Pro wrestler Jake Atlas was just named the 2017 Southern California Rookie of the Year, and celebrated by coming out.
— Jake Atlas (@iamjakeatlas) November 20, 2017
The 23-year-old grew up in L.A. watching Mexican lucha libre and the WWF, but had a tough time coping with his sexuality. He admits he bullied other boys he liked.
“I knew that being gay was something that wouldn’t be accepted in my family,” he told Gay Star News. “In the sixth grade, I met a boy who would go on to be the catalyst of my eventual self-acceptance.” He eventually came out to his family in 2010.
“There were tears, silence, negligence and hate cast all over my small family for months and years to come. Being openly gay is still something I struggle sharing with my mom.”
Atlas is single—in fact he’s only ever been in one relationship, when he was 18. “I am so distracted and in love with wrestling at the moment that dating is so complicated to engage. I do have a dream of getting married and starting a family one day. I’m sure that when the moment comes and stars align, I will find the right guy.”
Practicing gymnastics and cheerleading as a kid gave Atlas an edge, and he made his debut in the ring in August 2016. Not long after, though, he broke his neck. His slow recovery, and the possibility of having to leave behind the sport he loved triggered a depression.
“Growing up, I had instances of anxiety,” Atlas told wrestling site So Cal Uncensored. “I would always have anxiety attacks and there were times where I would lose my breath.” Being sidelined “kind of triggered it for me, [feeling like] my life was over at that point.”
He’s back on track now, and looking to provide guidance to younger wrestlers. While Matt Cage, Anthony Bowens and most recently Mike Parrow have all come out, Atlas says the industry could do more to be inclusive. “I think they can have a bigger influence with how they are,” he says of the WWE.
For now he’ll embody the change he hopes to see.
“You’re going to watch me be a wrestler because I’m good, not because I am gay,” says Atlas, “That’s the message I want to send to everyone who’s struggling with the same thing.”