“It was Baby Sharon who encouraged me to step out of Mister Romano,” Armendáriz said. Baby Sharon was an exótico—a luchador who wrestles in drag. Exóticos have been around since the nineteen-forties. At first, they were dandies, a subset of rudos with capes and valets. They struck glamour-boy poses and threw flowers to the audience. As exóticos got swishier and more flirtatious, and started dressing in drag, the shtick became old-school limp-wristed gay caricature. Crowds loved to hate them, screaming “Maricón!” and “Joto!” (“Faggot!”). The exóticos made a delightful contrast with the super-masculine brutes they met in the ring. Popular exóticos insisted that it was all an act—in real life, they were straight. Baby Sharon was among the first, according to Armendáriz, to publicly say that, no, he was actually gay.
A new generation of openly gay wrestlers reveled in the exótico's sexuality, coyly tweaking stereotypes to confront the audience with the idea that being gay could be something more than a stage joke. They also ushered the exótico out of villainy. Lucha libre's organizing principle is good vs. evil: técnico contra rudo. Técnicos are graceful, honorable and skilled wrestlers. Rudos win with brute strength and by cheating when the referee's back is turned. Where the early exóticos had been exclusively rudos, some of the new generation began to assume the role of técnico.El Pas Times: El Paso-born openly gay, cross-dressing luchador has fought battles in and out of the arena
Cassandro doesn't feel that his sexuality has hampered his career, in which he became the first exótico to hold a title in one of Mexico's top wrestling promotions, the UWA World Lightweight Championship in 1992.NPR: In Macho Mexico's Lucha Libre, The 'Lady' Is Often The Champ
"Of course, I've had drinks thrown at me, people in the crowd wanting to take a shot at me, but that happens to all the luchadors, gay or not," he explains. "It's part of the show; you're there to be either loved or hated.
"But the reactions I get, even in Mexico, are mostly positive. I have fans of both sexes and all ages. Women will yell at me to come over and kiss their husbands, which I do. It's part of the craziness of the show."
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