On Wednesday night in an interview with TMZ, WWE professional wrestler Darren Young announced that he is gay, becoming the first openly-gay wrestler while still an employee of the WWE in the company’s history.
This came as a shock to the general public, not particularly because of the fact that Young is a homosexual but because of the fact that nobody in the general public had any idea or prior speculation. It came out of the blue and it showed a large amount of courage on Young’s part to not only come out the way he did, but seem enthusiastic to share it. And honestly why shouldn’t he be proud of who he is?
Darren Young’s peers in the WWE also weighed in on the announcement, and not to anyone’s surprise, they were all supportive. Just to note a few:
Triple H: “Congratulations, @DarrenYoungWWE for living YOUR life, YOUR way. #proud”
Stephanie McMahon: “Congratulations to @DarrenYoungWWE for being the first openly gay WWE Superstar!”
Jim Ross: “‘@StephMcMahon: Congratulations to @DarrenYoungWWE for being the first openly gay WWE Superstar!’ I second that. #NonIssue”
Rosa Mendes: “@DarrenYoungWWE I’m so proud of you!! See you this week!!”
Gregory Helms: “Good job @DarrenYoungWWE Respect!! Somewhere my friend Kanyon is smiling down.”
Matt Morgan: “ENORMOUS courage out of @DarrenYoungWWE today! U should be very proud of urself Darren! #WhatAGreatExampleForOthers”
Chavo Guerrero: “Huge support for @DarrenYoungWWE !! Great guy & great wrestler! Kudos for @JohnCena supporting comments too”
Titus O’Neal: “I’m VERY PROUD of @DarrenYoungWWE He’s been like Family 2Me&My Kids And that won’t Change! #ImInFullSupportOfDarren”
On TMZ’s website specifically in the article mentioning Young’s sexual orientation, they go on to make the claim that “…this is big, big news. For all its chauvinism and testosterone-driven bravado, coming out in WWE is tantamount to coming out in the NFL.”
Well, I beg to differ.
As someone who has actually seen the light of the backstage area in a wrestling promotion, harsh terms like “chauvinism” and “testosterone-driven bravado” are far from reality. If you want to pin a label on a wrestling promotion, be it the independent circuit in your local town or a worldwide-famous promotion like the WWE, the more appropriate term would be “family.” That’s what it really is. There’s no push-up tests to see who the alpha male is. What you’ll find is twenty to fifty men and women talking, having fun, and acting like any normal family would.
It’s terms like the ones TMZ used to describe the WWE that are the problem. We live in a world where if you stay within the borders of the “social code” that has been constructed by your society for you to follow accordingly, you’ll have no troubles. In some countries homosexuality is not only frowned upon, it’s just not really allowed. In Russia for instance, there is a current controversy surrounding a nation-wide ban against any gay “propaganda”. That means no gay pride parade, no talking positively about homosexuality and you can’t even protest against the powers of Russia that are forbidding you to be proud of who you are.
Even in a country like the United States, only 14 states along with five tribal jurisdictions allow same sex marriages. The rest of the country, save for Illinois (pending) and New Jersey (proposed), have a ban against same sex marriage. This despite a recent poll held in 2013 that show a result of 58% of Americans who are in favor of same sex marriage. The President of the country has even gone on record to say, “… I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”
Yet, when it comes to a company like the WWE, where the illusion of muscular behemoths testing their strength as they butt heads and prove their worth in the ring cloud our judgment, the common spectator fails to see exactly what each and every wrestler mean to one another once the curtain is drawn and they pack their bags to hit the road.
I recently spoke with a friend, Jorge Morillas, who is an independent wrestler in the Québec indy circuit and touched on the subject of homosexuality in and outside the ring. The urge to get his input sparked from his recent Facebook status, which was put up immediately after a troubling comment was left on the TMZ website, stating, “If I was wrestling him, I wouldn’t want him to get on top of me“, to which Jorge responded:
“I’ve trained and wrestled against homosexuals on the Québec Indy scene, and during a show, we ALL abide by a certain level of professionalism. In the ring, we’re not gay/straight/bi… we’re wrestlers, and we’re there to put on a show. What these guys do after a show, that’s none of our concern.“
After reading that outburst of pure emotion and love towards his brothers and sisters, I felt the need to touch base and get more of an inside approach. Who better than someone who actually competes in a wrestling ring and partakes in the lifestyle of a wrestler?
Here’s what Jorge had to offer:
“In the past eight years, I have known four openly-gay wrestlers. One of them I’ll use as a good example.
He has never been shy about being gay, but he doesn’t flaunt it either. Heck, when I found out, I asked him straight out. Our friendship remained unchanged. Sure we make jokes about it sometimes, as friends will tease each other about anything. And a wrestler backstage is the same as any other locker room, with the ass slapping and stuff between guys. We don’t act any differently with the “homosexual in the room”. We’re all friends, we’re all there for a common goal, give a good wrestling show. His in-ring gimmick had nothing to do with his sexual orientation. He was a wrestler, sometimes face, sometimes heel, and that’s it. We remain professional both in the ring and out of the ring. NEVER has there been any incident in the ring (so the guy that wrote “I wouldn’t want to wrestle him and let him get on top of me” in regards to Darren Young is an ignorant idiot).
Some guys will smoke weed, some will get drunk, some will turn in early, some will sleep with another dude. That doesn’t change our friendships, that doesn’t change that we all work towards a same passion.
While I’m at it, I’ll mention another openly gay wrestler. He was a fellow rookie when I was training, and I think I’m the first person he came out to. He asked me if a homosexual can become a wrestler (just like TMZ asked Young). I had heard rumors of Buff Bagwell (WCW) back in the day, and of course there’s Pat Patterson. So he kept training, and we didn’t treat him any differently because of his orientation.
This guy on the other hand is more out there in terms of his sexuality, so it’s blatantly obvious. He even went as far as having the typical over-the-top gay gimmick with make-up and all. He gets bookings, so I don’t think that his sexual orientation is an issue in itself. On the contrary, since he’s doing the gay gimmick, bookers use that, they put him in the womens’ title run.
So you see here two different attitudes in regards to one’s homosexuality. One doesn’t make a federal case out of it, keeps his private life private, the other incorporates that side of himself into his gimmick. And both are accepted by the vast majority, although there will always be some idiots that will use it as a negative.“
So if you’re sitting at your computer and reading this while thinking to yourself, “Well how could he possibly work in his surroundings and be openly-gay,” just take Mr. Morillas’ words as the gospel on this. Backstage, all members of the company are family. Yes, some may date others here and there but overall, it’s one big, happy family that love and respect each other. Does it matter who that guy wants to have a relationship with? Not to them. So why should it matter to you?
Here’s a spoiler – it shouldn’t.
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Main photo credit: Solowrestling.org, CC