“Mr. No Days Off” hails from Union, New Jersey. In an interview on August 2013, Young discussed being gay, making him the first WWE wrestler to come out publicly while still signed with the company. Since his announcement, Young has been actively participating in various organizations such as GLAAD, NOH8, and AthleteAlly to take on a positive stance against discrimination toward the LGBT community. Young served as a motivational speaker for WWE’s anti-bullying campaign, Be a STAR, visiting schools nationwide and talking about the damaging effects of bullying and how we can reverse the trend. He has been featured on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, People Magazine, and the Huffington Post for his courage to come out as the first ever gay WWE Superstar which led him to take part in last year’s Pride Parade in NY and LA. Fred Rosser now wrestles in the independent circuit around the world, while still serving as an advocate for the LGBT community.
JRK: Before we get into the interview, can you tell us about Fred Rosser, where you are from and all that good introductory stuff?
FR: I am Fred Rosser, better known by my ring name Darren Young, is a WWE Superstar and relentless LBGTQ advocate. “Mr. No Days Off” hails from Union, New Jersey. I was born November 2nd, 1983 with no siblings dreaming of becoming a WWF Superstar someday. Growing up I had a speech impediment so I would stutter a lot. I was also an overweight kid who was fed a tremendous amount of food from both grandparents, who at one time lived right next story to one another. I didn’t let those disabilities of having a speech impediment or being overweight stop me from achieving my dreams of someday becoming a WWE Superstar. Over the years I received the help I needed to achieve my dreams. How I became interested in professional wrestling was through watching wrestling on TV with my dad one day…and from then on I was hooked! My dad would always take me to wrestling shows at the Meadowlands arena in NJ or smaller little high school gymnasium shows to watch the “WWF” wrestlers perform. It was nothing I’d ever seen before; it just amazed me. I knew at a very young age that I wanted to be a professional wrestler. I was so excited about it. Watching wrestling with my dad are memories I will never forget. Those were the days.
JRK: You are the first WWE wrestler to come out publicly while still signed with the organization. Can you tell us about that? What was the reaction? How were you treated after coming out by the organization and other wrestlers?
FR: Before I came out to the world, I had already come out to my mom and my best friend Nicholas, who I call Trouble, two years prior to my announcement. They are important to me. They are my support system and soundboard. When I came out professionally, one moment, in particular, stands out to me in WWE was when CM Punk, after his SummerSlam match with Brock Lesnar in 2013, came up to me in catering in front of everyone while he was iced up from head to toe and told me to stand up and he gave me a hug and said: “ I heard your story and I’m very proud of you for being so courageous to make that move to come out. If anyone has a problem with it in the locker room, you let me know, and I’ll take care of it.” Same thing with Randy Orton. He’s one guy who gave me a big hug and much love, still to this day. I became even closer to the giants of our business like Big Show and Mark Henry. Just the love from those guys made it much easier to walk in a locker room without fear and knowing that those particular guys have my back meant the world to me. I’ll never forget how much love those guys showed me. Drew McIntyre, who is wrestling Roman Reigns at this year’s Wrestlemania 35, said when I came out publicly: “HISTORY IN OUR BUSINESS WILL REMEMBER Darren Young (Fred Rosser) AS A PIONEER WITH THE COURAGE TO SAY PROUD, THIS IS WHO I AM and he’s one HELL OF A TALENT & A MAN.”
JRK: Since there is a substantial youth following of professional wrestling, do you consider yourself a role model now that you have come out?
FR: I do consider myself a role model for our LGBTQ youth and anyone that gets bullied into silence. I believe visibility is a powerful tool for social change. The importance of equality is so important to me because I feel I have a responsibility to protect and promote human rights for all human beings. Every day I fight towards a vision of justice and equity for all LGBTQ. I would feel like I was failing if I didn’t take on this fight. The road to full equality and acceptance is a long one, but I will continue paving the way for equal rights and visibility until I’m six feet under.
