Empowering queer folks in the skate community

by Marta
Empowering queer folks in the skate community

Queer Skate Alliance focuses on empowering queer folks of all backgrounds who currently establish and evolve the experience of being a queer-identified skater. We wanted to know more about it and got in touch with QSA founder Olive. They started the Instagram page about a year ago. Since then they helped to grow awareness that the queer community deserves a skating community that supports them in the same ways it supports non-queer skaters.

Hi Olive, please introduce yourself quickly.

A lot of folks don’t know this about me but I actually grew up roller skating. The other day, I realized I’ve been skating for approximately 20 years of my life. There are few things in my life that have been consistent over a 20-year span so, “thanks skating” for seriously always being there when I needed you the most. I suppose the only other thing that’s been important to me for that long is activism and the ways in which community organizing and direct action can influence society to deconstruct oppressive barriers and to construct the resources and services communities actually need to rise up and thrive. 

You started your Instagram page Queer Skate Alliance about a year ago. What was the intention and idea behind it?

QSA’s mission has always been to empower queer folks of all backgrounds who currently establish and evolve the experience of being a queer-identified skater. I think it’s important to realize that the queer community is constantly evolving and so whether folks view QSA as a “brand” or as a “community”, it’s always been important to me to note that evolution specifically. The queer community has so much gatekeeping going on that so many folks within the community legit “don’t feel queer enough”. We specifically focus on including queers of all backgrounds and if you identity as “queer” then to us, you are family. This doesn’t require you to present in any certain way. This doesn’t require you to have a partner (or partners) who present any certain way. It is not our job to dictate who is queer and who is not. I created this space not only to celebrate the accomplishments of our Queer Peers, but also to boost the signal on issues unique to the queer community. It’s just as important to lift each other up during positive times as it is to listen to each other and unpack difficult issues during difficult times. 

Why did you make it a skate related page?

Queer quad skaters in particular have never really had a unified place to share accomplishments and struggles that works for the majority of the community. I guess in a way, that speaks right to the marginalized experience of being a queer skater. I believe we – the queer community – deserve a skating community that supports us in the same ways it supports non-queer skaters. That includes but is not limited to: sponsorship, events fostering representation, competitive high level skating and entry level and/or community based skating, support and resources for the community, a celebration of community accomplishments, and quite frankly just the right to exist and take up space within the skating community. 

What do you tell people who say: it’s just skating?

Well. It’s not. Pay attention. If you exist in a Utopia where you are able to skate and exist free of any societal oppressions and stipulations then wow, seriously, I’m so stoked for you. The sad truth is that most folks don’t live in a reality with that much privilege. Especially folks who are queer and ESPECIALLY our BIPOC queer peers who experience marginalization across multiple aspects of self on a daily basis. If we want to see our skate communities grow and thrive, we need to focus on inclusion and representation. If you’re not on board with this, I recommend talking to youth within the queer skating community who is already leading these changes. I’m a pretty firm believer that you can either hop on board now or they’ll change the community anyways so, I’m here to support the future quite honestly. 

One would think that the skate community is already more inclusive than other parts of life. What does the reality look like from your experience and the feedback you get from others?

I’m not sure why it is that folks think the skate community is somehow different than day-to-day society? It’s cool we feel safe and protected by our community but honestly, I see the same gnarly types of racism, classism, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia within our community that I see outside in the real world. Roller derby or any other aspect of the skating community is not immune from those “isms” whatsoever. 

Are you missing a higher representation of queer people on social media and other public platforms?

While some folks feel as though we’ve made progress when it comes to queer representation on social media and other platforms, the truth is we still have a very long way to go. When it comes to social media in particular, there are actually ways in which websites/apps like Facebook or Instagram censor queer & trans folks. In addition, mainstream media still feeds society a very specific “type” of queerness: typically white, typically cisgender, typically queers of privilege, etc. LGBTQ Center related events in different cities still exclude folks who can’t afford tickets or who might not want to attend alcohol dominated events. The queer community needs to continue to push for more representation across all intersections in these public forums.

