In the last few years homophobic slurs, slander and hatred have come more and more to the forefront. These things are slowly, but finally becoming unacceptable as society changes it’s stance on what’s acceptable behavior. Even so, bullying, beatings and even suicides over homosexual issues are a common occurrence on the nightly news. This was recently brought to my attention again when World Wrestling Entertainment on-air personality Michael Cole tweeted the word “faggot” in response to fellow WWE on-air personality Josh Mathews setting off a firestorm of responses from fans, the media and organizations on March 29, 2011.
The post was later taken down and the following comments were added by Cole:
“I apologize to any and all who were offended by my tweet toward young Josh Mathews,”
“It was obviously not meant the way it was taken.”
“I was not ordered to apologize I said I am sorry because I am. Now can I get back to being a character again please?”
The original tweet and subsequent apology was quickly picked up by sources such as TMZ who in turn posted a comment by PGW (Pro Gay Wrestling) champion The Gay Avenger: ”Secondly, we spoke with PGW champion — The Gay Avenger — who tells us he’s upset by Cole’s “intolerant and insensitive” comment … and insists the word encourages a “hostile bullying environment.”"
I was immediately intrigued by both the PGW and The Gay Avenger, as the name “Gay Avenger” was a name I suggested that the late Chris Kanyon who was an openly gay pro wrestler use when battling these exact issues a few years before his death. I contacted the PGW to find out what they were all about before WWE’s largest event of the year, WrestleMania.
Robert McLearren: How long has the PGW been in business and how did you get started?
PGW: The PGW was started about a year ago. The premise for the PGW, Pro Gay Wrestling, was that it would be a gay pro wrestling league for openly gay men, since that has never been represented and since there is a huge element of pro wrestling that is gay and is ignored and/or insulted, so this is our way of saying, Hey- We’re here. We’ve always been, but now we’re out in the open.
There has always been a gay subtext in pro wrestling and the inspiration was to bring that out in the league so to speak and focus on the relationships of the men that we as gay men, had always suspected and fantasized about with the wrestlers in the pro leagues.
We are a very small and fledging organization. All of us here have worked hard and sacrificed a great deal to get The PGW up and going. We rely heavily on sponsorships and private investors to keep the league going until more revenue comes in through our broadcasts and live shows…
RM: I’m curious about the atmosphere. What would you tell a straight person that wanted to attend one of your shows?
PGW: Go for it! It’s fun! If you’re comfortable around gay people and gay friendly people, you’ll be fine. If you’re afraid of gay people, well, you may be uncomfortable then. We’re a pro wrestling organization and I really don’t think we cross any lines that any of the other “straight” organizations don’t cross.
RM: When we spoke earlier, you mentioned having an “off season”, something that wrestling has needed for a long time, how did you come about that decision?
PGW: Most of our wrestlers/talent have day jobs and careers, plus we tape our shows like a television season. If we did this full time year around, we would all be very very tired! This way, it keeps us fresh and available to pursue other interests so we remain well-rounded individuals.
RM: What can fans expect to see at one of your shows that they wouldn’t see anywhere else, and also, is there an age limit for fans?
PGW: Like I said, we don’t cross any lines that other pro wrestling organizations don’t cross, but everyone of our wrestlers are gay and not ashamed of it. You’ll see more men holding hands and kissing at our shows but it does not degenerate into porn or mass orgies! Usually the rivalries and relationships of these men gets very heated in and out of the ring. If you’re looking for a slice of gay culture and machismo, you’ll find it at our shows!
RM: The Gay Avenger has been in the spotlight because of the Michael Cole incident, are there any other talents that you’d like to tell us about?
PGW: Where do I start? The Gay Avenger is probably the most mild-mannered and thoughtful of the wrestling stars here at The PGW. So it’s kind of funny that he has gotten most of the attention. but he is the Champion so that makes him a lightning rod – so to speak. There are several top contenders for The Gay Avenger’s title and after all this WWE/Michael Cole/TMZ controversy – they are all eager to take the Championship Belt away from him!
There’s Trent Danger, The treacherous Leatherman and his Slaveboy
Gregory Owen Peters- aka GOP- Our Gay Republican
Zack Zander- The Underwear Model
Tristan Titus- The Boy Next Door
BJ Sparks- The Up and Coming Sensation
Rex Rhine- The German Hunk
Lord Belfagore- The Unchained Beast!
Jimmy Versace- The Fierce Fashionista
Blaine LaLane- The Ultimate Personal Trainer
RM: What made you decide to become the Gay Avenger?
The Gay Avenger: I’ve always been fighting the good fight. My costume during the day is a suit and tie, at night and in the ring, it’s my rainbow mask. I’m a staunch advocate of gay rights and I’ve been working tirelessly to repeal Prop 8 here in California since that whole mess began. I’m also very actively involved with the HRC, Human Rights Campaign and I work closely with several Gay Youth Organizations, so The Gay Avenger is really just an extension of what I normally do. It’s also a good outlet to release my frustration and stress involved with dealing with people’s intolerance and prejudices. Maybe that’s why I’m undefeated.
