Darren Young is a former WWE Superstar and will receive the Vanguard Award during Miami's OUTshine film festival on April 28th, 2019.

He's also famous for being the first professional wrestler to publicly come out while still signed to a major promotion. He discussed the locker room's reaction to this in a recent interview with Wrestling INC managing editor Nick Hausman.

"Living in a closet is no way to live because there's so much out in the world to be a part of. And to be fully present means truly owning your identity and claiming your authentic self. So there are many reasons I came out publicly. But one of the reasons I came out was because I wanted to be like any other normal couple, I wanted to be affectionate in public like any other normal couple. And I was just tired, and I couldn't go another 30 years living the way I was living.

So when I came out a plethora of WWE superstars such as Mark Henry, some of my favorites, Randy Orton, CM Punk, Big Show… these guys embraced me with love. And it made it so much easier for me to walk into a locker room and just be comfortable with myself."

This, Young says, is different than when he was first cutting his teeth in wrestling. Back then, he tried to play up a more masculine persona.

"When I first started wrestling I would cut interviews to deepen my voice, I would try to sound more masculine. Now, I don't have to do that anymore. My goal is to, whether it's on my social media or it's on the big screen, show people that being gay comes in all sizes and shapes. And I have to tell you, I don't celebrate being gay… I celebrate living my life free from hate, free from judgement, because there are still people all over the world being shamed, being bullied, being disowned and discriminated and killed just for being who they are and loving who they want to love."

While WWE seemingly embracing his sexuality, the company seemed to draw the line on one particular aspect… Back in 2015, Stephanie McMahon voiced public support for Darren Young after he publicly came out as gay. She then went on to clarify that his "character on the show is not. At least, we haven't done anything with it either way. Not yet."

It's the kind of thing Young wanted to do more with.

"Now that I'm out, I'm comfortable being myself. I'm comfortable with showing people that being gay comes in all sizes and shapes. Now that I'm out, I can have fun with it. Vince McMahon always says, 'Never be afraid to make a fool of yourself. And we're in the entertainment business guys, so if we want to push the envelope a little bit, as long as it's in good taste, and it's telling the story, I'm all about it.'

And so never getting fully embraced as being openly gay weighs on him - especially considering that another flag got to raise the LGBTQ colors at WWE's biggest annual event.

"When I was released in 2017, I was more hurt, not about the release, but more about months later, at WrestleMania, the LGBTQ colors were embraced by a good friend of mine, a straight ally, Finn Balor, who's an amazing wrestler, an amazing talent, and good human being. But I was kind of upset because, why not let me embrace the colors while I was still with the company? Why not let me show my pride and all that other good stuff?

"I cried like a baby, honestly. I was just… I was just devastated that I wasn't even invited to the festivities at that WrestleMania."

And while Darren Young was embraced as an openly-gay superstar, he thinks there's still a stigma in parts of the professional wrestling business about being openly gay - a stigma he's ready to help fight.

"The fight is still long, the fight is still hard. But Mama didn't raise a fool. I was raised to fight, I wasn't raised to lay down."

And despite those misgivings, Young says he's still proud of the work he did in WWE, and thankful to McMahon for helping him live out his dreams.

"But one thing I can say about Vince McMahon is that he gave me an opportunity, with WWE, to live out my dreams. He gave me an opportunity to be involved in an important storyline that was actually getting over by the crowd. It's just unfortunate the people that work under him didn't have my back. I don't know who, I don't want to point the finger at any one…

"I've had some great times with the WWE both inside and outside the ring. I was a poster boy for the company when it came to the community service stuff, because I genuinely enjoy giving back. I say all the time, 'don't die with the story when you tell it.' So there's no hard feelings with WWE."

So could fans expect to see Darren Young back in WWE some day? Or maybe competing for one of the other major promotions?

"It's almost like it's a long vacation. And hopefully someday I can go back as either a coach, as a community ambassador, or even a talent. I'm 35 years old. I still have a lot left in my tank. I make my 20s jealous of my 30s.

"But not only with WWE… New Japan Pro Wrestling, AEW, ROH. I still want to be able to contribute. And I want people to see me on TV, or on the big screen, or from my social media, and see me as a talent. And say, 'well, if he can be open and honest with himself, so can I.'

"I'm not hard to find… my social media is an open diary to the world. Anything I post always comes with the intent to inspire, motivate, and impact our youth, and our LGBTQ community, or anyone that gets bullied for various reasons. I'm the superhero of the LGBTQ community, and I'm proud to hold that title."

And that outlook has undoubtedly helped Darren Young, whose real name is Fred Rosser, earn this Vanguard Award on April 28th. Along with the award comes a key to the city of Miami.

"I tell people, you call me Darren, you Google Darren Young… It's Fred Rosser. You Google Fred Rosser, it's Darren Young. It's all the same. I signed my soul to WWE so I'll be Darren Young forever.

"But it's an honor to be getting the keys to the city. You know, it's major. This isn't something I'm looking past. I'm definitely going to embrace it down in Miami, I'm going to have my mom with me down there. She's my personal photographer. She's the toughest gay mom I know. So I'm going to have her down there, have her enjoy Miami, have her take photography. Putting her to work.

"It's going to be a lot of fun. I'm very honored to be receiving a key to the city."

Young's full interview with Wrestling Inc was included in a recent episode of our WINCLY podcast. The full audio can be heard in the embedded player at the bottom of this post. It it Young discusses receiving the Vanguard Award at Miami's OUTShine Film Festival this weekend, being a trailblazer for the LGBTQ community in pro wrestling, the backstage atmosphere in WWE, why he feels hurt by Finn Balor wearing rainbow LGBTQ colors, a recent creative pitch he made to Brandi Rhodes for AEW and more.

You can check out past episodes of the WINCLY here.

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