Two gay authors talk about their new indie novels focused on HIV and AIDS, and about how they were told their stories were too "depressing" for mainstream publishers.
Chris Klucsaritis got to live a major part of his lifelong dream. As a professional wrestler, Klucsaritis was on television every week, in the ring playing a larger-than-life persona, Chris Kanyon. But outside of the ring, Klucsaritis struggled with his sexuality. Eventually, he came out in 2004 but was let go of his contract with the World Wrestling Entertainment shortly thereafter. Klucsaritis continued to vocalize the importance of being out and even teamed up with writer Ryan Clark to pen a memoir. Unfortunately, Klucsaritis did not live to see the book on shelves — he committed suicide in April 2010, a year before the Wrestling Reality’s release. Co-author Clark talks to The Advocate about his experience with Klucsaritis, and the complications of being a gay wrestler.The Advocate: How did you come to find and want to write about Chris Kanyon?Ryan Clark: I was a journalist for a local paper in Kentucky and I was going to cover a speech given by Chris, and this was National Coming Out Day, either four or five years ago, I can’t remember. We had heard in the paper that this guy had an interesting story, so we decided to cover the event for that day. I’ll tell you what, I sat there, and I am not a wrestling fan per se, and I’m not gay, but it was such a good story that I didn’t want to let it go. I felt like it could probably do a lot of good for a lot of people. I approached Chris and I asked him where his book was, and he kind of laughed, and said, “Well I’m working on a few things but nothing concrete.” So I gave him my business card and told him I’d like to throw my hat in the ring. So I wrote the story for the newspaper and I talked to his manager. And over the course of the next several months we kind of came to an agreement and it kind of went from there.What were some of the main things that you learned from your experience with Chris?One of the main things is that in many ways, people can relate to this story, because whether they are gay or not, we have all had a time when we have felt uncomfortable because we are a minority. Whether that is you are non-religious and you’re in a religious situation, or you’re gay and you’re afraid to come out, or you’re of a different race, and you’re a minority that way. Everybody can relate to the feeling of being afraid of being honest of some aspect of who they are. One of the themes of the book is that Chris wanted people to be honest with who they were, and to not go through what he went through for more than two decades and holding that in. Psychologically we’re not sure what that did to him over the course of his life. He just went through life, feeling paranoid, uncomfortable; you don’t wish that on anybody. He really wanted people to come out and be comfortable with who they are, because his own experience with coming out was a really good one. Another thing was that I learned a lot about the wrestling industry and how cutthroat it was, and how really antigay it is. Another thing that Chris wanted was an openly gay wrestling character. And they’re not ready for that. He hoped that it would be.While he was wrestling, was he expressing his identity that way?He did but he was afraid. He would be the first to tell you the ways he went about it weren’t the best. There was some confusion when he did come out, as to whether he was actually coming out, or whether he was playing a character. He made it vague on purpose, because he was afraid that if he did come out 100% in real life, as well as in his job, that he would be let go. And ultimately he was. I mean it's debatable, but the fact of the matter was that he came out and he was let go. Injuries may have played a role. But he came out, and he got released. He would have loved to be the first openly gay wrestler who was playing a gay character in the WWE, he would have loved that.
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