A Convo on the Queer & Trans Takeover of Skateboarding

A few months ago, we asked some of the Autostraddle crew if any of them had a connection to skateboarding. A few said they tried it when they were younger, others said they never really got into it at all, and some said not only were they into it but they were in the middle of picking it back up—or looking for a sign to start to.

So we asked a.Tony, Niko, and Abeni if they would be down to not only chat about their history with skateboarding and the queer future of it all, but if they would be down to try out new boards! The homies over at Magneto Boards sent them over a skateboard of their choice to help in reconnecting with skating!

So they rode their boards, took lots of cute queer pics, and had a chat about how skateboarding—is pretty fucking queer.


Our Intro To Skateboarding

a.Tony, Niko, and Abeni holding their skateboards

Abeni: I skated probably every day from age 12 to age 20. In my twenties, I slowed down a lot, but still skated infrequently. After I transitioned, I barely skated at all but I kept following skateboarding.

a.Tony: As anyone will tell you, I am not a skateboarder by any means, I wanted to be one when I was a kid. I followed skateboarding too but, let me be clear. I followed it like the nerd who goes to the library and checks out fifteen books on skateboarding and eavesdrops on boys’ conversations about it—the days before social media were something, huh?

Niko: I skated when I was young, there was another kid around the corner from me who would ride his board up and down the street all day on one of those big boards we had in the late 80s that was like a small car.

a. Tony: I only had that like, weird skateboard/scooter combo that worked better as a boat for the cement sidewalk seas than either of the things they were emulating.

Niko: I kept skating with friends though until we started getting older, and then skating began to feel very masculine in a way that made me uncomfortable. The more it became about like, pushing myself to be some version of strong that felt very coded in something else—I just kind of fell out of the habit.

Abeni: When the pandemic hit I moved alone to a smaller town—it had a skatepark and I needed something to do. I was really inspired by Leo Baker’s story, and I even got to interview him! and speaking then I got on social media, and was inspired by this trans skater who started to blow up on IG named Arin. She got sponsored by Jerry Hsu’s company Sci-Fi Fantasy, and with all of that happening—I decided to pick skateboarding back up.

a.Tony: I actually decided to try skateboarding again when the pandemic started too. I came across Braille Skateboarding and there was a huge “anyone can skateboard!” vibe and I was like “I’m an anyone! Let me try!” I had looked up skateboards for fat people, but was really discouraged that a lot of protective equipment probably wouldn’t fit me, and gave up for like two days. Then, I went to a Zumiez and asked for help getting a board. I had a Black kid (it is completely possible we were the same age, sometimes I see us as kids still), who was really helpful and I walked out feeling very accomplished.

Abeni: When I picked it back up, I relearned a few tricks, but I’m 35 now and I’m out of shape. It’s tough when you’re old, falls hurt a lot more! Now I get winded pushing down the street.

Abenis feet on a skateboard

a.Tony: I had been super dedicated to it in my lil neighborhood for a couple of months, watching a couple of Braille Skateboarding videos and just trying to get on the damn thing without fear. I had ridiculously, tried in my garage first, but didn’t know how little resistance there’d be and immediately fell in a way that if I hadn’t had a helmet on, would’ve been much worse than a concussion. That scared me for a while, so I looked up videos on how to properly fall just to like, make my anxiety better about the inevitability of falling, and that helped me get back on the board and try again. 

Niko: I transitioned when I was already in my 30s and I feel that “Oh no I’m old and my body isn’t in great shape” vibe a lot. Also, I wrote about Leo Baker too when that doc came out on Netflix! It was SO heartwarming to watch that doc and see a struggle that I felt in my heart. I kind of put it away as a sport I participated in, It’s been nice to watch skating become a sport that is trying to bring in more queer and trans folks. It’s always just been a very aesthetically pleasing sport to watch, the same as basketball which I am also very bad at.

a.Tony: Wait Niko! I love basketball too! We should watch it together.

Niko: The more poetic the movement in a sport the better the vibes, IMO. Also—Honestly I am here for the queer takeover of skating.

