Among other wrestlers, you’re often cited as a favorite. And yet, at least from the outside, it looks like you haven’t always been afforded the same kind of opportunities that certain stars with less skill are. Do you think your sexuality is a factor here?
Atlas: I think that I get a lot of praise for my talents. I think a lot of it comes from the LGBTQ community, because I’m not just someone in wrestling, I’m someone who is good in wrestling. So I think what happens is sometimes it's hard for non-LGBTQ wrestling fans to see that a wrestler that is good is also gay. Sometimes it's not a negative thing, it's just like, “Whoa, that is possible!” They're learning.
And I'm very proud to say that there are a lot of fans that are not LGBTQ at all—and they're like, “You're dope! And it's even more dope that you're representing your community.”
But the eventual goal is to be on a bigger platform, and I know that in doing so there's going to be a lot of people that discredit my talent because of my sexuality. And that sucks. I knew what I was signing up for, but from the minute I started any of this, even before I came out, I didn't care about anything but being great.
There are more of us [LGBTQ wrestlers] now than ever before. Anyone can be the first gay this or the first gay that, but our community needs to see success as well. People need to see that we can be champions, win the Super Bowl, go to the NBA Finals. We are not happy to just be here anymore. We are grateful, but we shouldn't just be grateful for opportunities. And if that means I'm going to have to work harder, that's fine!
Has it been a conscious decision of yours to tone down some parts of your sexuality for the sake of respectability? Do you feel pressure to be less overt about your sexuality?
Atlas: I don't think that's really a decision that you make. Like a perfect example: Sonny Kiss and I talk a lot — he's one of my good friends. We were talking about how in our community, like with any community, there's sub-communities. And each one of us LGBTQ pro wrestlers, in our own ways, represents some sort of sub-community. And that's important!
Some wrestling fans would rather see Effy than Jake Atlas. And that's fine! Some would rather see Anthony Bowens than Jamie Senegal, and that's fine! And I'm just happy that we are all so different. We're not making conscious decisions about these things, we are the way we are because that's who we are.
With that in mind, do you see Jake Atlas as different from your everyday persona?
Atlas: 100% different. I made a tweet that kind of went wrestling-viral. And I was talking to my trainer about this, and he asked me to elaborate. He pointed out that I wear rainbows, I say I'm openly gay. He wasn't challenging me, I understand why he was asking.
The thing is: I'm a gay man. I do things in my life that a gay man does. But I'm not a gay wrestler, and I don't want to be. I am a wrestler. My talent should speak before my sexuality. Jake Atlas doesn't go to the ring with a male valet. Yes, he wears Pride colors. Yes, he's an activist and an advocate. But being gay is not on our skin, so the best way to represent is to show it. And I can still be a wrestler and do that.
I think Kenny is way softer. I'm way more sensitive. I think that Kenny is less confident, a little more relaxed, a little more introverted. Jake is everything that Kenny aspires and wishes to be. Fame, glory, confidence, security. I've used this character to achieve that. Kenny is more open talking about my relationship status or my dating life, but when I'm Jake I don't really talk about my personal life.