Sam Khandaghabadi, known in the ring as Dark Sheik, peeks out onto the crowd before the start of a Hoodslam event at Oakland Metro Operahouse in Oakland, Calif. Friday, Jan. 3, 2020. Khandaghabadi, a trans woman and founder of the wildly popular underground wrestling show HoodSlam, began hormone treatment in 2018. In February 2019, she came out as a trans woman to a locker room full of Hoodslam wrestlers before their weekly event.

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Sam Khandaghabadi, known in the ring as Dark Sheik, designates which wrestlers will match up before a "80's For the Ladies" themed Hoodslam event at Oakland Metro Operahouse in Oakland, Calif. Friday, Nov. 29, 2019. In April 2010, Khandaghabadi hosted first ever Hoodslam event during an underground metal show at the Victory Warehouse in Oakland. Crowds became so big, venue organizers had to start turning people away from the crowded spectacle gaining attention from police.

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Sam Khandaghabadi takes a moment to herself in the center of the ring after defeating Johnny Drinko Butabi during an 80's-themed Hoodslam event at Oakland Metro Operahouse in Oakland, Calif. Friday, Nov. 29, 2019. It’s taken Khandaghabadi years to fully accept herself At times, she reflects on what her mother would think of her transition. “She might hate it. But I think she I think she probably would like it. I don’t know. I’ll never know. But I can’t live for the dead."

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Sam Khandaghabadi, known in the ring as Dark Sheik, peeks out onto the crowd before the start of a Hoodslam event at Oakland Metro Operahouse in Oakland, Calif. Friday, Jan. 3, 2020. Khandaghabadi, a trans woman and founder of the wildly popular underground wrestling show HoodSlam, began hormone treatment in 2018. In February 2019, she came out as a trans woman to a locker room full of Hoodslam wrestlers before their weekly event.

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A Wrestler Breaks Free

Sam Khandaghabadi, founder of Oakland’s wildly popular underground wrestling show Hoodslam, made the decision in 2018 to come out as a trans woman, transitioning both inside of the ring and out. Not only was Sam able to discover a more comfortable sense of self, she's created an inclusive safe space in the male-dominated sport for queer wrestlers with events like "Femmed Out”, drag night and others like it. “