In professional contact sports, the queer community has often been glanced over. Be it wrestling, boxing, mixed martial arts, the word "queer" has often been associated with being "weak" or "less than".
I had my first professional wrestling match on June 23rd, 2001, and when I broke into the sport, it was not a situation where the doors were open for members of the LGBT community. As a gay 18 year old kid, I was terrified of getting into the sport. The training is so grueling that most people quit before their first day of training is over. Though there were many times I wanted to give up, I not only wanted to prove to MYSELF that I could do this, but I also wanted to prove to my community that I could do this and be successful. I say this with a humble heart, but it made me proud to be an openly gay professional wrestler in a time where that wasn't widely accepted, and to become one of the best wrestlers in the Pacific Northwest.
Fast forward to 2019, where I was lucky enough to meet and train another groundbreaker in the wrestling industry: my tag team partner, JJ Little, who is one of the only trans male wrestlers in the entire country. Together, on August 31st, we defeated Todd Royce and Malia Hosaka - two world traveled champions - to become not only the first Oregon State Tag Team Champions, but also the first LGBT Champions in the western half of the country.
When I purchased my first Strong Athletic hat, I was proud to wear it and make a statement. NOW, as champions, when JJ and I wear our Strong Athletic gear to the ring, it reminds us that we must train as champions, wrestle as champions, represent our community as champions, and bring visibility to the queer community through professional wrestling. To our friends at Strong Athletic - you serve as a constant reminder to us of our purpose both in and out of the ring, and for that, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.