On Skateboarding & Queerness

2 photos of Abeni on her skateboard

Abeni: I have a story that is ABSOLUTELY TRUE:

When I was about 17, I went on vacation to Mexico with my family and some family friends. One night, some of the other teens wanted to go drinking and dancing, and we walked to El Squid Roe or someplace like that, and I couldn’t get in. The other teens either were 18 or had a fake ID, so they went and partied, and I hung out in the parking lot feeling left out. Then a man and his little entourage walked by, and I couldn’t believe it – it was Anthony Van Engelen, a legendary skater who was huge at the time; Photosynthesis hadn’t been out too long, and that was one of the videos I had on VHS.

For some reason, he let me talk to him. I don’t know if they were on tour, or why he was there, and I don’t remember our conversation, but I do remember lamenting that I was outside the club and the other kids were inside. I’ll never forget what he told me: “I can have more fun out here in the parking lot than I would ever have inside a place like that.” This was extremely inspirational to young me. I was never very cool. Skateboarding wasn’t cool back then; it was for losers and outcasts and burnouts, but I wasn’t that either, so I was always kind of an outsider even among the skaters.

I think skateboarding has always been counter-cultural and is very unique among sports in that way. Every other sport you engage in is at a park or in some kind of defined area or with defined rules, but for skateboarding, the whole point of it is basically that you’re destroying public property! You’re grinding handrails and benches and curbs. It’s basically illegal. There’s a common adage: you can build an amazing skate park, but there will always be kids skating in the empty lot next door.

Niko: I grew up really remote, so mainstream media is kind of all we got, there was no underground or anything of that nature. Skating seemed like this, very heterosexual masculine thing,  because that is what was packaged and sold to me when I was young and impressionable and looking for definition in myself.

I think you nail it really well Abeni, it’s always been this symbol of counterculture and yet, like so many things, the dominant vision of that culture can still be so homogenous. I think about punk rock and skate culture as these interesting analogs to each other, forces that speak at length about a system of oppression that they are standing against. The dare to be different of it all. And yet, especially in mainstream media, so much of the lens on these scenes is “look at all these cishet white guys.”

It’s something I mentioned in my write-up on the Leo Baker doc, and I think it holds true: skating feels very queer, very trans to me. A sport in which you push yourself and fail and falter only to dust yourself off and push again until you make it. There’s something in that that feels—at least to me—how queerness and being trans came to me. Not all at once but a push and a fall and further attempts until it became natural and fluid.

Nikos feet on a skateboard

Abeni: When I transitioned, there wasn’t much of a space in skateboarding for women, let alone trans women. But there didn’t need to be, necessarily; skateboarding has always been about making your own space. Still, I was inspired when queer and trans skaters started making space. And I’m really excited about how big women’s skateboarding is getting. I wish OGs like Alexis Sablone and Elissa Steamer had access to the resources today’s young women skaters do so they didn’t have to have other full-time jobs to make ends meet, but the progress is exciting.

Niko: I think skating as a culture is getting more and more visibly queer. There was the AMAZING series Betty (based on the film Skate Kitchen) which ran for two seasons on HBO before it was canceled (boo) that I loved following a group of women in NY that felt like the door opening wider still.

a.Tony: I agree with you Niko about Betty and Skate Kitchen! One of the things that really got me excited about skateboarding was Skate Kitchen, then mid-90s—which if you decide to check out, just like, skip the first ten minutes because that is one of the most triggering conversations I’ve ever heard—then Betty. Black queer girls skateboarding is absolutely a facet of my sexuality and I didn’t even know Black girls were out here doing it like that. Though I shouldn’t be surprised because we’re everywhere and contain multitudes even when others refuse to acknowledge them.

One of the things I love love love about skateboarding culture is the filmmaking—and I mean outside of the scripted shows. Many of the documentaries and films I see amaze me not just because of their kind of DIY nature, but because there are really poignant moments that stick with me long after.

After watching Minding the Gap, Keire said “Today, they’d probably call that child abuse.” when talking about how his family treated him, and there was a  little bit of silence afterward. There is so much around how our families raised us, that doesn’t fall in line with what we know now. It’s disconcerting, dizzying, and mostly terrible, and just in that one moment—I felt understood. I cannot imagine any other piece of media that has done so much work for me in less than thirty seconds, and that wasn’t even necessarily its goal.

