Women, Queers, And Trans Folks Taking Over Skate Culture
Pris skating the mini ramp. Photo by Mia Bolton.
Every Monday evening, women and trans skateboarders of all ages and abilities take the back alley to All Together Skate Park (ATS) in Seattle, beneath the evo retail board store, and tucked between bougie Stone Way restaurants Joule and The Whale Wins. Billed as Seattle’s only indoor skate park, ATS boasts ramps, rails and obstacles for every skill level. The Women and Trans (WT) Monday night session is hosted by Skate Like A Girl(SLAG), a non-profit that hosts skate camps, events, and after school programs that seek to empower individuals, especially young womxn, and encourage inclusivity and community through skateboarding.
The night starts at 6pm with stretching, after which skaters get split into smaller lesson groups depending on their skill level and what they want to learn. “We’ll have ‘Never Skated Before,’ people that have never set foot on a skateboard. They can learn how to push and cruise and ride and do fakies and go down little ramps and stuff like that. Another group would be ‘Dropping In [on a skate ramp] For The First Time,’ or working towards that. Sometimes you don’t get it in one lesson. It takes multiple. Everyone has a different pace,” says Soph Elden, the Seattle SLAG Co-Chapter Director.
According to Soph, turnout increased significantly when they made the change from calling it “Ladies’ Night” to specifically calling in trans people. “I personally feel like we’re raising a small army every time we have one of these nights,” they say.
For Pris, a skate instructor and co-organizer of WT skate night, making space in a bro-dominated skate world is a way of queer and trans empowerment. “I have been fortunate enough to not be like, personally harassed. But, I’ve gotten looks at the skate park plenty, [and I’ve] definitely been ignored when I’ve been trying to skate. Dudes will just snake me (cut me off), and then dudes will wear shirts with fucked up shit on them. Being edgy is normalized in skating, but it’s really guys just being misogynists,” she says.
“There’s an assumption that you don’t really belong there, [and] you’re probably not good if you look a certain way,” she adds.
Assumptions like that can keep queer and trans folks who may have skated as kids from continuing to skate when they come out. But “new skateboarding,” as Soph calls it, is on the rise. Women, queer people, and trans people are increasingly taking back the world of skateboarding. SLAG has been around since 2000. Unity, the Bay Area’s LGBTQ skateboarding collective was founded in 2017. The 2018 film Skate Kitchen explored skating and girl crews. The upcoming 2020 summer Olympics in Tokyo will include skateboarding for the first time.
WT skate nights and other SLAG events are helping carve out a distinctive Seattle queer and trans skate community. “[The] culture is so much better because it’s not based on competition. It’s based on supporting each other because we don’t have that space given to us. Queer people come together and now we have a shared physical activity that we do. It’s better than going to a bar. We get to hang out and skate. It’s so dope,” Soph says.
“Queer skateboarding is going to take over the scene hopefully,” Pris chimes in, “and leave the old head gatekeepers of skateboarding in the dust, that’s my hope. It’s a way to empower people and a way to express yourself rather than some sort of dumb sport that’s corporatized.”
Ready to start skating? WT skate sessions are held throughout summer every Monday from 6-9pm at All Together Skatepark (winter hours are 7-10pm). It’s ten dollars for a lesson and free skate and just five for the free skate. Board rentals, helmets and pads are included in the cost.