Each week, the WWE presents you with larger-than-life characters of different backgrounds who happen to tell stories with their bodies in the ring. And while the company maintains a diverse roster of superstars, there’s never actually been a storyline featuring an openly LGBTQIA character. The closest they came was with the tag team Billy and Chuck, who were supposed to solidify their commitment to one another in a live ceremony on Smackdown.
Instead of exchanging nuptials, however, the pair came out at heterosexual and deemed the proposed ceremony a publicity stunt gone too far. This did not sit well with GLAAD, who sent out a release after the event aired. “We supported the representation of Billy & Chuck, NOT the called-off wedding. The WWE lied to us two months ago when they promised that Billy & Chuck would come out and wed on the air,” representative Scott Seomin wrote, according to OutSports.
This time, it looks like the WWE is determined to get things right. Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon told NBC Out during an event at Beyond Sport, which discusses diversity and inclusion in sports today, that they’re working on more progressive storylines.
“Absolutely we will integrate LGBT storylines into our programming,” she said, before adding that they’ll be included on TV in the “near future.” “Throughout my life I have grown up knowing gay [WWE] superstars and executives…It’s always been accepted, but now it’s about getting that message out there.”
Out wrestlers are few and far in between, but several have become more visible in recent years. Patt Patterson, a retired wrestler who now works with the company behind the scenes, came out to his fellow housemates on the WWE reality series Legends House.
WWE Diva Rosa Mendes has stated that she is bisexual and in 2013, Darren Young became the first active wrestler to come out as gay in the company. His character, however, remains straight as of the writing of this post. McMahon responded to criticism for the move by telling the Daily Beast in 2015 that their storylines are year-long and that “sometimes it takes a little longer than people would like for the seeds to grow. But we’re constantly planting them.”
WWE is currently working side-by-side with GLAAD to ensure that their storylines are handled with care, unlike what had occurred in previous years. Given the over-the-top nature of their environment, it’ll be interesting to see how they integrate LGBTQIA characters and storylines into programming without veering into offensive territory. At least now, they have a media watchdog to keep them in check.
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