Fuse is celebrating Pride Month by looking at a variety of rising forces who are creating Future LGBTQ History before our eyes. Today we've got Darren Young, who at 29 became the first WWE wrestler to come out as gay while working with the company.
Young was born Frederick Douglas Rosser III in New Jersey in 1983, was a professional wrestler by 2002, and found himself WWE-ing it up in 2005, ending up on two seasons of the NXT reality TV competition and later securing a Tag Team Champion with Titus O'Neil.
In an unassuming airport paparazzi chat in August 2013, en route to the SummerSlam pay-per-view event, Young gave a compellingly low-key coming-out announcement. As the cameraman asked Young about whether a gay wrestler would succeed in the WWE, a big smile spread across his face and he answered, "Absolutely. Look at me, y'know. I'm a WWE superstar and, to be honest with you, I'll tell you right now, I'm gay. And I'm happy. I'm very happy."
Young moved to walk away before ending up spending a couple minutes talking with the supportive paparazzo. "So in a sense, right now, this is your coming out," the guy mused. Young answered:
"I guess if you wanna call it 'coming out'—I really don't know what to say it is. But I'm just letting you know that I'm happy, who I am. I'm comfortable with myself, and I'm happy to be living the dream. ... I'm hoping to be able to make a difference, it's very important to me that people understand that someone's sexual preference shouldn't really matter, you know? It should be about the person."
The WWE stated it was "proud of Darren Young for being open about his sexuality, and we will continue to support him as a WWE Superstar." He also received support from peers like CM Punk, John Cena, Randy Orton and the Big Show.
The next month, Young—whose nickname is Mr. No Days Off—visited Ellen for a conversation that landed him a GLAAD Media Award nomination and introduced Nick, his boyfriend since 2011, to the world. (Taking home the award was first openly gay NBA player Jason Collins' sit-down with Oprah.) In 2014, he was joined in the NOH8 campaign by more than two dozen members of the WWE family. Folks like Dave Bautista, Triple H, the Bella Twins, Xavier Woods, Big Show and the Miz covered their mouths with duct tape, stamped "NOH8" on themselves and assumed powerful stances.
Speaking to The Advocate that same year, Young spoke of the impact his coming-out had created:
“Right after I came out, this kid from L.A. approached me at SummerSlam...with tears in his eyes. At first he was at a loss for words. He was really emotional, but then he said how much he respected my decision to come out. I knew what those tears were about. I knew when he approached me. I just said thank you and told him I appreciated it, but then we took a picture and I just thought, Wow, this is unbelievable.
Now that’s something that happens all the time, and I’m glad I’m able to reach people and have this platform the WWE has provided me to say it’s OK to be you, and if you need to be a part of a family you can be a part of my family."
In 2015, Young was left in the U.S. when the WWE headed to United Arab Emirates for three Abu Dhabi events. The league, fearing homophobia, expressed regret that it couldn't "change cultures and laws around the world" and made the decision "for [Young's] own protection."
The bruiser boldly called out the BS loud and clear, just like he did when his boyfriend's face got blurred during a TV interview at a WWE event in the Philippines. Today Young's page on the league's site notes that he's "spreading the gospel of tolerance while lending his star power to the efforts of the LGBTQ community and using his own personal story to help millions of people in the WWE Universe and beyond find their voices and embrace their truest selves."
An avowed anti-bullying advocate, Young has also shared stories of struggling with a speech disorder and being overweight as a child. Earlier this year, while rehabilitating an elbow injury, he spent time with outreach events like Reading Challenge and Be a Star. “Not only is being a WWE superstar body-slamming people and doing all that stuff in the ring, we are always giving back to communities,” he told TV Insider, continuing:
“By giving back to the community we try to spread positive vibes. We spread the importance of reading. You learn about different cultures and vibe way better with your family and get a better education. ... It means the most to me. It’s not about any money or fame. It’s about changing lives and motivating these kids for our future. They are the future. We need more leaders, and it all starts here.”
Tune in to Fuse and come back to Fuse.tv every day for profiles, videos, galleries and more on the individuals around the world who are creating Future LGBTQ History. Join the conversation with #FutureHistory and find Fuse in your area with our Channel Finder.
Watch CM Punk tell Fuse who's really punk: