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Former World Wrestling Entertainment star Chris Kanyon shared his struggle to reconcile his sexual identity with his career this past Wednesday to an audience at Northern Kentucky University, the Associated Press reports. His remarks were part of an all-day event commemorating National Coming Out Day, which included a variety of speakers meant to foster support and understanding for LGBT issues.
"You're afraid to come out of the closet," he told the AP. "I didn't even realize how much of a relief it would be. I thought, I will get rid of the fear. I will get rid of the paranoia just by taking that one step coming out."
Though he understood his sexual orientation early on and rumors persisted throughout the professional wrestling industry that he was gay, it took many years and a failed suicide attempt to bring Kanyon, 36, to his current state of clarity and acceptance. After retiring in 2004, Kanyon gradually took steps out of the closet, first telling close friends and family and then finally telling the wider wrestling community earlier this year at a match in Ontario, Canada.
The NKU campus has experienced heated debate over the question of LGBT rights after a student, Jeremy Phillippi, claimed he faced discriminatory threats based on his sexual orientation. Since then, Phillippi has filed a grievance with the Kentucky Equality Federation, and the university has pledged to continue supporting LGBT-inclusive student groups and sensitivity training for faculty, staff, and students. "That was a big part of why I wanted to be here," Kanyon said. "We need to educate people." (The Advocate)