When homophobic trolls tell Anthony Bowens to quit discussing his sexuality online, the openly gay wrestler refuses to stay quiet.
The out wrestler, who is a part of the AEW World Trios Champions known as The Acclaimed in their first reign, clapped back at haters in a powerful letter he wrote for fans and supporters in The Players Tribune.
The 32-year-old meant the letter to be a "cool idea" as a message to his younger self, until he realized that it wouldn't make much sense given how "wrestling is insane."
So he wrote a letter for AEW fans. In it, Bowens attributed much of his success in the wrestling world to staying true to himself as a gay Black man.
Bowens said he believed in remaining authentic to who he was in the business because of his struggles figuring out who he was, "not just as a wrestler, but also as a person in the world."
He mentioned being passed over after trying out for the WWE in 2015.
Although he impressed talent scouts and agents with his wrestling maneuvers and comfort in the ring, he failed to convince them he had a personality.
"As comfortable as I was when it came to wrestling, I was the exact opposite when it came to talking," he said.
When recruiters put a mic in his hand, he failed to connect with them since he fell short in the personality department.
But he knew exactly why, and it was because he believed he was not being true to who he was.
"As long as I was closeted as a wrestler, I wasn’t going to reach my full potential."
"Because I wasn’t going to be able to tap into everything that makes me me."
Bowens initially came out as bisexual and explained:
"For a while, as time went on, I thought I was bi. I’d notice some girl was attractive, but then I’d also notice her boyfriend was equally attractive??"
"And those types of experiences inside my head just sort of grew and grew (and my 'failure' with women felt less and less like a coincidence), to the point where I wanted to explore them in a real way, outside my head."
When he began exploring his sexuality further, he said it felt so right but also "so wrong."
"I just had this overwhelming sense of dread about it. Like if I told anyone, my world would come crashing down."
He eventually came out as gay to his best friend in college and then to his family, who gave him much love and support.
However, Bowens said that he didn't want to be defined by his sexuality or be referred to as “the wrestler who came out,” or “the gay wrestler.”
"I wanted to be known as this successful wrestler … who happens to be gay and out and proud."
"And the history of wrestling (and sports in general) isn’t exactly filled with people who’ve been able to have that."
Bowens' poignant letter received plenty of support.
But some fans thought he was oversharing, telling Bowens they didn't want to hear about his personal life, particularly his sexuality.
He shared a screenshot that showed a couple of negative comments that minimized his sexual identity on X (formerly Twitter).
One commenter wrote:
"Nobody gives a damn about your orientation. Just do your job and don't suck. No pun intended."
"I just don't care, an I don't even tell anybody my sexuality either."
"It shouldn't even be a thing that's needed to be known."
"We are fans of wrestling an thats what we want to see [heart emoji]."
"It's like saying 'oh by the way [my] favorite color is green' it's not necessary."
In his post, Bowens clarified for whom The Players Tribune letter was intended.
Spoiler alert: It was not for the ignorant mouthpieces in the audience.
"I get both positive and negative comments that say 'who cares, we support you' or 'it doesn't matter..he's talking about it too much' in regards to my speaking about being an out athlete," he said.
Bowens went on:
"My kind of activism isn't in your face, but I do not shy away from talking about it when asked, and there's really never a time where I'm not asked about it."
"If you're someone making that comment..THIS part of my life isn't for YOU. It's for those that can relate to me and the struggles that I have gone through in my life because of it."
"I didn't have someone to look up to and now I have the opportunity to be that others. So yes, it DOES matter."
He listed the kinds of experiences shared by others outside of that—"whether that is just the love of pro wrestling in general, losing an important loved one and promising to make them proud, getting bullied in elementary school."
And he continued:
"It doesn't matter who you are, those are HUMAN experiences that a lot can related to no matter what your belief's are."
"If you're choosing to focus centrally on the LGBTQ+ stuff then you're tipping hand to being someone that leads with hate."
He concluded the post with:
"Focus on the things on the things that bring us all together, rather than getting angry at the things that make us different."
"You'll live a lot happier life."
"See you on #AEWDynamite [scissor emoji]."
The scissor emoji is a reference to the signature handshake he shares with fellow The Acclaimed teamster Max Caster, in which they scissor each other's fingers, a nod to the "A" in The Acclaimed and Bowens' queerness.
His response to the negative comments was a certified TKO.
Bowens and his longtime beau, YouTuber Michael Pavano, recently bought a Los Angeles home together.
They shared their happy news in an Instagram post on April 4.
“Checking off life goals one by one together. Our first home!!! 🏡”