For Tamikka Brents’ two most recent mixed martial arts matches—an amateur and a professional tilt—she made her way to the ring with a rainbow flag.
Brents, perhaps unsurprisingly, has a fairly straightforward explanation for her choice.
“I just wanted to show people that I’m out, I’m proud about it, I don’t care,” the outgoing 24-year-old Springfield, Ill., native said with a laugh. “Basically, just, ‘Yeah, I’m gay. You got a problem with it?’ I’ll punch you in the face, too (laughs).”
It wasn’t until after Brents finished her bouts—both decisive first-round victories—that her best friend gave her another reason to wave her flag with pride.
“She saw me come out with my rainbow pride flag and she said that she bets that for the younger generation who were trying to come out, it would boost their confidence to see someone in a mentor-type role or someone they look up to come out with that flag,” Brents said. “It helps them—it gives them that comfort that it’s okay.”
Fortunately for Brents, who told her family and friends that she was a lesbian about five years ago, she didn’t have a problem being open about her sexuality as many others do.
As such, Brents didn’t necessarily need a role model to help ease her transition.
“Coming out to my friends, they didn’t care,” she recounted. “I think the big hurdle was coming out to my parents, because I was thinking, ‘Oh, man, what are they going to do? Are they going to be cool? Are they going to cry and be sad? Are they going to be happy that I’m happy?’ Luckily, I finally came out to them and it was good. My dad was like, ‘Okay, so what do you want for dinner tonight?’”
For Brents, clearing the air and being open about her sexuality—truly being open about herself—was like taking a weight off her shoulders.
“When you’re not being your true self, when you’re not comfortable being your whole self around people when you’re not out, it’s just harder,” Brents explained. “You might not think of it as stress or something weighing on you, but it does. When you finally come out, you feel totally different...It’s like you can breath, you can be yourself.”
Brents understands, of course, that many people—including some in her social circle—aren’t as fortunate as her to have a healthy support system intact.
“I know some of my friends had to deal with their parents disowning them and, when they heard that my dad was super accepting of it, they were like, ‘Wow,’” she said. “I guess I just got lucky.”
Brents has some words of wisdom for both those who are on the verge of coming out and those who oppose homosexuality.
“In my opinion, just do it,” Brents said. “Get together and just do it. If it’s bad, it’s bad. But it’s like ripping off a Band-Aid; you don’t want to do it slow, you’ve just got to take it off. Just do it. If it comes out where it’s bad and they don’t like it, well, at least it’s off your chest. You can’t control other peoples’ emotions and actions, so go on and get it over with so you can be happy with yourself.”
“I always say don’t knock it until you try it,” she added with a laugh when asked if she had anything to say to those who oppose homosexuality. “But I know not everyone is going to try it. I would just say go with what you’re feeling, but don’t hate or dislike somebody just because they’re different.”
Beyond that sound advice, Brents—who said her colourful flag will be at her side for the remainder of her fighting career—would be more than happy to serve as a role model in the future.
“I feel like I could give a lot of input and advice on situations...” said Brents, who is to return to action against Amanda Bell at Invicta IV in Kansas City on January 5. “I would love to be an advocate for the LGBT.
"That would be cool.”
Ed Kapp is a Regina, Saskatchewan-based freelance journalist. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations were obtained first-hand.