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Wrestling with Reality – the birth of Gabbi Tuft

I woke up late today. Glancing at the snow outside, making a quick coffee and sliding back under the duvet, I opened Twitter on my phone to see that wrestling legend Gabe Tuft aka Tyler Reks has actually been a woman all along. Who would have guessed it?

Gabe had posted a press release on Twitter, serenading his ‘long awaited gender reveal’.

The press release revealed that Gabe had been ‘wrestling with a secret persona dwelling deep within him. This is a persona he has been hiding in the loud silence of his soul since childhood. Finally, with the blessing of his loving wife Priscilla, Gabe is ready to reveal who he really is. “He” is now known as “She”: A beautiful, wise, witty and wonderful woman called “Gabbi.” 

Comments on his Twitter account flew in, congratulating him on his ‘brave step’ on ‘living his truth’ and ‘living his best life’. ‘Girl, you’re a goddess’ commented one. ‘You are gorgeous!’ added another.  Other comments included, ‘You are so brave and an inspiration to all’ and ’embrace who you truly are.’

Two days to go

Looking through Gabe/Gabbi’s social media accounts, the viewer sees that there has been a carefully choreographed countdown to this ‘reveal’, involving playing cards from the hearts suit, numbered down from 10 to the Ace.

Even Gabe’s young daughter is involved: the three-days-to-go photo shows a beautifully shot portrait of her smiling between her parents, clutching the three of hearts. Did she know the significance of the playing card when she posed for the photo with her mummy and daddy, I wondered?

So what makes a macho self-described ‘Alpha male’ believe that he has actually been a woman all along?

Wrestling with Reality

In an effort to try to understand, I scroll through Gabe’s Instagram, watch the video there and listen to the second podcast in the ‘Her’ series, where Gabe talks with his wife Priscilla. Priscilla describes herself as a reiki master, energy healer and clairvoyant. She tells listeners that she is willing to use female pronouns for her husband when he is ready but currently refers to him as ‘he’ and ‘Gabe’.

Gabe created a ‘coming out’ video in December 2020 but didn’t make it public until February 2021. ‘Why would I want to transition to female?’ he asks, explaining that his feelings are linked to putting toys up his T-shirt to pretend he was pregnant, age four, and trying on his mum’s clothes age ten. About three years ago he says, he started ‘exploring his feminine side in the bedroom and dressing up’. Eventually, removing the wig and make up would make him cry. We discover that Priscilla, his wife of 18 years, eventually felt unable to cope with the cross dressing in the bedroom, telling him tactfully ‘I am not sexually attracted to females’.  Gabe appears to have considered this explanation to be reasonable.

In the ‘Her’ podcast, Gabe introduces himself as “Founder of Body Spartan, former WWW superstar Tyler Rex, motorcycle road racer – lot of boy stuff there,” concluding, “I am currently in the process of transitioning from male to female.”

“So what does that mean?” probes Priscilla.

“What do you mean, what does that mean?” replies Gabe, with a laugh.

“You had the whole world.” says Priscilla, who appears to perfectly balance the combined roles of supportive wife and perceptive therapist. “You’ve got a fitness model wife, a successful business, a happy little third grade daughter, our dream home: what feels dissonant to you about that? Why would you want to change everything? What makes you ok not being a man any more?”

Gabe says he is tired of being a provider. Over the course of the podcast he tells us more, including the following extracts.

“I’m tired of striving, trying to leave a mark on this planet. It feels like failure…  I needed to be the alpha dog, the alpha male…  I had to let the ego die…  I don’t want to fight anymore… I’m doing it for me because I feel like this is who I’ve always been… I don’t wanna fight any more, I don’t want to struggle…  I don’t wanna be muscular, I don’t wanna be masculine, I wanna be a passable female.”

“Why?” inquires Priscilla, gently.

“I wanna look in the mirror and feel confident, I wanna feel pretty…  I wanna be accepted in that gender…  last night I had that top on and I looked at my back and I thought, I look like a guy…  I  don’t wanna look like a guy,” said Gabe, who is 6ft 3″ and at his heaviest weighed 280lbs.

“You were born so beautiful,” says Priscilla, wistfully.“Why do you want people to see you as a female?”

“I think it’s because that is my authentic self.” replies Gabe, seriously.

Gabe is very open about his life and transition. We learn that he took steroids in the past, and specifically that he took testosterone again when he was attempting to ‘kill’ (his words) his alter-ego, Gabbi. Priscilla refers to the ‘beast that has to come out’ when Gabe takes steroids. “You always think you can control the beast,” added Gabe, who told his wife he had stopped cross-dressing but slipped out and dressed up behind her back. Priscilla knew about this because she is clairvoyant and spirits tell her things.

“I thought you knew it was ok for you to dress up,” Priscilla tells him, adding, “You were not being nice at this time, you were being mean.” He contradicts her. He was being silent he says, not mean.

Priscilla says, “He hit his head for a living for so many years that he forgets a lot of things.”

“Guns all over the house, 3,000 rounds in the garage, our house is set up like a crow’s nest,” observed Priscilla. “Nobody has more firearms and ammo than you Gabe.”

“I’ve got three pistols, I’ve got all the guy stuff.” acknowledges Gabe cheerfully, adding that he has a gun licence to open carry and never goes anywhere unarmed.

Gabe tells us that his brother committed suicide by shooting himself in the head and Priscilla says she ‘sensed suicide energy’ coming from Gabe when he tried to stop cross-dressing.

