Gay wrestlers test ultimate smackdown mettle in professional arena.
With professional wrestling’s propensity toward sexual innuendo and an aura of tights-clad homoeroticism, it should come as no surprise that at least a few men in the sport 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. An insurance fraud investigator, Sermon says his work prevents revealing 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 page and in a few interviews. The response from Klucsarits’ fans has been positive, and he made an appearance at the opening of ice hockey events at the Gay Games VII in Chicago. But his efforts have yet to result in a return to pro wrestling.
Sermon came out several years before Klucsarits did. Unlike Klucsarits, Sermon continues to compete and perform in pro wrestling, albeit in a smaller circuit the Atlanta-based All-Star Wrestling Network.
Sermon refers to Klucsarits’ coming-out as 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 says Kanyon shouldn’t be rehired simply because he’s gay.
Sermon met Klucsarits in early 2005, and disputes Klucsarits’ claims 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,” says 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 two percent of guys in the industry make it onto the big shows,” he continues. “There are a lot of indie and backyard wrestlers. For somebody to need to define that rubbed me the wrong way.”
As for gay characters in pro wrestling (portrayed by nongay 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,” Sermon says.
Having toured the small towns of Georgia, Sermon, who was raised in Tampa, Fla., says 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,” he explains.
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 says.
In the past, he has, however, riled up fans, like when he burned a Confederate flag at a match in Fort Valley, Ga., where, he says, the Ku Klux Klan has had rallies.
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 says. “The problem with that is, they have to go with what the fans want.”
BEST BET FOR “‘MCBONGO HUNTING’
The Red River Shootout now known as the Red River Rivalry is the annual college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners and The University of Texas Longhorns. And whenever Longhorns are on the field, you can expect to find UT alum and bongo nudist Matthew McConaughey somewhere in the stands. This year, keep an eye out for his so-called platonic boyfriends Jake Gyllenhaal and Lance Armstrong.
The 2006 Red River series, which kicks off Saturday at the Cotton Bowl, is considered one of the greatest rivalries in NCAA football. A few years ago, during halftime, I witnessed McConaughey race into the Midway at the Texas State Fair for a taco break. And yes, even though he was wearing baggy cargo shorts, McConaughey appeared to possess a near-perfect specimen of muscle butt.
Cotton Bowl in Fair Park. Oct. 7 at 2:30 p.m.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, October 6, 2006.