Coming out isn't easy, but coming out in a hyper-masculine sport can be downright monumental — and, of course, scary.
So when professional wrestler Anthony Bowens filmed a goofy video for YouTube with his boyfriend, he was understandably worried about his wrestling friends stumbling upon it, but he decided to let his boyfriend post it anyway.
"Weeks later, I received a text that made my stomach drop," he wrote about the video in a personal essay on Outsports.com.
"It was from my best friend in the wrestling business, and someone I specifically made sure to keep my secret from. The text read: 'Bro, why didn’t you tell me?' I knew exactly what he meant but I played dumb. 'What do you mean?' I replied. He response was that he saw 'the video.'"
He was relieved to hear that his friend had no problem knowing that Bowens is attracted to men, and that several other wrestling friends saw the video and felt the same way.
Bowens and his boyfriend, Michael Pavano, had been dating three months at the time they posted the video to Michael's YouTube channel. It's Bowens's first-ever relationship, he wrote in the essay, though he has known that he is bisexual for much longer.
"I was comfortable with the thought of being bisexual but not the thought of other people knowing," he wrote. "At the time, I was playing baseball at Seton Hall University, where the whole team would shower together. They were my brothers and my fears were irrational, but it’s hard not to think they wouldn’t feel a certain way."
He brought those fears into the ring with him once he became a wrestler, and for years felt that coming out would ruin his career or make things awkward with his athlete friends. Meeting his boyfriend was a turning point, he wrote, but he still hid his sexuality for several months.
"I told Mike coming into the relationship that I was very much on the DL because of my career, so I couldn’t do in public some of the things normal couples do," he wrote. "It was totally unfair to him, but he liked me enough to put that to the side. I did make a promise that it wouldn’t be forever. That time came when my wrestling buddy saw the YouTube video."
After realizing that his friends were okay with it, Bowens took to Facebook to make his sexuality public.
"I'm not going to make this a long winded post but I think it's time. Just wanted to let everyone know I'm Bisexual," he wrote. "I look forward to changing perceptions and breaking stereotypes as I continue on my journey. I have zero patience for negativity so if this bothers you please delete me. Thanks!"
It was a brave move, but it payed off for Bowens who is happier than ever now that his secret is out.
Queer sexualities are becoming more and more visible in sports with athletes like Michael Sam and Jason Collins coming out, but coming out as bisexual has its own challenges. So some fans are thanking Bowens for coming out, and increasing bisexual visibility.
"I admire this so much, you and Darren young From WWE are breaking stereotypes.. Keep it up," one commenter wrote on a photo of the couple posted to Bowens's Instagram.
"Nice! Welcome to the bi club," another wrote on a photo Bowens posted "introducing" his boyfriend to his Instagram followers.
While there's no doubt he's breaking down stereotypes of bisexuality and queer men in sports, we're just glad that Bowens is happy.