WWE Could Integrate LGBT Characters In The Near Future And It's About Time

WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon made headlines last week when she told NBC Out she has [...]

Stephanie McMahon bio
(Photo: WWE)

WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon made headlines last week when she told NBC Out she has plans to have LGBT characters being included in storylines in the "near future". McMahon mentioned that she grew up with gay wrestlers for most of her life and it was never a huge center of controversy.

"Throughout my life I have grown up knowing gay [WWE] superstars and executives," she said. "It's always been accepted, but now it's about getting that message out there." Accepted is the key word as she acknowledged WWE Hall of Famer and the company's first Intercontinental Champion the inspiration behind the initiative as his recently-released memoirs is entitled Accepted.

While Patterson had opened up about his sexuality to just his close friends, it was hardly a secret. Even Jim Ross would make small references to Patterson saying "he's single, fellas" and the like. McMahon recalled Patterson's moment when he finally came out to the world and the subject of his book. "It's about his life as a gay wrestler and how from the beginning of his career he had to hide that," McMahon explained "He first came out on a show on WWE Network called Legends' House. It was a reality show with a bunch of our legends, and he had such a positive response. It was so warm and supportive that he then decided to tell his story."

Now, McMahon admitted there are no active plans in development for any storyline involving a LGBT character, but gay wrestling fans have been ready for this moment for a long while now. In the past, WWE hasn't exactly given gay characters class or even a bit of dignity, exploiting them for rating boosts and providing "edgy" entertainment. Looking at the Ruthless Aggression era, you'll find Stephanie (the General Manage of SmackDown! at the time) and Eric Bischoff, who oversaw things at Monday Night Raw, compete for publicity with gay angles.

Over on SmackDown! you had the engagement and wedding of Billy and Chuck. Now, of course the wedding didn't become official as Billy Gunn interrupted the ceremony and admitted it was all for publicity and entertainment and confessed they weren't gay. That was met with heavy scrutiny from GLAAD, who had originally supported the storyline. On Raw, Bischoff just had a segment that involved what he had dubbed "HLA", or Hot Lesbian Action. It was simply two young women kind of just awkwardly making out in the middle of the ring, only to be destroyed by the tag team of 3-Minute Warning seconds later. What was the point again?

Even in 14 years, it seems a long way as McMahon mentioned the partnership with GLAAD has strengthened and they are somewhat involved with her writers' room, trying to figure out the best way to implore and prioritize sensitivity. So you might not hear any more racy John Cena or Rock homophobic insults anymore.

"We've had GLAAD come in and speak to our entire writing team and give a whole tutorial on sensitivities, the right words, the wrong words, why those words matter," McMahon said. "In terms of any issues that require a degree of sensitivity in terms of how they're being handled, we are always going to incorporate our partners, like GLAAD, to help us tell those stories the right way, because we do want to be sensitive to our audience, we want to be sensitive to the community and we want to make sure that we're telling the right messages in the right way."

Back in 2013, Darren Young (real name FredRosser III) came out to TMZ when asked if he thought a gay wrestler would succeed in the company. "I'm a WWE superstar and to be honest with you, I'll tell you right now—I'm gay," he said at the time. "And I'm happy. I'm very happy." Young made WWE history as the first openly gay wrestler on the active roster. He utilizes the equal sign as an homage to the Human Rights Campaign in his signature moves and designs on his ring attire. WWE praised his bravery and received a slew of support from wrestlers and fans all over the globe. However, his sexuality was never a focal point of a storyline. Young is currently on the road to a singles career comeback with the help of former WWE Champion and Hall of Famer Bob Backlund.

In terms of LGBT inclusivity, WWE seems a little behind with the likes of Ring of Honor's Dalton Castle, who is an effeminate character likened back to the aesthetics of Gorgeous George and Adrian Street, and who is accompanied by "The Boys" who are seemingly his man servants. Castle is constantly a fan favorite and was heavily embraced by the ROH audiences. You also have Cassandro, one of the biggest independent Mexican wrestlers who incorporated his open homosexuality in his gimmick and who is still extremely popular around the world. Having a gay star wouldn't just be positive publicity for the company, but something that would truly put them into the 21st century.

True, WWE had Goldust in the mid-90's, but he was booked as "bizarre" and a lot of the material that came from his feuds would easily be seen as transphobic today, but this is a huge step in the right direction by even coming forward with this initiative. Time will tell if WWE fans will embrace this new movement when the moment comes and here's hoping so.