Two-time WrestlePro champion Anthony Bowens rang in the New Year by announcing that he was “coming out… again.” In an eight-minute YouTube video made with his boyfriend Michael Pavano, Bowens — who first came out publicly as bisexual in January 2017 — announced that if you were to label him, his label of choice is now “gay.”
“There’s going to be a lot of people with different reactions,” Bowens, 28, admits in the video, acknowledging what he calls the “bi now, gay later people” — a pervasive yet untrue belief that bisexuality is somehow a gateway to homosexuality. It’s a smart move on Bowen’s behalf, that of getting ahead of such analysis.
“I spoke a lot about the ‘bi today, gay tomorrow’ stereotype because I saw that mentioned a lot over the last two years and how it affected people that I know who identify as bisexual who aren't as thick-skinned as I am,” Bowens said in a follow-up interview with Out. “Even with my ‘label change’ I will always advocate for anyone who identifies as bisexual. The bisexual community is just as diverse with people who are firm in their beliefs of who they are, those who may be still finding themselves or those like myself who's view change over time. It's all okay. It's your life, your journey.”
In his latest video, Bowens goes on to explain that up until mid-way through high school, he had never thought of men sexually — only women. Increased interest led to experimentation which led to him to identify as liking both genders. In January of 2017, Bowens, four years into his professional wrestling career, first came out publicly. “I identified myself as bisexual because I really didn’t know much about the LGBTQ community,” he says in his latest video.
“I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives,” Bowens wrote in an essay he penned for OutSports in March of that year. “I realized I have a unique platform to spread awareness about ongoing issues in the world, to break stereotypes and show everyone that they can be themselves and do whatever they put their minds to no matter what their sexuality is.”
The decision to now publicly identify as gay came about after Bowens began researching himself in an effort to create a new wrestling persona (a common practice within professional wrestling). “I was reading some of the past articles and seeing me described as the ‘bisexual pro wrestler’ and it just felt like a label that didn't fit like it once did. I'm in a completely different place in my life now and I've prided myself on being very open and honest with people.” Though Bowens says he is not particularly a fan of labels, he recognizes that we live in a society that uses them. “So, if you're going to label me, then I want it to be something that I feel fits me currently.”
Bowens goes on to make clear that he still advocates for bisexuality 100%, noting that when he identifies as such, it was his truth at the time. This is a particularly important point, as it highlights the fluidity of not just one’s sexuality, but of labels as well. (Who’s to say Bowens couldn’t return to the bisexual label down the line?) It also underscores the need for increased visibility within a vulnerable letter in our acronym. “Bisexual people are everywhere, and we are nowhere, rendered invisible even within the movement that purports to represent us,” Beth Sherouse, PH.D wrote in a 2017 ThinkProgress essay.
Though Bowens is no longer identifying as bisexual, this coming out can also serve as a reminder (or conversation starter) about lessening stigmas around bisexuality, particularly from within our own community. It also is a welcome coming out from a wrestler of color, following in the footsteps of other LGBTQ pro-wrestlers including Orlando Jordan, Darren Young, and Rosa Mendes.
“I do take being a LGBTQ man of color very seriously because showing the world that the LGBTQ community comes in all shapes, sizes, ethnic backgrounds, etcetera, is incredibly important, especially in terms of creating more visibility,” Bowens says. “If my successes can create more opportunities for other people, no matter who they are, to be themselves or to live their dreams then I've done my job in playing a small role to make this world a better place.”