AEW star CM Punk returns with a message of LGBTQ+ solidarity: ‘Support trans kids!’

CM Punk

US pro-wrestler, sports commentator and actor CM Punk has returned to the ring with the debut show of AEW Collision from All Elite Wrestling (AEW) and used the opportunity to hold aloft a sign with a message of LGBTQ+ solidarity.

Known for his subversive persona and straight-edge lifestyle, Punk – out-of-wrestling name Phillip Jack Brooks – is a two-time winner of the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Championship, three-time winner of the World Heavyweight Championship and WWE’s 19th Triple Crown Champion, becoming the fastest wrestler ever to do so – in 203 days.

Punk has also won the Intercontinental Championship and the ECW World Heavyweight Championship, and is the only back-to-back Money in the Bank winner.

After becoming disillusioned with WWE, he parted ways with the company and retired from professional wrestling in 2014. However, Punk returned and joined AEW in 2021, and is now arguably the biggest star on their roster, with two subsequent AEW World Champion titles under his belt.

On Saturday (17 June), Punk headlined the first AEW Collision show at the United Center in Punk’s hometown of Chicago, to roars of appreciation from the crowd. Punk’s long-awaited return comes after months away from the ring due to a injury.

After the show went off-air, Punk stuck around to talk to the audience, when he spotted a fan holding a sign that read “Support LGBTQ+ Youth”.

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Punk and the tag team FTR, which comprises Cash Wheeler and Dax Harwood, reportedly grabbed a fan’s sign and brought them into the ring to talk about the importance of LGBTQ+ rights.

“I reposted something for Pretty Cool Ice Cream. It was an ice cream bar that some of the proceeds, if you purchased a bar, went to support trans youth,” Punk told the audience.

“I got a lot of hate for reposting that message. Somebody in particular, don’t know who it is, a nameless, faceless, person on the Internet said, why do you support that trash?

“And I thought about replying, but you can’t argue with stupid, okay? You just both look stupid. The reason I support trans kids trans, grownups, gay, straight, lesbian, whoever is because I know when I was growing up, I didn’t fit in anywhere.”

The AEW star continued: “But it was because of the clothes I wore, what my hair looked like, the music I listened to, those are all things I could rectify. I could cut my hair, I could listen to jazz. I don’t know what.

“But to be somebody who’s gay, lesbian, especially trans I don’t know what it feels like to be trapped in a body that I don’t feel I belong.

“That is why I support that. Until I found pro-wrestling and all the freaks and geeks in the locker room were just like me … Support trans kids, support for gays and lesbians.

“I want everybody to be themselves. Just do no harm to everybody else. Thank you. I love you.”

With a wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation currently sweeping the US, Punk’s decision at AEW Collision feels particularly timely.

Queer and trans youth have been targeted by cruel and discriminatory laws across states including Florida, North Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Missouri, with bans on gender-affirming healthcare, using the correct bathroom and participating in sports.

A map created by independent journalist Erin Reed, engaged to Montana trans representative Zooey Zephyr, shows that 19 US states now have active laws that oppress and harm the trans community.

A study published The Trevor Project found that 71 per cent of young LGBTQ+ people in the US and 86 per cent of trans and non-binary youth said that debates about restrictive laws had a negative impact on their mental health.

AEW is known for inclusivity, featuring a Native and African American trans wrester, Nyla Rose, on its roster. Rose is a former AEW Women’s World Champion.

Kenny Omega, another AEW star, has previously spoken out about how vital it is that LGBTQ+ folks “feel just as welcome to be a wrestling fan as anyone else”. Omega told Yahoo Sports in 2018 that “everyone should feel welcome to the show” and slammed WWE for treating gay people “like some sort of comedy act to be mocked and laughed at”.

Omega has previously signalled support for trans rights, posing with a fan’s sign that read: “Protect trans kids. Trans rights are human rights” last year.

Saturday’s AEW Collision main event featured a six-man tag team match between FTR and CM Punk vs Bullet Club Gold and Samoa Joe. Punk’s team emerged victorious.