Long after former WWE star Gabbi Tuft retired from the ring, she found herself wrestling with her own fears about “what the world would think” if they ever came to know her true self.
But now those days of worry are behind her.
On Thursday, in candid messages on social media, Tuft, who’d worked under the ring name Tyler Reks, revealed to her fans and followers that she’s transgender and is now using the pronouns she/her.
“This is me. Unashamed, unabashedly me,” the 42-year-old wrote alongside a new photo. “This is the side of me that has hidden in the shadows, afraid and fearful of what the world would think; afraid of what my family, friends, and followers would say or do.”
As for that photo, it showed Tuft as she is now alongside an older image of herself that is bound to be more familiar to her fans.
“I am no longer afraid and I am no longer fearful,” she continued. “I can now say with confidence, that I love myself for WHO I am.”
Tuft referred to the past few months as “some of the darkest” in her life, as she struggled with revealing who she really is.
“The emotional turmoil of being transgender and having to face the world has almost ended me on multiple occasions,” she explained. “However, the day I stopped caring about what other people thought, was the day I truly became limitless and allowed my authentic self to come into the light.”
And now, rather than feeling that turmoil anymore, the fitness guru and motivational speaker is celebrating, because she has the support of those she’s closest to, including her wife of 18 years, Priscilla, and their 9-year-old daughter, Mia.
“This is probably the most exciting day of my life next to the birth of my child and my wedding day,” she said in a video she shared to Instagram stories.
It’s day she’d been hinting about for a while, too.
In early January, Tuft posted a photo of herself holding up a card — the queen of clubs — alongside a message in which she asked her followers, “Are you willing to look past the outer shell? To open your mind and your heart?”
Two weeks later, she held the 10 of hearts and promised to share similar pics and messages each day as part of the “most monumental countdown” of her life.
Tuft’s fans and followers can expect her to share even more of her experience transitioning and living as a transgender woman, as she vowed in her coming out post “to always be transparent and truthful with my journey, and to be a light to those that are in need.”
In a new interview with NBC News published on Friday, Tuft said it’s not her job to change people’s minds but she hopes that by being open and sharing her story, people will relate to her and public acceptance for transgender people will grow.
“All I want to do is create empathy and maybe through empathy, we can gain some understanding, and we can reduce the amount of fear and then slowly make a change,” she said. “I think the more relatable that I am, the more that we can create that empathy and build a relationship with people that are watching so that they know they're not alone.”
Since coming out, Tuft said she has been surprised by the overwhelming amount of support and by the extent of joy she feels. “I never expected to have an ear-to-ear smile for the last 24 hours, but I can't get the smile off my face,” she said. “It's from the heart, and it's from the soul, and I never expected to feel this elated.”