“It was like a shotgun shell and I was waiting for you to explode.” she says. “There was no life in his eyes. He had left the building.”

Priscilla tells listeners that she has had past issues in their relationship with co-dependency and subservience. We learn that ‘spirit’ had told her there would be an accident if her husband felt guilty. Gabe agrees that he was a suicide risk. He says he keeps a gun on the top shelf in his closet, and he would look at it and imagine shooting himself.

At one point Priscilla tells listeners that she’s going to reach out to the local LGBT centre.

“I’m scared to talk to them but this is my role now,” she says, addressing her own feelings for the first time in the podcast.

Gabe cuts across her and begins talking about how much weight he’s lost.

Towards the end of the podcast Gabe says:

“I would rather die than not live my life as a woman.”

After a long pause Priscilla says softy, “And so it is.”

Another pause and she adds,  “I guess we stop there. If you have the love of your life in a space where they don’t want to go on, it is delicate… and the only option for us is to support them and hold space for them with unconditional love. Those are the hard things to talk about.”

As her voice breaks, Gabe chimes in, “On that note, I’m going to go and paint my nails. They’re dead.”

You can hear Priscilla and Gabe’s podcasts here.

In the glare of the media

Women’s Voices shared the ‘Extra Exclusives’ clip on Twitter, which you can see here. Priscilla gazes at Gabe throughout, smiling and silent, dropping her eyes only when he tells interviewer Billy Bush that they no longer have sex.

Gabe inclines his head, waves his silver nails and speaks in a little girl voice which is very different to the voice he uses in the podcasts with his wife.

“There’s probably a bunch of people that look at you and think ‘if she can do it then I can do it!” declares Bush, ostensibly without irony.

Gabe agrees, says he hopes sharing his story “will be a ray of hope that keeps somebody with us, that keeps them alive, that makes them think ‘yes, I can do this too.’

Priscilla smiles and her white teeth sparkle.

Classic autogynephillia

What we are not supposed to talk about is autogynephillia, a word derived from the Greek for ‘love of oneself as a woman’.  Autogynephillia, a term coined by Ray Blanchard, is ‘a male’s propensity to be sexually aroused by the thought of himself as a female’,  referring to “the full gamut of erotically arousing cross-gender behaviors and fantasies”.

In her 2019 interview with Ray Blanchard, Louise Perry reports “Autogynephiles are typically sexually attracted to women, although they may also identify as asexual or bisexual. They are more likely to transition later in life and to have been conventionally masculine in presentation up until that point.”

This is perhaps the ultimate narcissim.  When men choose not only to transition but to splash that transition all over social media and the press, it suggests that they have little awareness or concern for how their choices may confuse and damage their offspring or humiliate and devastate their partners. In contrast, women are expected to make endless a sacrifices for their children and partners. At one point in the podcast Gabe comments to Priscilla that their daughter is in the adjacent room. “I will go to her if she needs anything. You can be yourself.” she says, gently.

Where are all the middle-aged woman suddenly finding their ‘authentic’ selves, and the husbands smiling, supporting and affirming?

Does it really help a late-transitioning man to suggest to him that he will ever really be perceived as a woman? Or will he have enough affirming people around him to preserve the fragile eggshell of the illusion?

Why do I care?

To those who ask me that, I would counter question with ‘why do people have so much trouble seeing how incredibly insulting this is to women?’  When men can say they are women it creates a ripple effect that we ignore at our peril. Where does it leave women, especially young women who are uncomfortable performing femininity?

When a man is heralded as stunning and brave, as holding some mysterious essence of womanhood that can be expressed through long hair, a low-cut top, giant boobs and silver nail polish, what is a young woman who rejects or lacks these attributes supposed to think? That she is somehow less of a woman than he?

A woman is not a giant Barbie doll. These words may be hurtful to some but we, as women, are hurt every time a man is affirmed for believing these trappings and adornments can actually make him female.

Sometimes there are more important things than being nice.

Gabe describes his transition to Gabbi as becoming ‘unashamedly, unabashedly me… I truly became limitless and allowed my authentic self to come into the light.’ But not too much light.  The wig, fake breasts and layers of make up would suggest otherwise.

‘The outer shell may change but the core remains the same.”

Is that what womanhood is? An outer shell? Is that what is now meant by authenticity? Gabe is not alone in suggesting so. In fact anyone suggesting that men can become women asserts that womanhood is little more than an outer shell, that a woman’s biology is insignificant, irrelevant, unworthy of mention. We all know how demonised a woman becomes should she claim the definition of woman is ‘adult human female’.

There is more to consider here than the feelings of autogynephillic men. We should not be surprised when the loving wives of gun-carrying suicidal husbands smile and smile and support and support.  How about we consider the feelings of the children who grow up seeing their daddy parodying womanhood?  The media has no time for their stories and the public has no inclination to listen. They are just women and children, and middle-aged transition is a story about men.

So when I say “Can we stop now please?” my intention is not to dehumanise or mock anyone. I am just trying to encourage us all to see further than the brave transwoman who has found her authentic self.

“What does society say to a little boy?” asks Priscilla. “Do not rock that plastic baby. Pick up your damn pellet gun and go shoot some squirrels. Man up. Boys don’t cry.”

“As boys, anything feminine is for girls and we don’t touch that or else we get beat up.’ says Gabe.

Now there’s something we should be fighting to change.

 

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