Terrance Griep aka Tommy "SpiderBaby" Saturday | John Swagonwheels Olson

Out gay pro wrestler Terrance Griep, better known to Minnesota wrestling fans as Tommy “SpiderBaby” Saturday, stepped into the ring for the first time 21 years ago.

On June 30, he’ll leave it for the final time.

Griep is hanging up his lace, boas, roses, boots and other wrestling accoutrement that defined the various incarnations of “SpiderBaby” over the last two decades after one final match in front of a Minneapolis crowd at Midwest All-Star Wrestling and Iron Heart Pro Wrestling’s co-promoted “Headlocks at HeadFlyer” event.

The match will serve as an admittedly bittersweet ending to a career that entertained crowds across the Upper Midwest, but Griep’s time in the ring holds much more significance than just his ever-increasing penchant for cheating his opponents out of wins.

When Griep wrestled his first match back in 2003, Out Magazine recognized him as “America’s first openly gay pro wrestler” during an era where the history of LGBTQ people within pro wrestling wasn’t as fleshed out as it is now. Griep was always reluctant to claim that title considering his own knowledge of gay wrestlers like Chris Colt and Pat Patterson. But that recognition, erroneous or not, set him down the path of helping lay the foundation for the massive increase of LGBTQ identities in pro wrestling fans enjoy today.

“What struck me, being a an openly gay pro wrestler in 2003, there were a lot of people who didn’t have strong feelings about the gay issue,” Griep said during a recent appearance on the LGBT In The Ring podcast. “The fact that I chose to open and did it in the way I did it, which was crucial to me that it’s a gay performer and it’s a gay gimmick but the presentation isn’t gay, I really wanted to make that impression. And people got it.

“People have expressed appreciation and even admiration for trying to expand wrestling, trying to make a point larger than just I’m here to be a character and fight in the ring and go home or whatever,” he continued. “It’s the idea of demonstrating that wrestling can be anything and can represent anyone.”

Griep’s expression of queerness through “SpiderBaby” has taken many forms over the years, ranging from rainbow boas to his trademark rainbow bandana seen above his left kneepad during entrances. No matter the shape it’s taken, that expression resonated with audiences and helped humanize LGBTQ individuals to those in attendance.

“It let people know that even if you don’t think you know gay people, you know gay people. We are everywhere, as the old saying goes,” Griep said. “If I achieved anything in terms of advocacy, it’s probably taking that non-preachy gospel out to people who really wouldn’t have heard it in any other way.”

Part of Griep’s gay gospel is one of his favorite refrains: boo me for what I do in the ring not for who I am. Griep has given fans plenty to boo about when it comes to his in-ring antics, yet he hasn’t backed down from using a moment where bigotry presents itself as a teachable one, addressing hate head-on (usually with that previously mentioned refrain), helping people see the wide expanse of what defines an individual’s humanity and hopefully pushing their understanding of people different from them in the right direction.

Griep did all of that during his career while winning championships and building relationships through pro wrestling, but the serendipitous nature of how his final match fell into place offered something new.

“I’ve been really surprised because this is sort of an epilogue. My career was supposed to end last November,” Griep said. “I keep showing up for events and it’s been such a gift because a lot of the younger talent, who I didn’t have a real strong impression of one way or the other, were telling me things like ‘Oh, I was a kid when you started and your career meant so much to me’ and ‘I’m not gay but I really admire the fact that you’re trying to do more with wrestling than just wrestle.’

“If you’d asked me a year ago would I want that, I would say no. It just makes me shift uncomfortably from butt cheek to butt cheek. It kind of does still, but I’ve been surprised at how much it’s meant to me and how much I’ve appreciated it. So, it feels very cosmic.”

The cosmos’s role in how events unfold is nothing new to Griep. He works as a freelance journalist, photographer and comic book writer in addition to pro wrestling. But paying closer attention to the stars, getting lost in their stillness and giving himself moments to mirror the peace they communicate may be the greatest lessons with which he leaves pro wrestling.

“When you wrestle the small towns … you’re out in the country and you can see stars,” Griep pondered. “You just look up and see stars as this starry-eyed dreamer person that all indie wrestlers are. I would always make a point of pulling over, looking up and drinking that experience in. I had to force myself to do it … it sounds hokey but it’s another one of these weird, subtle gifts that indie wrestling gives the wrestler.

“I’m having one of those ‘look at the stars’ moments. It is nice to know that you’ve improved people’s lives, that they care about what you’ve done,” he added. “Whatever point I was trying to make, apparently I made it, and it also italicizes the idea that this is the right time to leave. As Will Rogers once put it, ‘Problem with most heroes is they live too long.’ I think it’s probably true of villains too.”

With that thought on his mind and noting that he’s leaving the door wide open to future involvement in pro wrestling outside of the ring, Griep will walk the aisle, grand marshaling his own personal Pride parade of one to the ring, one final time on June 30. The stars will be waiting for him outside.