Lessons from Gabbi Tuft and her Transgender Journey
In the last five to seven years, the transgender community made great strides to raise awareness of its needs and diversity. Far from being the butt of “lady in a dress jokes” of 90s sitcoms, the transgender community is expecting attention, respect, and dignity with the advent of shows like “Orange Is the New Black (Netflix),” and “Pose (FX).” According to the Human Rights Campaign, three out of every ten Americans know someone who is transgender. As more transgender people are coming out, it’s good to be keen on what their needs are to be accepted at home and at work. A powerful example is Gabbi Tufts, formerly Gabe Tufts of the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). She came out as transgender recently on her social media. Gabbi is vulnerable and honest about her lifelong internal struggle with gender identity and why she went into pro-wrestling to camouflage her gender identity.
Trans service members and veterans offer a variety of explanations for this phenomenon. For some, places like wrestling, the military, and similar fields highly associated with men functions as “gender camouflage,” a way to impede uncomfortable questions from friends, family, or spouses. Gabbi Tufts says her successful career as a wrestler and personal trainer let her press pause on her internal conflict for a while since people did not question her intense masculine identity or physical skills in the wrestling world.
For others, getting into wrestling or joining the armed forces offers financial security and community to a group that is disproportionately denied both. Statistics on the prevalence of transgender people, much less LGBTQ+ people at large, are sparse and poorly tracked. The Census doesn’t currently track specific gender or sexual orientations, and the presence of transgender people in places like wrestling or the military may be more than what’s currently perceived. Targeted and compassionate surveying and tracking are crucial to understanding the allocation of funding and support that certain communities need to thrive in society.
At home, Tuft admits that her wife, Priscilla, is one of the few sturdy supports she has in her life. Priscilla has appeared on camera with Gabbi to express her support for her spouse’s transition, but she expressed the need to separate or divorce if Gabbi wishes to explore relationships with men. Gabbi expressed experiencing suicidal thoughts because of the secret she was harboring from her wife: “We sat on the front porch, and I tried so hard to blurt it out…she looked at me and said, ‘Baby, I know. I love you. Things are going to change, but we’ll figure it out.'” Partners and spouses in this situation need support and understanding to navigate these changes, especially when children are involved. Talking about these situations helps to create a sense of community that helps make resources and support easier to find.
As time goes on, interacting with an “out” transgender person is not a matter of if, but when. Being prepared with resources from sources like the National Center for Transgender Equality, GLAAD, and local organizations like Transsocial in South Florida are crucial to supporting the transgender community in all areas of life.
Ibis Valdes is a consultant on diversity, inclusion, empowerment, and leadership. She now helps clients to press pause and refresh their brand, culture, and productivity through DEI strategy. Schedule your free assessment today by clicking here.
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