Site things: This blog hasn’t been updated in a long period of time because I kind of burnt myself out on serious writing over the summer. I planned a lot of entries, even recently with the bullshit about Hugo Schwyzer (and the ensuing lessons taught to Big Feminism by women of color), and the Harriet Tubman sex tape comedy video debacle. But that just didn’t happen. I’ll hopefully explain why in the future, but instead, let’s praise the present.
Even as a pro wrestling fan, I didn’t really think much of Darren Young for a long time. He was a competent talent in an entertaining tag team, but not much of what he did inspired me past a certain level. He is different from Jason Collins in that I knew who he was before the announcement, but in much the same way, what I knew about him became irrelevant immediately after today. Darren Young becomes the first person in professional wrestling’s biggest company to come out as openly gay while under contract with them.
This is not the first time a gay performer has been under contract with WWE, but it may be the first time WWE is forced to become serious about an issue that has all but dominated mainstream culture in the past year. Unfortunately, past examples of gay performers don’t have positive endings in WWE. Orlando Jordan, a bisexual performer, was fired for his sexual escapades with an underaged boy. He subsequently was hired by the competing Total Nonstop Action (which yes, has the fucking stupid initials of TNA). And, well, this sort of thing happened on a weekly basis:
Another performer, Chris Kanyon, revealed that he was homosexual after his time with WWE was finished and said that he was harassed and bullied for his homosexuality during his time with the company. Kanyon committed suicide in April 2010.
Ultimately, the question lies in what WWE does with Young as a performer. They cannot afford to do to him what others have had done to them in the past. WWE is at a high in terms of casual cultural acceptance. They will never reach the level of legitimate sport in terms of common popularity, but their audience aim is also different. The success of a reality show like Total Divas has allowed the sort of cache that the NFL can barely touch with a show like Hard Knocks. More to the point, though, is that WWE is suddenly at a place which often is their most dangerous. They are at a place where they are holding the ball and have to do everything to avoid dropping it.
We’re likely to see a change in how WWE perceives Young, as his role as a bad guy simply will not cut it. But then it leaves a tougher question on if they try too hard to make Young’s sexuality into foreground, not good territory for pro wrestling to say the least and certainly not the territory that would label athletes like Collins, were he to be signed by another NBA team this fall. Even MMA star Liz Carmouche, whose fanbase has significantly grown upon her revelation as a lesbian, has also avoided being overly stereotyped by her sexuality, and is simply billed as a hero.
But all of this is speculative. For right now, in this moment, Darren Young is a hero. He’s broken open a taboo that wrestling always hid and hinted at, but never acknowledged. He’s also done it in a manner that suggests that this time, things just might be different. Let’s hope the era of wrestlers being bad guys for their choice of lifestyle is a bygone time.