Recently in its Feb. 12 episode, All Elite Wrestling (AEW) made history as Washington, DC native Nyla Rose became the first transgender woman to win the women’s championship in a major United States wrestling company. Rose has been with AEW since the company’s start last year and is one of the more dominant forces as she fights under the nickname of “The Native Beast.,” an homage to Rose’s Oneida heritage.
Several things stand out to me about Rose’s win, and all of them aren’t bad by any means. The entire time she’s been with the company, her being trans has never been used as a specific story point. I’ve seen too many examples in modern media where people have to use a person being LGBT or something else as a story point. It feels like there aren’t enough cases where a person just is who they are, and the way they are isn’t used for extra clicks on the web or views on television.
Presenting role models is always important and I feel like Rose can easily fit this title for wrestling fans and anyone outside the industry. According to the National LGBTQTaskforce.org, trans people of color are 34% more likely to have a household income of less than $10,000 and 41% more likely to experience homelessness at some point in their lives. Being able to give someone a chance to see a person like them in the spotlight shows that it’s okay to be themselves.
What was disappointing to see was that, in some circles, there are those who still used her win as an excuse to push their own views upon society. I remember reading over social media that night after her win and the transphobic comments were out in full force. As much celebration as there was by her fellow wrestlers, it seemed like people decided that she wasn’t qualified to have won the title in the first place and that AEW was taking away from the other women on the roster.
Part of the reason that I keep up with professional wrestling in general, regardless of whichever company is putting on a show, is that it’s a way to show that writing can be brought to life. The majority of the time, people aren’t going to be put in the top spots purely because they’re different. They make it to the top spots because they’re trusted and can work well day in and day out. Hires aren’t always made just because someone fits the ‘token’ spot.
Even Nyla herself doesn’t want to be known as simply a trans wrestler. Regardless of how she’s portrayed on television moving forward, she’s earned a fan from me and countless others across the country. I have no idea if she’ll continue to be one of the main villains for their women’s division or if we’ll see her turn good, but it’s going to be entertaining, nonetheless. It’s stories like hers that make me all the more excited to watch professional wrestling whenever I can.