When the definitive history of professional wrestling is written, there will be a chapter dedicated to Nyla Rose. In 2019, by joining AEW, she became the first openly transgender wrestler to sign with a major American promotion. The following year, she achieved another milestone by becoming the first trans wrestler to hold a major title in a U.S. promotion when she won the AEW Women’s Championship. Hers is a story worth knowing, as are all the stories being shared on International Transgender Day of Visibility (March 31.) Nyla spoke EXCLUSIVELY with HollywoodLife ahead of TDOV, and when asked what wrestling fans could do to help the LGBTQ+ community, her reply was simple: “Honestly, just listen.”
“That is the biggest thing,” Nyla told HollywoodLife. “When a discourse is happening — just listen to those people telling the stories and elevate those stories. You don’t necessarily have to make it about you. The fact that you are there, and you are listening and putting in the effort, is showing your support. We can help elevate the stories that matter in that moment.”
Nyla admitted that she’s even guilty of not listening when she should (“you kind of find ways to be like, ‘Hey, this happened to me!'”), so she speaks from experience. For those cishet allies who want to help the LGBTQ+ community achieve equality, the first step is to employ some humility and let others have the floor. “To have these spotlights and these moments, [it] helps elevate those stories. In my opinion, that would be one of the best ways to go about things.”
While Nyla is the first openly trans wrestler signed to a major U.S. promotion, she is far from the only pioneering performer inside the ring. New Zealand’s Candy Lee became the country’s first transgender wrestling champion when she won Impact Pro Wrestling’s Women’s championship in 2019. The independent wrestling scene is currently thriving with talents like Edith Surreal, Dark Sheik, Jamie Lynn Senegal, and Amanda the Bloodthirsty Vixen, just to name a few. Japan’s VENY (aka Pro Wrestling Wave’s ASUKA) participated in the AEW Women’s World Championship Eliminator Tournament in February.
With shifting attitudes and (overdue) increasing acceptance, trans people continue to make their space within the wrestling landscape. This isn’t to say that the hard work is done. Quite the opposite. Missouri is on the verge of banning trans children from playing sports. The Arkansas legislature passed a bill outlawing gender-affirming medical care to trans minors. Alabama could be next, and eighteen other states have introduced similar bills banning doctors from providing puberty blockers, hormones, or surgery to trans kids. The fight for equality is far from over.
Even Nyla, sadly, still faces discrimination and hate. However, she tells HollywoodLife that if wrestling has taught her anything, it’s how to handle herself. “It definitely has given me a harder exterior,” she says with a laugh. “I don’t want to use the term ‘callous’ because that has a little bit of a negative connotation to it. But, it did give me callous in a way where I am able to let some of that negativity roll off my back. And, for lack of a better phrase, to address it and accept in the moment and then just move on. Just move past it and deal with the next thing ahead of me.”
What is ahead for Nyla and pro wrestling? When asked what she wanted to see happen for the trans community in 2021, Nyla considered what the COVID-19 pandemic might have on the wrestling world – and society – as a whole. “I think one big thing is learning what the new normal is going to be now,” she tells HollywoodLife. “And learning how to navigate through all of that. Not just because of the effects of Covid but the evolution of how we interact socially.”
“The overall social consciousness between race, religion and gender and all of that,” she adds. “These are all major conversations that have been ongoing for a very long time, but it seems like they have all bubbled up to the forefront over this last year. So, learning to navigate this new landscape and each be better for each other and help each other overall in the grand scheme of things. This is going to be where we should all go.”