All Elite Wrestling performer Anthony Bowens, who came out as gay in 2019, is a champion of LGBTQ rights.
Trigger warning: This story contains themes of homophobia that some readers may find distressing
Gay All Elite Wrestling performer Anthony Bowens kissed his boyfriend as they passed by a group of homophobic protesters. Bowens, who is out and proud, made a statement with his boyfriend, Michael Pavano. Some of the placards at the protests read: "Trump, Make America Great Again: Ban Homo Marriage” and “Homos go to hell.” Bowens and Pavano responded with love as they kissed in front of the protesters and posted a picture of the same on his Instagram account where it went viral. He captioned the picture: "#Standup against hate 👊🏽🌈" His boyfriend responded in the comments. "I love you forever & always."
The picture has already garnered more than 28,000 likes with an overwhelming majority praising the wrestler over the picture. Bowens is aware of his responsbility as a role model for younger kids, especially LGBT+ youth. In a 2019 interview with Sports Illustrated he touched upon the importance of being a beacon of hope for others. "I'm representing the LGBT+ community and athletes that are LGBT+, but even more than that, too. I’m representing the small-town kid who was told he’d never make it, and I’m here for the shy kid that is ready to burst out of his shell and be that social butterfly," said Bowens. “To know that I’m having a positive impact on people is a blessing, and makes me feel that I made the right decision to come out.”
Anthony Bowens made his professional wrestling debut in 2013 after playing baseball in college. In 2020, he signed a five-year contract with All Elite Wrestling. Bowens came out as bisexual in 2017 before coming out as gay in 2019. “I’ve loved pro wrestling ever since I was 5 years old and I didn’t want my experience ruined because of other wrestlers thinking I got into it for the wrong (sexual) reasons," said Bowens at the time. “The ring is my sanctuary, where nothing else matters. I couldn’t bear to think that if I came out, I’d spend most of my time worrying if the person I was wrestling was uncomfortable and didn’t want to work with me.”
He was recently subjected to homophobic abuse but he says he's developed a thick skin to deal with it. He was called the homophobic f-word while competing in a 4-on-4 tag team match. "Unfortunately that kind of stuff comes with the territory, being an out LGBTQ athlete," said Bowens, reported TMZ. "This is actually the first time that I've audibly heard something like that during a performance or during television."
He added that he was glad the incident was caught on video. “There’s always one person who oversteps the line and this time it was picked up on camera and I’m kind of glad it was because it amplifies the message that we still have work to do, but it also shows there is so much positivity out there from the response, which as awesome to see,” he said, reported Yahoo News.
"I have really thick skin, I'm kind of used to it from my boyfriend Michael and I," said Bowens. "We have our YouTube channel and when we first started that the comments were brutal." Bowens added that some of the abuse was so abhorrent that he can't repeat them. He clarified that AEW and its fans have been inclusive and welcoming. "This is not indicative of the AEW fans at all," Bowens said. "Any interactions I've had with them since starting the company have all been positive."
If you're queer and are being subjected to abuse, or need any help, please contact LGBT National Hotline at 1-888-843-4564