After Transitioning, Gabbi Tuft Pays a Visit to Smackdown

During the pandemic, she said, she had time to reflect on her identity, and she began to cross dress.

As a wrestler, she had put on a mask, grown out her chest hair and worn a permanent scowl, all in the service of creating what she now calls “this mysterious, scary dreadlocked guy” and a “brooding heel and villain.”

So when she started cross-dressing, in 2020, she remained somewhat in denial. thinking it might just be another version of that, she recalled. “Subconsciously, I believe it’s a possibility I justified what I was doing as a form of role play,” Ms. Tuft said. But as time went on, she said that she came to see her true self as Gabbi, who was “screaming to be let out.”

She said the change was not easy for her wife, who continues to identify as a heterosexual woman. Ms. Tuft said she came to realize that she faced a stark choice, between transitioning (and losing her marriage) or suicide. She chose the first option, knowing full well that, for once, her size would work against her.

“Guys would say to me, ‘You’re just a man in a wig,’” she said. “I’m like, ‘It’s a process, bro.’”

In February 2021, she came out as transgender on social media.

“This is me,” she wrote in an Instagram caption. “Unashamed, unabashedly me. 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.” Other posts from the time of her transition included family photos of Ms. Tuft, her wife and their daughter.