Gay men and women have the right to get married, and that's the bottom line—because Stone Cold said so! Stone Cold Steve Austin, one of the most popular professional wrestlers of all-time, recently made headlines when one of his podcasts, in which he body slammed opponents of gay marriage, went viral.
"I'm for same-sex marriage," said Austin. "I don't give a shit if two guys, two gals, guy-gay... I believe that any human being in America or any human being in the Goddamn world that wants to should..." Austin even grappled with churches that petition against gay marriage. "Which one of these mother fuckers talked to God and God said that same-sex marriage was a no-can-do?" asked Austin.
As a lifelong wrestling fan. I'm not surprised by Austin's comments. At the height of his popularity in the late '90s, we adored him because he was a rebel, a beer guzzling Texas Rattlesnake who said what he pleased and did everything he could to fight a system that didn't approve of him. I tuned in every week to see Stone Cold "open a can of whoop-ass" on his evil boss, Mr. McMahon, and as a recent college graduate trapped in a crappy job, I lived vicariously through Austin, wishing that I could be the one clobbering my own horrible boss with a steel chair.
What is surprising, however, is how far professional wrestling has come in its depiction of and attitude toward the LGBTQ community. I remember watching the WWE in the '80s, a time in which one of the main villains, "Adorable" Adrian Adonis, was a 300-pound man who wore pink eye shadow and evening gowns. An overblown, effeminate stereotype, he carried around a perfume bottle and worked in a flower shop: We were meant to hate him. Every time he came onscreen, my Dad would call him a sissy and pretend to gag, and I would go along with it. What did I know? My mom, on the other hand, was the one person that like the Adonis. "He's got a good fashion sense," she'd say. "I wonder where he buys those dresses."
Pictured: "Adorable" Adrian Adonis (left) and GoldDust
For his efforts, Adonis was regularly called the worst of the gay slurs by the manly wrestlers who were supposed to be our heroes and role models. Looking back, I realize that Adrian Adonis was one of my first introductions to intolerance and homophobia, and it certainly didn't stop with him.
Years later, the WWE channeled aspects of Adonis's character into a wrestler named GoldDust. Like his predecessor, GoldDust wore wigs and women's attire, but took things a step further by making lewd sexual innuendos and advances toward his fellow wrestlers. Often, he'd try to kiss his opponent, prompting fans to boo him out of the building. Meanwhile, a tag-team named Billy and Chuck ignited a firestorm by expressing their love for one another and desire to get married. The whole thing turned out to be a hoax, and it made a mockery of gay marriage. It was also pretty common for top wrestlers—including Triple H, Bret Hart, and Shawn Michaels—to get on the microphone and pull homophobic punches with their opponent. Watching this as an adult upset me. I didn't understand why the WWE, a wildly creative visionary in the wrestling world, had to resort to such a cheap means. "We're not their main market," my boyfriend (at the time) would tell me, and that would piss me off even more.
But every time I tried to quit watching, I was drawn in by the drama and the pageantry: the spectacle and the struggles of Steve Austin. Often, my boyfriend and I would get together with a group of friends—all straight—and watch Monday Night Raw. We'd have a few beers, yell at the screen, and every so often talk about what was going on in our lives. I relished those nights. Maybe the WWE wasn't promoting total inclusion on their programming, but at least I had Monday nights with my boys, where being gay never made me a villain. Still, I hoped to see that day in the wrestling world.
I got my wish last year when WWE wrestler Darren Young came out to TMZ, and received overwhelmingly positive support from fellow wrestlers—including John Cena, the current face of the WWE—along with wrestling fans. Unlike in the past, WWE writers haven't tried to turn Darren Young into a gay monster villain.
The fact that the WWE has allowed us fans to form our opinions about Darren Young, and haven't tried to censor Austin (who is retired, but still a draw for the company) represents a changing, progressive attitude that I've been hoping for. And like my hero Stone Cold, it makes me want to scream, "Hell Yeah!" and chug a beer.
Listen to the clip of Steve Austin below: