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Impact’s Gisele Shaw shares story of standing up to Rick Steiner’s transphobic bullying

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It’s WrestleMania week, which has become something that brings the wrestling community together every year. It’s why WWE Hall of Famer Rick Steiner and Impact Wrestling’s Gisele Shaw were both somewhere in the greater Los Angeles area (probably WrestleCon, where Steiner’s making appearances this weekend) at the same time yesterday.

The story Shaw, who came out as transgender in the media last summer, tells about Steiner sucks for lots of reasons. One is that it happened yesterday, Mar. 31, which was International Transgender Day of Visibility. At a time when trans people’s right to exist is routinely called into question, being proudly yourself is an important statement to make, and something worth supporting. There are lots of examples of the wrestling community being very good about all that.

What Shaw says she went through with Steiner is not one of those examples.

I have been bullied all my life and have never stood up for myself because I’m scared that I would get beat up physically, mentally, or emotionally. The bullies in my life have always silenced me, but that ends today!

I was at an autograph signing event today at Wrestlecon and while I was walking to my table, I hear someone yelling “you’re a man” “you’re a dude,” “you’re a piece of trash,” “You are filth,” “get the fuck away from here.” I kept my head down and kept walking as I did not want to acknowledge that hate. When I arrived at my table, I spoke to another IMPACT Wrestling talent who was at the signing with me and mentioned the incident. It didn’t sit well with me and I wanted to know who was saying that because it’s unacceptable, so I decided to take a walk in that area and I hear that same person saying the same derogatory comments. I looked at the person and it was Rick Steiner saying those statements. I was shocked and could not believe that this was even happening. To have someone saying those comments who a lot of people look up to and consider their hero was quite shocking and disheartening. I was in disbelief so I asked him, “excuse me?!” He kept repeating those hateful phrases and started yelling at me in a public setting. It was inexcusable and unacceptable!

Another disappointing part about this whole incident was that there were other wrestling legends who just sat there, turned their heads away, did not want to get involved, or stand up for what’s right because it involved “one of the boys.” Judging from that experience, it was more important for them to watch something wrong go down as supposed to standing up for someone who’s being bullied and doing what’s right.

I am not writing this because I want sympathy. I am writing this because I am done being bullied to silence. Today is International Transgender Day of Visibility and I am standing up for myself and for other people who go through the exact same situation on a daily basis. I want everyone to know what kind of a deplorable person Rick Steiner is and that this cannot be tolerated. This keeps happening because people let it slide and do not take any action. If you do business with these type of people then I will not to do business with you.

I want to thank all my IMPACT peers who were present during the incident and tried to diffuse the situation. Unfortunately a member of that same peer group was also verbally accosted by Rick Steiner being called a “faggot” earlier in the day. I am very fortunate to be working alongside such incredible people in a company that has no room for hate, bullying or judgment. We’re not just co-workers, but a family.

Based on the hateful behavior Shaw describes, Rick Steiner seems like someone who would rather judge & harass people he doesn’t know or understand than meet them and get to know them. It’s probably a long shot you’re going to change a person like that, so good for Gisele for standing up to his bullshit.

The number of silent observers Shaw describes is almost more disappointing, and possibly more troubling. With attacks of all kinds against the trans community escalating, we need as much of the wrestling world as we can gather to speak up and speak out against anyone who tries to bully people out of our community just for being themselves. It’s great that Gisele was empowered enough to stick up for herself, but it would be even better if some of Rick’s peers stood up to him too.

Her post and the replies to it indicate Shaw did get support during and after this experience yesterday. Impact referee Daniel Shaw tweeted that he witnessed the events Shaw described (PWInsider reports another source told them “what Shaw recounted was 100% accurate”), expressing gratitude for the Impact Wrestling family’s response to what happened. Hopefully that support continues to come in, and what Steiner subjected her to this WrestleMania week leads to a broad statement of acceptance for LGBTQ+ people in wrestling.

Wrestling’s a big, weird tent, and there’s lots of room in here for pretty much everyone who’s living their truth and not hurting anyone else. That doesn’t include bigots who can’t keep their mouths shut in public, though — regardless of how much they used to entertain us in the ring.

UPDATE: Impact referee

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