Pride Month: How LGBTQ+ wrestlers have found a place in the industry

Last update on. From the section WrestlingFred Rosser spent a lot of his WWE career under the name Darren Young.Imagine yourself meeting Vince McMahon.Fred Rosser, the larger-than life chairman of WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), spent years as one of the most feared wrestlers in wrestling. You can understand why he was nervous about how his boss would react.Rosser recalls, "He called me and we talked for almost twenty minutes about how he respected mine decision.""He was very kind, not just to him but also to others."Rosser, who fought alongside Darren Young throughout his WWE career made headlines in 2013.He was not the first LGBTQ+ wrestler to be recognized, but Pat Patterson, a legendary Canadian grappler, was.Promoters and wrestlers treated the LGBTQ+ community as a punchline more often than not.Performers who were vile knew that portraying a female persona with stereotypically "gay" characteristics was a surefire way to draw boos.It was not unusual for good men to use homophobic slurs in order to get cheers and to talk down their opponent."There are many of us becoming the standard bearers"Sonya Deville (left), is the first female WWE wrestler to be out.Rosser, who is now a New Japan Pro Wrestling employee, helped change the industry by his openness.On-air, a prominent wrestler was acknowledged for his sexuality as an acceptable and more important part of his life.In the years that followed, performers felt more comfortable being authentic in their own skin.WWE's Out wrestlers include Sonya Deville and Jake Atlas. Meanwhile, WWE Universal Champion Finn Balor, who was a former WWE Universal Champion, has shown his support for the LGBTQ+ community with Pride-themed ring gear at major events.The same level is displayed in AEW (All Elite Wrestling), the major new promotion that Tony Khan, coowner of Championship football club Fulham, started.Its roster includes Nyla, a transgender wrestler, who won the AEW Women's World Championship and Anthony Bowens who is turning heads as one of 'The Acclaimed' tag teams.Bowens states, "It's very exciting and rewarding to know that you can have positive influence on someone simply by doing what you love.""There are many of us out there who are becoming the standard-bearers and I believe the business is moving in a positive direction.""I am openly gay but that is not who I am in this ring."Brad Slayer was first gay man to fight in the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.It was six years since Rosser's debut in 1999 that another historic moment occurred.It all happened at Carrow Road when Brad Slayer, a British wrestler, became the first gay man to take on the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.Slayer is not open about his sexuality, but he is aware of his role as a role model and the achievements of the industry.He says, "Wrestling allows one to be the person you want to become.""I know many people who are out and it has helped my career."Cassius, a British wrestler, is known as The Neon ExplosionBriton Cassius is a fellow Briton who fits into this category. He once tried to reduce his wrestling style as he was afraid it would be too flashy.He laughs, "I would have been too scared to be the person I am now.""But my trainer said, "Just be you, be fantastic, and you will do well.""We thought that the crowd would boo us. After five minutes, they cheered and it changed my life.""We are all here for the same goal"Money is a key component of wrestling.Perhaps the most telling sign of how things have changed is the increasing success of events featuring predominantly LGBTQ+ performers and being produced with an LGBTQ+ audience.The latest, titled 'Fear The Gay Agenda', took place in Florida this month.The main event featured a match between Parrow, who wore ring gear in tribute to the victims in the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016, in which 49 people were murdered and 53 others were wounded, and EFFY. EFFY is a popular competitor who uses his social media platforms as a way to promote inclusion in wrestling.Fear the Gay Agenda is not only about the in-ring action but also a chance for non-LGBTQ+ supporters to learn about the community.EFFY states, "We must tell them that we are performers and that we will give them the show.""But, we also want them learn about who and what we are and not be afraid of the differences between us."We are all here to enjoy wrestling - that's why it's so much better."