train'. He's careful to tell us in his final paragraphs, even as he sticks in the knife, that he is 'glad' Fox's tale 'is being told', and that he 'hopes for a happy ending' (that retching sound you can hear, cis readers, is my trans audience vomiting at the nauseating sight of such cis condescension). But there's something interesting about those final paragraphs, too, and it betrays Snowden - and the Bleacher Report's? - editorial intent. 

Snowden refers to Fox having 'delusions of grandeur shattered by Ashlee Evans-Smith'. Now, if you've heard my poem about Fox, you know my opinions about Evans-Smith: which are, essentially, that she has slightly less class than the metaphorical lavatory-dwelling rodent I introduced two paragraphs ago, so we'll say no more about her. No: what's interesting is the date that Snowden wrote his piece: April 22nd. 

That interested me, because I was pretty sure that that would have been after I wrote this piece about my anxiety, as a trans woman, about Fox's comeback fight. I seemed to recall that by the 22nd of April I had been heavily mired in the annual bout of bardic masochism that is NaPoWriMo, and I was certain I'd written that article about Fox/Basset before that particular Hell set in - and I was right. 

And yet - Snowden hadn't mentioned Basset once! Oh, yeah, his magazine tries to include the Basset result in a statistical table  - which itself is yet another example of brazen editorialising -  further up the article (I mean, really, Bleacher Report, your slip is seriously showing here) - but remember what I said about sports fans reading for narrative instead of just statistics? Any fan reading Snowden's column that way would assume that Fox's last fight was the Evans-Smith loss, which took place all the way at the end of last year - and not the win over Basset. It's almost as if Snowden was willing to play fast and loose with the facts to fit his narrative. 

Which, of course - he is. He's a sports hack. He's taking the descriptions of those dance steps and spinning them out into a song, and he probably figures - not unreasonably - that his readership skews heavily enough towards the transphobic side of things that it's the song they want to hear. The problem is that his song is a football chant, but Fox's is the ballad of Hurricane Carter

It's that sports/politics mismatch again, see - and the saddest thing about Snowden's last paragraph is that he's too mired in his own little world to see it. 'I don't want to hear about her again unless it's because of what she does, not who she is', he moans at the end of his rant - ignoring the fact that it's hard to separate the two, because however her actual fight career turns out, Fox's importance lies in her breaking new ground, making trans participation in sports more acceptable, and challenging the tired old cliches about 'unfair advantage' for trans athletes that are, as I've literally said time and time again at gigs, as outmoded as Cesare Lombroso's pompous, racist notion that there existed such a thing as a 'criminal physiognomy'. What Fox has achieved goes far beyond the question of how many fights she wins or loses, to the conversations she's spurred, to the causes she supports, and most importantly to the other trans people she inspires. The importance of Fallon Fox is that her presence in MMA alone is an example of trans people pushing back against the voices that would keep us out of our rightful place in society - and that presence is important whether she wins or loses. As I have - again - spat time and time again at gigs, what Fox is fighting for is the right to lose as much as win. The right to compete. To be considered. To be allowed to hold her space. 

A cynic might say that that's exactly why all the people who don't want Fox to have that space have switched tactics. Because before she lost that fight to Evans-Smith, the story these folks wanted to tell was that Fox was an unbeatable monster: but now, suddenly, the story has shifted to her 'not being ready for high-level MMA'. Suddenly it's shifted to her being 'out for publicity'; to Jonathan Snowden 'not wanting to hear about her' and proclaiming that he feels she should be treated 'just like everybody else' when, less than a year ago, Snowden, and the people whose quotes he puts in bold, were doing anything but that. 

A cynic might say that. Personally? I just think Snowden has spent more time in darkened rooms, inhaling the smell of sweat-sodden compression shorts, than is entirely healthy. It does a body good, every now and again, to turn off the sportscast, disable the in-play-betting app and get out into the wider world to take the air - even if that's only to take the long walk, down La Cienega, to the Loser's Club. 

Live in Real Life! My National Library of Scotland set

For the benefit of certain individuals who would like to give the impression that I 'live on Twitter', here I am on-stage at the National Library of Scotland, performing to a packed audience at their conference yesterday on 'Reading and Identity'. Many thanks to Jo Clifford for filming: those approving noises you hear occassionally are Jo, responding to lines that she clearly quite liked! I'm just impressed that in less than ten minutes of stage time I managed to fit an explanation of my views regarding poetry reading microphone machismo, a short diversion on the effects of oestrogen and the trans participation policies of, among others, the World Flat Track Roller Derby Association, a big-up for So So Gay, a condemnation of the new face of transphobia in Mixed Martial Arts, and three actual poems into less than the ten minutes I'd been given! It was great to see so many interesting ideas from the many academic conference participants as well.

