On June 26th, 2015, history was made as same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide in the United States. It has become a symbol of victory for the LGBT community and its advocates. With the prevalence of homosexual and transgender people appearing in pop culture these days, it would appear that tolerance and acceptance of each other’s differences is on the rise in this country. That really feels like a win for everyone. However, in the world of sports that is not always the case.
Heteronormativity, or the notion that heteroexuality is “normal” and preferred, has always been the dominant standard for most of sports culture. Even small children in school sports are often subjected to this potentially hurtful way of thinking. Having been taught heteronormativity throughout childhood, this has lead to some very homophobic attitudes among professional athletes. It has also resulted in a serious lack of the LGBT community being represented among all major professional sports leagues in the United States.
The exception to this seems to be the world of professional wrestling, where homosexuals and bisexuals have been represented for decades. Rich homosexual, or at least sexually ambiguous, characters have been developed and enjoyed by fans since the 1950s. One of the first vibrant flamboyant characters who debuted at that time was Gorgeous George. Though he was not actually homosexual, not was it admitted that his character was gay, he opened the door of acceptance for future similar gimmicks. There have also been several managers and wrestlers over the years that have self-identified as gay. Though Darren Young made news when he came out openly in 2013, he is far from being the first openly gay wrestler. In this article, we present 12 wrestlers throughout history who have come out of the closet.
12 Sandy Parker
Sandy Parker started her wrestling career in 1969 and featured in a variety of promotions across a bunch of different countries. A tag team specialist as a eight-time WWWA World Tag Team Champion, she'd also win the NWA Women’s World Tag Team Championship with Sue Green. Though she was married to a man for awhile she later identified herself as a lesbian. Sandy felt she always had “tomboy” characteristics while she was growing up.
11 Jim Barnett
James Barnett, born in Oklahoma in 1924, wrestled and promoted in the United States. He's best known as the owner of Georgia Championship Wrestling and World Championship Wresting, which was based in Australia. In his later years, Barnett worked for several major promotions as an advisor. Jim Barnett was open about his sexuality and never tried to hide the fact that he was gay, even though he was involved in the wrestling community during a time when they weren't as advanced as they are today and for that he is a true pioneer in the sport. He passed away at the age of 80 when he lost his battle with cancer and pneumonia in 2004.
Cassandro is a Mexican luchador who has wrestled all over the world in independent promotions. He his known for his work as an exotico, which is where a male wrestler displays feminine characteristics and dress in drag as their gimmicks (popularized in Lucha libre wrestling). Cassandro has always been open about his homosexuality, even though that shouldn't be confused with the idea that every exotico wrestler is a homosexual. Cassandro says he doesn’t mind making people laugh when he is in the ring and is still active today.
9 Ernie Roth
Ernie Roth, or the Grand Wizard Wrestling as he was once known in the wrestling world, was the influential manager of some of wrestling’s nastiest heels. Due to the fact that he wasn't a very big guy, he never actually wrestled, but he gained a ton of exposure in the wrestling world as a manager. Roth was often seen wearing flamboyant sequined jackets, colored turbans, and flashy feathers at ringside. Roth passed away from a heart attack in 1983 and was posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame twelve years later. It was only after his death that his homosexuality was revealed publicly, but there are many people that claimed they knew while he was still alive.
8 Tylene Buck
Tylene Buck began her career in the wrestling industry as a backstage interviewer in the late 1990s at WCW. She would eventually find her way into the ring, though, as an nWo Girl going by the name Major Gunns. After a short, unmemorable stint, WCW released her in 2001 and she then worked for Xtreme Pro Wrestling for a short run. Eventually, Buck retired from pro wrestling all together, finding her calling in the adult industry. Tylene Buck later revealed that she was bisexual.
7 Terry Garvin
Raised in Montreal, Terry Garvin was a tag team specialist who was best known for winning several tag team championship titles in NWA alongside his wrestling brother, Ron Garvin. Garvin was always openly gay, however his run in WWE was marred with accusations of sexual harassment that brought about bad publicity and even a lawsuit at one time. Barry Orton, uncle of current star Randy Orton, was one of the many men who accused Garvin of sexually assaulting him.
6 Chris Kanyon
In 1995, Chris Kanyon debuted in WCW as a jobber, but became somewhat successful there working angles with Diamond Dallas Page. When WCW was bought, Kanyon continued to thrive for a short time in WWE. However after retiring in 2004, Chris Kanyon claimed publicly that WWE had released him due to his homosexuality. Kaynon would later retract took his own life in 2010 at the age of 40. At the time of his death he was working on writing a book called Wrestling Reality that talks in depth about his struggle with being a closeted homosexual in the wrestling business.
5 Matt Cage
Matt Cage is currently working for various independent promotions in the United States. After battling with depression, he recently decided that it was time for him to reveal the truth about his sexuality. He claimed that the lying and hiding was causing him a lot of unnecessary stress. So, he decided to come out in a post on Facebook that was titled Here Goes Nothing, which you can read here (we suggest you do, it's very powerful). Cage claimed that he hoped his situation might be able to help anyone going through a similar one. His post has since gone viral and he is receiving support from many people in the industry.
4 Orlando Jordan
Orlando Jordan began his career working in the WWE in 2003 and gained a name for himself during his time with the company, even winning the United States Championship. Orlando would ultimately leave, however, deciding to sign a contract with TNA. At Jordan's suggestion, TNA opted to use his bisexuality as his gimmick, but his character never really took off. At the moment, he's running his own wrestling school in Australia, where he now lives and works, and, in October of 2013, he announced that he would be getting married to an Australian woman.
3 Rosa Mendes
Rosa Mendes is currently under contract with WWE, where she first debuted in 2008 as an overly passionate fan of Beth Phoenix. Since then, Mendes has been used as a wrestler, valet and a member of the hit reality show Total Divas, alongside the likes of the Bella Twins and Natalya. It was on an episode of Total Divas in October 2014 where Rosa revealed that she was bisexual. She is currently in a relationship with a musician and clothing company owner and in August announced that the couple is expecting their first child.
2 Pat Patterson
Pat Patterson now works behind the scenes for WWE, but he was once the first Intercontinental Champion of all time. He began his career as a feminine character called “Pretty Boy” Pat Patterson in NWA back in 1958, where he stood out by wearing red lipstick and pink trunks. When Patterson transferred to WWE, he was managed by the aforementioned Ernie Roth. After a legendary career, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996. Although Patterson is openly gay and came out in the 1970s, it was decades before his homosexuality was recognized by WWE in 2012 on an episode of WWE Legend's House.
1 Darren Young
While Darren Young was not the first wrestler to come out as gay, he has certainly gained the most publicity for it. Darren Young made his television debut on the first season of WWE’s NXT in 2010 and is currently wrestling with Titus O'Neill in the Prime Time Players. The pair have achieved some success on the WWE roster, as they've won the WWE Tag Team Championships, though they didn't hold them for very long. While many of the other stars on this list came out after their careers had ended, Darren Young was the first wrestler to come out while presently signed to a contract with a major promotion and he has received a ton of support from many other athletes for doing so.