JRK: Since coming out you have worked to advance equality and LGBTQ rights by participating in a number of queer advocacy groups. Can you tell us about the organizations you are working with and the efforts undertaken with them?
FR: Over the summer I’ve had the pleasure of working with two really cool organizations Brave Trails Camp which works on transforming LGBTQ youth and families into leaders through summer camp and innovative programming and the Covenant House helps rescue homeless and trafficked youth and give them a second chance. The Covenant House provides safe beds, nutritious meals, and vital services to youth without homes.
From working with these incredible organizations I’ve found out that our LGBTQ youth community, despite some extraordinary hardships and challenges, are resilient and hopeful groups. I’ve been inspired by the energy, creativity, and vision of these young hopefuls I’ve met. I’m constantly impressed with the creativity and strength of the queer youth at the Covenant House and at Brave Trails Camp. Many are stepping into empowered leadership roles. I am excited about the new directions youth are discovering and the possibilities they bring into their own and others’ lives.
JRK: Individual empowerment is what drives our success. How do we instill a sense within those who are still in the closet and may have a bad self-image because of being LGBTQ, that success can be theirs?
FR: Being honest with your family is such an important step I feel in getting all parts of your life to fit together, but it’s also very important to give your family time to process the information when you come out to them. Many people hesitate to come out because they don’t want to discredit their family name. No one should ever force you to come out. You come out when you’re ready but at the end of the day, make sure you come out! For me coming out greatly improved my performance as an athlete and my well-being as a person. Instead of worrying about what others may think of me or might be saying, I was able to fully own who I am and focus that energy on my wrestling and advocacy work once I came out publicly.
JRK: You were invited to participate in the NYC Pride Parade after you came out. Can you tell us about that experience and what you were feeling while marching in the parade?
FR: As a kid, I’d always see my mom attending the Pride parades every year. Back then, I always looked down on the Pride parades but deep down inside I was living a lie myself and I wished I could someday attend a parade like my mom. Finally, at 31 yrs old, I was able to attend a Pride Parade. Pride to me meant accepting who I was and being proud of all I stood for. Finally, I wasn’t ashamed of who I was. To me PRIDE is saying to the world, this is who I am and I’m damn proud of it.
JRK: You currently wrestle independently. Can you tell us about that and your schedule?
FR: Besides the hectic travel of a professional wrestler, I also do a lot of speaking engagements for the LGBTQ community and for elementary schools around the world. This gives me the opportunity to share my story and my #BLOCKTHEHATE movement, which started with me being the first openly gay WWE superstar active on the roster. My goal has been to inspire others to be comfortable in their own skin. The point of this movement is to show that we all aren’t as different from each other as we think. We all get bullied for one reason or another but in order to be strong and successful, you must BLOCK THE HATE. At the end of the day, I want the BLOCK THE HATE pose which represents equality for all to be the next “middle finger” in a positive way.
JRK: What words of advice would you give struggling queer youth groping with their coming out?
FR: Coming out isn’t always easy, however, talking to friends and family does make the process a lot less scary. Personally, after coming out to my best friend Trouble from New York and my mom, I was much more confident repeating the process as many times as I needed to. In all honesty, coming out opened doors to so many different experiences and opportunities. If I was still “in the closet” I would be missing out on chances that I may not have previously been able to access. The best advice I can give to anyone who is thinking about coming out is that no matter what sexuality or gender you identify with, there is always support available. One safe place is my social media where my open diary to the world so anything I ever post always comes from the heart with the intent to inspire, motivate, and educate our youth.
JRK: Do you have any parting thoughts you’d like to leave readers?
FR: Word on the street is that Marvel is ready and looking for its first openly gay superhero? I’m not hard to find… and with the help of the viewers reading this spreading the word definitely won’t hurt. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter @realfredrosser and my Instagram weekly podcast @proandbrowrestling and be a part of my family on social media.