September is looking like an uncharacteristically fallow month, gig-wise, for me (so if you're booking anything that month and you fancy having an angry fat trans dyke poet on, do get in touch...), but October will see performances in London and Newcastle, followed by further gigs in Edinburgh and Newcastle in November. And it's beginning to look like I very well may be performing in Manchester in the early part of 2015...stay tuned for updates, as always. Or, indeed, just follow me on Twitter, as apparently I live there!

Monday, 25 August 2014

Why 'living on Twitter' is no insult, and what it reveals about those who think it is

That there have been developments in the case of Tamikka Brents should come as little surprise to anyone. Reading this and this will get you up to speed, and the photo below ought to dispel any doubt as to whether or not Brents' claim to be an 'advocate for the LGBT' is dead in the water:


Yep - that's Cathy Brennan, Queen of all the TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists, aka those lovely women who want people like me 'morally mandated out of existence' and openly say that they 'wish [trans people] would ALL be dead'), thanking Tamikka Brents for being the Great Transphobic Hope. If you thought that this would be a watershed moment for Brents, that she might realise the extent of her fall from the lofty position she took back in 2012, then I regret to inform you that you would be wrong. I have asked Brents, on Twitter, whether she will publicly disavow the transphobia of many of her fans (some of whom have, inter alia, called Fallon Fox 'a man' and 'a dude', thrown around the t-slur like it was punctuation, spread the usual tedious misinformation about the supposed 'physical advantage' Fox has as a trans fighter and, in one delightful case, tried to insinuate that Fox is on a par with a rapist for accepting a fight which Brents' people offered to her), and answer came there none. I asked the same question again after Brennan came out as Brents' cornerwoman, and - once again - I received no reply. 

And we know that Brents is not unaware of these calls for her to step up to the plate as an LGBT advocate and say something in public about all of this. We know this for a couple of reasons: firstly, because Brents, or whoever handles her social media, deliberately went out of her way to delete all criticism of her from her Facebook fan page (but left the transphobia intact), and, second, because, in 'thanking' her fans for their transphobia, Brents said something revealing about how she regards 'the haters' (an inaccurate description, as it happens: I've said, numerous times, that if Brents comes out and publicly condemns transphobia from her supporters then I'll be happy to give her props for it):


'Seems as though all the haters live on Twitter...' Well, that's easy enough to disprove: by the time I started looking into the Brents story, I'd barely been back a week from doing a run of shows at the Edinburgh Fringe for Other Voices, Jibba Jabba, Out:Spoken and Talking Heids; the weekend before that I'd been down in Norwich leading a poetry workshop for a trans youth group at the MAP project; this Tuesday I'm back up in Edinburgh again, performing at a conference on 'Reading and Identity' at the National Library of Scotland with Jo Clifford, author of Fringe Hit 'The Gospel of Jesus, Queen of Heaven'; I'm reading at Conway Hall in London at an LGBT Humanists fundraiser in October, and it looks as if I'll be going North of the Border again in November for another gig. I've performed at Newcastle Pride three years running, even ending up as an accidental headliner this year when a traffic disaster meant Bethany Black couldn't make it. My poetry film, Letter to a Minnesota Prison, has been seen internationally, and I regularly criss-cross the country gigging in venues large and small. Sure, I have a smartphone, and a short attention span, which means I tend to check Twitter probably a lot more than the average person: but it ought to be fairly obvious that I have a life beyond it. 

That's the refutation of the criticism dealt with. But to be honest, I don't think it's a valid criticism anyway: because the fact is I know a lot of people who essentially do live on Twitter, at least in as much as it's their only or primary outlet, their way of interacting with the world: and I don't think there's anything wrong in that.

One of the reasons there are so many trans people on Twitter, I think, is to do with something about the site which sci-fi novelist William Gibson identified: it makes extroverts of introverts, or, rather, it gives introverted people a space in which they can be extrovert. And boy, do trans people have lots of reasons to be introverted - or, at least, to appear to be introverted, safe within four walls. Paris Lees has written about what I call the 'pint of milk problem' - the fact that when you're trans, just going out to the corner shop for a pint of milk can be a terrifying prospect, with the risk of verbal and physical abuse, humiliation and sexual violence a reality. I've experienced that: the shouts, the snide comments, the microaggressions, the people who consider it acceptable to feel you up while you're waiting to use a cash machine. I know what it can be like out there for a trans woman, and it's scary. I would never blame any trans person for wanting to withdraw behind a wall, safe from the world, and send out bulletins only through Twitter.