2 photos of a.Tony on a skateboard smiling!

Niko: When I look at pop culture, for instance, skaters on Instagram, I see more and more trans folks and queer folks. It feels like the needle is moving closer to where it always should have been. It’s really exciting to watch it change, to see queer scenes emerge in skating culture, and to wonder where this is all going to go. I think about my three nieces who are rapidly turning into teenagers and exploring sports and one of them the other day told me she bought a skate deck and I just thought—sometimes life is surprising and fucking rad—and sometimes things change in ways that surprise and delight you still, even after all this time.

Skating is queer as fuck, and I hope we continue to support it, push it, and watch it become bigger and gayer.

Picking A Board

Abeni: I’ve never really had a cruiser board before. It was smaller than I expected! Because I’m huge and have large feet I usually go with an 8.5” board, but this one was 7.5” and was much shorter than I expected. But for a cruiser that doesn’t matter as much, and I’ve enjoyed the quick control I’ve been getting.

I’ve only taken it out for a couple spins because it’s been raining where I live, but it feels pretty smooth. I like the clear grip tape because the design of the board is pretty cute. I like the wood grain. The board came assembled, which was fine even though it came with a skate tool.

When I was young, building one’s own skateboard was a pretty important activity—selecting the bearings, the deck, applying the grip tape, etc.—but I don’t have time anymore! I’m happy it was just a complete.

Niko: When I unpacked the board in the house the first thing I noticed was just that it was so beautiful. Like, I want to hang this on the wall in my office beautiful. I had never heard of Magneto, and I sent a photo to some friends that are better and cooler skaters than me and they were like “Oh fuck, that’s sick, I can’t believe you got one of those”. So that felt nice too.

I took it out on the street and went for a ride while my fiance walked along and took photos and every time we stopped it was “I feel bad for scuffing up this beautiful board!”

I was glad it came complete too Abeni! but with a tool to tighten and loosen when I needed to, which I did. I felt young again, and also like the version of myself I wanted to be when I was a teenager.

I got the SUV board, and it was so comfortable for me as a taller woman (6’2”) with big feet. Honestly, this became my daily rider. I don’t commute anywhere on a daily basis but if I did I would ride this. As it is, when I have little errands to run? This board is gonna be under my feet.

Niko Riding her skateboard

a.Tony: I’d never heard of Magneto til now! I got the same board as you Niko and it is so damn pretty I gotta practice a whole lot before I can just go around with it. I gotta be able to back up the reason I have such a gorgeous board. It came already assembled and with a free skate tool too! I am learning about Magneto as a company, and going through their Instagram I know I’ve seen more Black people skateboarding and talking about their love of it in a five-minute scroll than I have looking through the #skateboarding tag alone.

Although there is a constant, “Skateboarding is for everybody!” kind of tagline attached to the sport, I’ve found it a little harder to find Black people, especially Black queer people—especially Black Fat queer people—who skateboard. It’s been difficult to even take up the hobby because I didn’t see a lot of people like me even trying it.

Even though I haven’t seen fat Black people on there (yet, I’m still scrolling!), I already appreciate Magneto’s presence just because I’ve seen so many more people like me. Seeing Black people just full of joy and enjoying themselves is a gift I do not take lightly. So, Magneto was already a follow and top of my list favorite just because of that. This board and the socials make me want to get skate shoes again and just go out there and try. I really thought I’d given up on skateboarding but I’m really thankful to Magneto Skateboards for giving me a reason to make “Skateboarding is for everybody!” apply to me too.

On Skateboarding Today

a.Tonys feet on a skateboard

Abeni: I am out of shape and as such skateboarding is difficult. I get tired so fast! But hopefully, as I get back into it—using the Magneto board which is a cruiser—to get around instead of driving, I can start to build my strength back up.

The activities I like the best—like hiking, camping, rock climbing, cycling, and skateboarding—are really embodied and help me to love and feel at home in my body. Rock climbing and skateboarding are the best because they’re also creative and bring my brain and my body together. They’re excellent mental health activities for me.

