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For pro wrestler Candy Lee, trans visibility is an everyday mission

New Zealand’s pro wrestling diva holds being a source for trans representation even higher than her Impact Pro Wrestling New Zealand Women’s championship.

Candy Lee
Candy Lee enters the ring at SHIMMER
Scott Lesh

Visibility can feel like a luxury these days, given the mandatory quarantine orders enacted across the globe due to the coronavirus pandemic. While many of us cling to Twitch streams and Zoom chats for its physical form, the cultural ideal of visibility showcased its unique ability to flourish through the barriers of quarantine during this week’s Trans Day of Visibility.

Notable trans figures and allies from all realms of sports celebrated the power that comes from recognizing, respecting and empowering all trans identities, including trailblazing figures within pro wrestling.

The argument can be made that Nyla Rose’s historic All Elite Wrestling Women’s World title victory in February got the party started over a month ago (visibility should be an everyday thing, after all). But other in-ring trailblazers such as Dark Sheik, The Great Bambina and ally Dustin Rhodes offered their own affectionate messages on Tuesday.

Another prominent voice within LGBTQ pro wrestling to offer her voice to the Trans Day of Visibility movement is Candy Lee. The New Zealand-based diva’s young career has already delivered historic championship wins and career milestones. For Lee, though, providing a positive, confident example for trans and other marginalized audiences stands as a defining trait.

“I’m empowered because it means more to me to have young people come and tell me that I’ve inspired them or I’ve given people courage to come out and be true to who they are,” Lee told Outsports. “That means a lot more than hiding who I am and not speaking up about it.”

The two-time Impact Pro Wrestling New Zealand Women’s champion puts her belief that everyday should be a day of visibility for trans people into action in and out of the ring. Whether shutting down bullies or sharing her lived experiences on social media, Lee has taken a stand when it comes to not just her own voice, but those of the trans community.

“When it comes to trans issues, I feel like not enough people listen to actual trans people’s experiences,” Lee said, adding, “I’m open to talking about my experiences, but there is a line that people shouldn’t cross and they cross it all the time … people downplay trans people.”

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The LGBTQ community isn’t exempt from those criticisms in Lee’s mind. Especially as movements aimed at excluding trans populations from the greater LGBTQ whole continue to emerge. “At the end of the day, we’re all humans. People are so fixated on labels and societal norms that they forget that,” she said.

Lee’s outspoken nature is one of many facets that draws fans to her camp, but providing positive representation to trans communities remains closest to her heart. “When I have self doubt or days where I want to give up, it just fuels me to keep going,” Lee said.

”I became a wrestler to fulfill my dream, but now, knowing that people look up to me, I feel like I carry that onto me and I want to make it not for myself, but for everyone in my community, whether it be the trans community, LGBTQ community or my Samoan culture,” Lee said.

To hear the rest of our interview with Candy Lee, download and listen to this week’s episode of LGBT In The Ring on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or your favorite podcast provider.