For some trans people, that's a lifeline: and not just trans people. Twitter has introduced me to so many fantastic disabled bloggers and activists precisely because they, too, enjoy that freedom to interact with the world safely and freely, without having to worry about whether they'll be denied access to a building, or just called a freak when they're sat outside a newsagents. And then there are people who 'live on Twitter' because they refuse to collaborate with a mainstream media which is - even (some would say especially) on the Left - all too often misogynist, racist and whorephobic.

To dismiss criticism on Twitter as a sign that your critics live on Twitter is to throw your privilege in peoples' faces and think that absolves you of responsibility. It mocks the lives and experiences of people who are unable to be as active as they'd like to be outside of social media, whether out of disability, or fear, or social exclusion, or any combination thereof. When you wave your hand and dismiss all those people, it doesn't tell me what a great life you have - if anything, it makes me wonder how sad your life must be, that you feel the need to be so dismissive, to engage in one-upwomanship with people whose voices you really ought to be amplifying. It's a horrible thing to say: and while, in my case, I don't feel that it applies, I would never dismiss someone that it did apply to. In fact, it would make me only more inclined to listen to what they had to say. 

So it isn't really all that surprising that Brents dismisses people in this way. After all, claiming to be an advocate for others while dismissing whole groups of those very people is kind of her thing. In the end, Brents is an advocate only for herself; or, as my friend Adam Lowe, editor of Vada magazine, puts it: 'she's an advocate for the enemy.' 

Again, one can only say: take that flag off, Ms Brents. You do not deserve to wear it.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Listen up!

If you think my criticism of Tamikka Brents and her fans is because I'M a fan of Fallon Fox, think again.
If you think I have a vested interest in Fallon winning her fight with Brents on September 13th, think again.
If you think my going after Brents, and her claims to be an LGBT 'advocate' in the making are some kind of bullshit attempt to 'put her off her game', walk up to the nearest brick wall, bang your head off that wall for as long as it takes for you to get some sense in it , turn the fuck around, and THINK. AGAIN.
I'm a poet and journalist who is also a trans woman. I write about trans issues. I write about LGBT issues.
I wrote about CeCe McDonald being locked up in a men's prison for the supposed 'crime' of defending herself against a racist, transphobic attack.
I wrote about Chelsea Manning being imprisoned for 'treason' by Uncle Sam for daring to expose the crimes of the American Empire, when I think she should be released and hailed as a goddam hero for that very act of exposure.
How could I, as a trans poet, NOT write about Fallon Fox? How could I look at her struggles and NOT address them in verse?
That's why I take on this battle as a poet. And as a journalist?
As a journalist, I have, time and again, criticised LGBT people who, hypocritically, behave appallingly to our own kind.
I criticised Christopher Biggins for suggesting that 'bisexuals ruin women's lives'.
I criticised Nigel Evans for behaving in a way that, as I saw it, would have a chilling effect on future reports of rape and sexual assault in the LGBT community.
And in the very same article in which I talked about Fox/Brents, I criticised my fellow trans woman Kellie Maloney for her disgraceful, homophobic remarks about same-sex marriage and parenting.
How could I NOT call Brents out on the hypocrisy of claiming to be an LGBT advocate, then engaging in dog-whistle transphobia? How could I stand by and watch as she does NOTHING to condemn those among her fans who resort to misgendering and transphobic slander against someone who really IS a pioneering activist?
If you think I care about who wins in a cage-fighting contest, you're right only in this much: that I don't like to see hypocrites win. But whether Fox or Brents' hand is raised that night matters much, much less to me than the fact that I have a duty as a poet to address the matters which affect my community, and a duty as a journalist to hold those who would set themselves up as our icons to account.
If you're down with that, if you think that's a thing worth doing, then I really don't care WHO you cheer for on September 13th.
And if you don't - if you find that unpalatable - if you'd rather I didn't disrupt your cheerleading for your golden girl - GOOD. You are EXACTLY the kind of smug, comfortable person I AIM to upset. And if you're accusing me of partiality and bias and 'having an agenda' because what I write and say upsets you then that just tells me my aim is TRUE.
Haters to the left.

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.


Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Good news on many fronts!

When I first saw the news this morning I couldn't quite bring myself to believe it: it seemed too good, too perfect to be true, after all this time hoping, and praying, and going on about it to anyone who'd listen and quite a few who wouldn't...but there it was, in black and white:

'The Bathroom Thing' has finally passed the 1000 views mark!


And in little more than a year too! Huzzah. Oh, also longtime enemy of this blog Michael Gove got sacked from the Education portfolio and demoted to Chief Whip. It would, of course, be churlish in the extreme to use his ill fortune as a cheap excuse to post a video of me ripping the piss out of him on the open mic at Jibba Jabba earlier this year.


Best do it, then!