Niko: I’m just starting to get back into it after an absence, and it’s a lot of stopping and starting. But getting back on a board and feeling that movement under my feet, and feeling free for just the briefest of moments is so nice. My life is very busy these days, and it feels like I’m so rarely afforded any time to just be. I like skating to allow myself to just be for just a minute.

Also, like I said earlier, I’m 40 and a bit in rough shape. The other day I went for a quick ride and came home and my shins hurt. BUT it’s honestly so incredible to think that my shin muscles (i don’t know if that’s what they are) are sore from skating.

a.Tony: One of the things I’d really love to do is attend Chub Rollz’ virtual skate sesh. I wanna like, somehow get to a point where I can just cruise without fear. I definitely have to wait a bit because I’m just getting back to a little bit of shape after months of terrible asthma attacks and I don’t want to fuck things up. I am a very end-of-the-journey-focused person and it keeps me from trying a lot of things. Skateboarding was definitely something that I knew I wouldn’t be good at and it was a lot of fun being able to celebrate even the (seemingly) tiniest victories.

Knowing that the only way I can really move (on a skateboard, in life) is by chilling out, has made a big difference. Having calming techniques and talking to myself in kinder ways—both on and off the board—is great. I want to keep that going, that understanding that the end isn’t really a place we want to race to because “when you get there, there is no there“—so I may as well enjoy the ride.


Before you go! It costs money to make indie queer media, and frankly, we need more members to survive 2023As thanks for LITERALLY keeping us alive, A+ members get access to bonus content, extra Saturday puzzles, and more! Will you join? Cancel anytime.

Join A+!

Abeni Jones

Abeni Jones is a trans woman of color artist, educator, writer, and designer living in the Bay Area, CA.

Abeni has written 88 articles for us.

A. Tony Jerome

A.Tony is a black nonbinary artist out here to do good and to do gay. They are a 2015 Pink Door Fellow, 2016 Lambda Literary Emerging Writer Fellow, 2020-21 Afro Urban Arts Lit From the Black! Fellow, and have worked with Roots.Wounds.Words., Words Beats & Life, and Winter Tangerine among other places. You can find more of their work on their website and listen to them scream about poetry & other interests on Twitter.

A. has written 41 articles for us.

Niko Stratis

Niko Stratis is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in outlets like SPIN, Bitch, Xtra, Catapult and more. Her work primarily focuses on culture, the 1990s, queer/trans topics and as often as possible where all those ideas intersect. 

She wrote that piece about Jackass that you liked and also the Gin Blossoms one. 

She is also the creator and host of V/A Club, a podcast about movie soundtracks.

Niko lives in downtown Toronto with her fiancé and their dog and 2 cats. She is a cancer.

Niko has written 44 articles for us.

5 Comments

  1. I loved reading everyone’s connections and stories! I was definitely the sort of kid who was into skateboarding as a nerd, like a. Tony, and consumed skateboarding VHSs and books, but didn’t learn until some turbulent events around 30 (including transitioning) showed me that I should just go for it, and chase things I wanted.

    Inclusive groups like Skate Like a Girl have been fantastic, and helped me find a small community and learn some of the ins and outs, and I still follow the burgeoning movement of trans skaters who are going (or have been) pro. It makes my heart swell!

  2. Thank you for this! I grew up in the woods outside of my hometown so skateboarding never really made sense to try even though I was fascinated by it (and definitely had crushes on the girls in my high school who skateboarded) After moving for uni I picked up a secondhand long board on a whim and have been practicing off and on for the past few years. This article gave me the push to commit to dedicating more time to it once the snow melts!

  3. Logging in to AS for the first time since dinosaurs roamed the earth just to say how much I love this article. Been a skating fan (but sadly a truly terrible skater!!) since the 80s/90s and now I’m wondering if my 40+ YO knees could take it if I got a Magneto board (those natural wood decks are sick!)

    Also, I gotta say, if y’all aren’t aware of There Skateboards yet, you should put them on your radar. (Emphasis on RAD!!) Their team is all queer and/or trans and they are all awesome skaters.

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!