RM: Do you have a favorite wrestler or wrestler that you pattern your style after?
The Gay Avenger: I had several growing up, but my hero was The Patriot. I kind of feel like I’m the Gay Patriot now – although Gregory Owen- aka GOP might disagree with me on that point.
RM: How long have you been wrestling and who were you trained by?
The Gay Avenger: I’ve been wrestling on and off for years and it’s slowly grown into a passion for me. Initially it was just fun. Now I feel like if I don’t wrestle regularly I’m just not myself. And over the years, my partner and now my husband played along but is now very supportive.
RM: It’s been rumored for quite some time that there are gay performers in the WWE and TNA. Why do you think they stay in the closet?
The Gay Avenger: Well- a couple reasons – first off, there is a large homophobic audience for wrestling, so I think it would be challenging for openly out wrestlers as their sexuality would probably be the first and only thing discussed about them for a long while and secondly, as an openly out wrestler, you also run the risk for being a target to other homophobic wrestlers in your promotion or league. People’s prejudice runs deep and being openly out is a lot to put on your plate in addition to how rough and demanding the sport and shows and audiences are. Don’t you think?
RM: If you had an opportunity to wrestle at WWE, TNA or even Ring of Honor.. would you?
The Gay Avenger: Absolutely! ROH is my favorite! As a Champion, You always want to play with the Best!
RM: How did you feel when you saw that Michael Cole had tweeted “faggot” and what did you think about his apology”?
The Gay Avenger: I thought the apology was lame. Didn’t you? Ooops. I used the word “faggot”. What’s so bad about that? I find it all a little suspicious also since WWE just signed that pact with GLAAD to be less homophobic and derogatory against gay people. Maybe they’re too distracted right now, signing Snooki and all. I think they know what they’re doing and are simply looking for more publicity.
RM: What has the reaction been like towards you after calling out Michael Cole?
The Gay Avenger: How long do we have to talk about this? I’ve heard it all from all sides. Primarily, the best thing that has happened is that it’s turned into an honest dialogue about “hate” language and what that word really means to people and why it’s not a healthy word to use. I get my share of jeers of course, but the last few weeks I’ve been on more radio interviews than I can remember, all “straight” morning shows mostly, but if people take the initiative to listen, we generally have a very good and eye-opening discussion. It’s all about respect really. When you use a negative word to describe anyone, it’s very counter-productive for everyone involved.
RM: Have you been in contact with any straight wrestlers from other promotions, and what has their reaction been?
TGA: No- Not to my knowledge anyway. We got a lot of letters from people but nobody identified himself to be a straight pro wrestler…
Just as the dust is settling in the Michael Cole incident, Kobe Bryant mouthed the words “fu***** faggot” on a national TV broadcast, stoking the fires even more. TMZ once again contacted the Gay Avenger for comment, here is his full unedited response:
The Gay Avenger: “In light of the homophobic and intolerant comments of the WWE’s Michael Cole and one of the “Divas” and now NBA sweetheart, Kobe Bryant, I can only assume these performers are either looking for more media attention or are plain ugly people. The way that the NBA has coddled Kobe Bryant, I don’t think he has ever had to take anyone else into consideration with any of his actions or comments. Sadly, I wouldn’t expect Kobe Bryant to show any sort of sympathy or empathy towards anyone or any group of people, except himself.
Unfortunately, Gays are the last bastion and refuge for bigots, homophobes and hate-mongers. Now that society is evolving (albeit slowly in some parts of the U.S. and in some professional sports organizations), it’s very hard for them to give up discriminating and hate language against us. Who is left to openly attack and demean if not the gays? The word is used in public primarily by people with a lack of thought, consideration and education and it is very hard to excuse or give a pass to people who are in the public spotlight who should be aware of that responsibility and who ultimately should know better. Perhaps Kobe and the like are just too consumed by their own self interests to give a thought about how their words and actions may affect other people.
How many times in the hours leading up to his murder do you think Matthew Shepard or any victim of a gay hate crime had to hear that word? Ask yourself that when you say to yourself, “Oh, it’s just a harmless word that doesn’t mean anything”. No it’s not. There’s a hateful, nasty word out there that can describe every type of person. That doesn’t mean that we all go around using them. Thoughtless actions and slurs like these are what contributes to the hostile and “bullying” environment that we, as gays have and have had to face almost every day of our lives. I don’t think Kobe or Michael Cole or the WWE Diva thought about that. Maybe now they might.”
Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000.00 by the league for his unacceptable comments.
No known action has been taken by the WWE against Michael Cole.
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