WWE referee Shawn Bennett bravely comes out as gay: ‘I just want to be happy’

WWE referee Shawn Bennett side by side images one with him in a referee's uniform and the an LGBT+ themed shirt

WWE referee Shawn Bennett celebrated National Coming Out Day by opening up about his sexuality publicly for the first time.

Bennett, who currently referees on WWE’s Raw programme, opened up on social media about his journey from being “terrified” of his sexuality being discovered to openly living as his authentic self in the pro-wrestling world.

Bennett explained how he started refereeing at 14 years old and “did my best to suppress any and all homosexual thoughts before and after that for a long time”.

He didn’t “come to my own full realisation about myself until early 20s” when he “knew it was the way of life that would make me happy”.

“I came out to friends and family in my late twenties,” he explained. “That’s when I stopped hiding it, but would never put myself out there in anyway.”


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A post shared by Shawn Bennett (@refbennett)

Despite his loved ones knowing about his sexuality, Bennett spent the “first 10 years involved in pro-wrestling terrified of my own sexuality”.

He explained how he would “talk in a way that would hide the sex” of whoever he was dating or “pretend to be single when I wasn’t” when asked about his relationships by people who were not in his “close circle”.

“I was convinced that I would never be successful if people knew I was gay,” he said. “Those were fears that I made up in my head.”

Bennett described how his coming out “crumbles the wall that I’ve had up for so long” and represents him removing the “mask” he used to protect his authentic self.

“I’m proud of who I am, what I’ve accomplished, where my life is headed and my way of life,” Bennett wrote. “Like everyone else, at the end of the day I just want to be happy, to give and receive love, both to myself and others.”

He ended the post with a message encouraging his supporters and WWE fans. He wrote: “Representation is important. Always face your fears. Always chase your dreams. Above all, always be yourself. It’s worth it.”

The post was accompanied by images of Bennett celebrating at Coming Out With Pride Orlando while wearing a shirt that read “We are all human” in varying Pride flag colours.

LGBT+ representation still lacklustre in wrestling

LGBT+ representation has remained small in the larger-than-life pro-wrestling world despite several high-profile WWE stars coming out in recent years.

WWE Hall of Fame member and pro-wrestling icon Pat Patterson was the industry’s first openly gay star. His career in the sports-entertainment industry spanned six decades, and he sadly passed away in December 2020 at the age of 79.

Sonya Deville became the first-ever active, out WWE star after came out in 2015 when she appeared on the reality TV show Tough Enough.

In 2020, Tegan Nox came out as bisexual last year. She shared earlier this year that the comic book hero Captain Marvel empowered her to come out in a YouTube video with Brie Larson.

Jake Atlas has been one of WWE’s biggest LGBT+ wrestlers in recent years. The openly gay wrestler was signed to the WWE in 2019 as an NXT Superstar and made his debut in 2020.

However, he said last month that he was stepping away from the ring indefinitely, citing struggles with mental health.

Former WWE superstar Gabbi Tuft announced in February that she is trans, sharing a heartwarming post on Instagram about her journey.

Former NXT UK women’s champion Toni Storm came out as bisexual earlier this year. Wrestling veterans Mercedes Martinez and Shayna Baszier have both come out as part of the LGBT+ community in recent years.