Wrestling has been a passion of mine since I was a teenager, but as a trans person I never felt truly safe being out and working in the industry until I heard about Candy Lee. Candy is an amazing wrestler and outspoken transgender woman.
In an interview with The Spinoff Candy talked about seeing the WWE Royal Rumble on TV as a kid after she moved from Samoa to New Zealand. She said, “I didn’t really know what wrestling was, but I was hooked straight away. I used to watch it with my cousins and play wrestle with them, it became a big part of my childhood.”
It wasn’t until 2016 that Candy had her first professional match, and by then she was living openly as a trans woman. Knowing that Candy was able to enter the wrestling industry, be open about her gender, and be successful has given me so much hope as a young trans person working in the same industry, and she’s definitely been successful.
In just two years Candy worked her way up to holding three title belts at the same time, one of which she held from December 2017 to June 2019. WWE-style wrestling is a very physical performance where the outcome is planned before the match starts. It’s essentially a soap opera with a physical element: it's all about the story. To hold even one title belt a wrestler has to be physically skilled to have the strength and dexterity to pull of all the moves they need to do and have the performance skills to keep the audience entertained. Candy has convinced multiple promoters that she deserves to represent their company as one of the best talents of their shows.
I worked at a wrestling company for five years and never saw any openly trans people at a show, so when I found out Candy Lee was coming to Australia I bought a ticket as soon as I could. To my surprise the venue was a queer venue called Evie's Disco Diner, which in itself is a huge step for the wrestling industry. I started talking with some fans and met 6 other trans/gender diverse people- 4 of them had never been to an independent wrestling show in their life. Like me, they were there to see Candy Lee.
The wrestling community is starting to be a lot more inclusive. This year Nyla Rose, a first nations trans woman, signed on with All Elite Wrestling (AEW), making her the first openly trans woman to sign on with a major American professional wrestling company. AEW is a newer company but their first event sold out in four minutes, so seeing them support trans people is a big deal.
Seeing another trans person in a sport that I love and work in has given me so much hope and inspiration. It showed me that it’s possible to be out as trans and be safe and respected in the wrestling industry. In the past I’ve been scared of my physical and emotional safety in wrestling environments as a trans person but better representation of trans people in sports has made me feel safe to be myself.
The wrestling industry is making progress towards being an inclusive space for all to enjoy, and trans wrestlers like Candy Lee are a huge part of that. Candy will be coming back to Melbourne on the 11th of October.