Real gay wrestlers in professional wrestling
by Jim Provenzano
With professional wrestling's propensity toward sexual innuendo and a larger-than-life aura of tights-clad homoeroticism, it should come as no surprise that at least a few men in the sport/entertainment are gay.
Simon Sermon, 32, who has been out as both a "wrestling character" and in real life for years, is also the subject of Changing Perceptions, a short documentary directed by Victor Rook (www.gayprowrestler.com). "The documentary has gotten me some publicity," said Sermon. "But as far as all that goes, my being gay was common knowledge beforehand."
An insurance fraud investigator and private detective, Sermon said that his work prevents him from disclosing his real name. He's worked as a nightclub bouncer, and plays volleyball with a gay league in Atlanta.
Earlier this year, former pro wrestler Chris Kanyon, whose real name is Chris Klucsarits, came out on his MySpace Web page and in a few interviews. The response from Klucsarits's fans has been overwhelmingly positive, and he made an appearance at the opening of ice hockey events at this summer's Gay Games VII in Chicago. But his efforts have yet to result in his return to pro wrestling.
Sermon came out several years before Klucsarits did. (Klucsarits did not respond to numerous interview requests.) Unlike Klucsarits, Sermon continues to compete and perform in pro wrestling, albeit in a smaller circuit â€“ the Atlanta-based All-Star Wrestling Network. "We do shows on a weekly basis around the South," said Sermon of the independent circuit, which consists of live shows, with occasional local TV tapings, and Internet broadcasts via Pro Wrestling Revolution.
Sermon refers to Klucsarits's coming-out as more of a publicity ploy. "He became a U.S. champ in tag team [with World Championship Wrestling], had all these different titles, but he has since fallen out of favor and the limelight with the big wrestling organizations." Sermon said Klucsarits shouldn't be rehired simply because he's gay.
Sermon met Klucsarits in early 2005, and disputes Klucsarits's stated claim to be the only out gay pro wrestler, at least in the upper ranks of World Wrestling Entertainment. "I'm not gonna stand aside because someone else has a bigger name," said Sermon. "He didn't steal one of my moves; he tried to steal my place in history without doing any of the work.
"Only about 2 percent of guys in the industry make it onto the big shows," said Sermon. "There are a lot of indie and backyard wrestlers. For somebody to need to define â€“ that rubbed me the wrong way."
As for gay characters in pro wrestling (portrayed by non-gay performer-athletes), Sermon finds "the ambiguity of the whole thing" unsettling. For example, in 2002, a "wedding" between two characters, Billy and Chuck, made headlines, resulting in both the wrestlers and their "characters" denying that they were gay. Lenny and Lodia, another recent pair, and Gorgeous George, in the 1950s, exemplified the flamboyant yet not admittedly gay acts in the ring. Still, fans consistently boo any such characters when they are portrayed as "heels" (bad guys).
Sermon considers his role in pro wrestling to have greater authenticity than such events that deliberately encourage homophobia. "I worked for the majority of my career as a bad guy, not because I'm gay but because I cheat."
Having toured the small towns of Georgia, Sermon, who was raised in Tampa, Florida, said that despite homophobia in his early years as a wrestler, "It's getting a little better. We're still a wedge issue. You can win an election based on gay issues."
Sermon considers his wrestling as a form of activism. "My goal is to make the homophobe relent, to make him a fool. My entire career is to prove a point, so the next guy that comes along will be more accepted."
He often wins, and maintains a very physical, athletic, and macho demeanor in and outside the ring. "Fans understand the concept of the 'angry black man.' Now they have the 'angry gay man.' If I'm talking to the crowd, I say, 'You're afraid that a gay man would win the title!' People boo at me, but there are fans who might be gay, and they cheer their asses off."
Part of where Sermon differs from other wrestlers, who have simply feigned homosexuality, is his refusal to go for shock value, at least that of a gay sort. "I'm not gonna try and get a bad reaction by kissing some guy," he said.
In the past, he has, however, riled up fans, like when he burned a Confederate flag at a match in Fort Valley, Georgia, where, he said, the Ku Klux Klan has had rallies. "The promoter [had] suggested that I burn an American flag instead, because it wouldn't piss them off as much."
Despite being out and proud, Sermon is realistic about the prospect of out gay wrestlers rising up in the ranks. "There are promoters who've indicated that a 'fag' would never hold one of their titles," he said. "The problem with that is, they have to go with what the fans want."
Wrestling calendar on sale
The full-color 2007 Wrestlers Without Borders calendar, commemorating the Chicago Gay Games wrestling tournament, is now available for sale. The WWB wall calendar is printed on high quality, heavy stock, and is spiral bound for easy hanging. It features 25 of the finest professional photographs of Gay Games VII.
The calendars are available for $25 each. Proceeds benefit Wrestlers Without Borders, an international nonprofit that coordinates tournaments between LGBT-inclusive wrestling clubs.
Discounts available if you join WWB or Golden Gate Wrestling Club. Pick your calendar up at a Golden Gate Wrestling Club practice (at Eureka Valley Rec. Center, 100 Collingwood Street at 18th), and save the $5 shipping charge. Information on the calendars and how to purchase them can be found at wrestlerswob.com/calendarsales.html, or www.ggwc.org.