Queer Rollout that QSA hosted with @queergirlstraightskates

Instagram and the option of exposure that it enables seems to be very important to a lot of people. Is this a blessing or a curse if you want to pursue your goal to create more inclusiveness?

Both to be honest. I see some ways in which QSA social media has legitimately brought Queer Peers closer together. Its been cool to see folks share sentiments via our Q&A’s that are able to reach so many other folks. It’s also exhausting at times because so many folks resort to social media as their resource for news or drama or whatever they’re seeking that day. I hope somewhere in there, folks read the things their Queer Peers are discussing and then I hope they take those sentiments and turn them into actual actions within their own leagues or skate groups. I’m not a fan of slactivism, and I urge more folks to put their phone down and engage in some actual direct action that influences our community for the better. You can catchup on our social media when you’re all done ;). 

 

A lot of people struggle with using the right inclusive terms. There are many labels like genderqueer or non-binary. What is your advice how to approach people you are not sure about the gender or pronoun?

My number one rule is to ask folks when possible. Do not push the issue if someone is not comfortable sharing, but the best way to ultimately know what name, pronoun, identity someone uses is to ask them. Please try and remember that some, if not all, of the queer experience is fluid and ever-evolving so, it’s also OK and important to check back in on things like names or pronouns as time has passed. If you make a mistake in addressing someone, don’t center an apology around yourself, just correct the mistake and move forward in conversation. 

 

On International Transgender Day Of Visibility you invited trans people to share stories and thoughts. Were you nervous to ask people to send in videos or was that something that came easy?

Every time we ask a Queer Peer to share, it requires a certain amount of openness and vulnerability on that human’s part and we are extremely grateful to all those who have shared. In regards to TDOV in particular, we understand that the experience of being trans in this world / community can still be difficult and dangerous. I wouldn’t necessarily use the word “easy” when referring to any of the work we do OR any of the work done by our Queer Peers. A lot of this work is difficult and requires folks to share in a way that they might not have shared before. At times, I would actually say it’s exceptionally difficult, especially because so many of our trans/NB/GNC Queer Peers still live with constant criticism within even our own community. 

 

What do you hope to promote and achieve with Queer Skate Alliance?

I have some ideas personally but honestly, my answer is: “Whatever the queer community needs the most at the time.” I mean that genuinely, as I don’t always think we know what is ahead. 

Queer Skate Alliance team from RollerCon 2019

You also published a zine called “Queer Skate Alliance Zine Issue 1: For My Friends, For My Family”. What do we find inside? 

The first issue of the QSA zine was truly a labor of love. Inside you’ll find everything from interviews with folks doing work within our community to a quality playlist you can checkout via Spotify – because let’s be real, all good zines have a playlist! Zines are important to me because they represent a really tangible type of D.I.Y art/punk rock culture that, for me, seems harder and harder to find in today’s society. For me personally, taking the time to disconnect from QSA social media to cut and paste magazines into a zine was extremely therapeutic. To be honest, WAY more people were stoked on the zine then I could have ever imagined. I think that the concept of disconnecting long enough to get in touch with your community is really appealing to some folks. If that’s appealing to you be sure to checkout the link Dog Days has included here – you can still grab a copy of the first issue and we’ll be working on the second issue super soon.

You plan to launch a website soon. What can we expect from it?

The website will basically just be a central place to get info on the various projects Queer Skate Alliance has going now that it’s a year in. Whether you’re looking to catch one of our local skate meet-ups or pickup zines and other merch, the QSA website will be the easiest place to do so. The part of the website I’m most excited about would definitely be the archiving of all of the Q&A’s that QSA has run over the last year (over 124 Q&A interviews with Queer Peers from within the skating community!).

Last but not least: What other pages and websites would you recommend for people interested in all topics queer?

Be sure to check out Unity Skateboarding  for excellent queer skateboarding content. If you’re able, be sure to support The Trevor Project  who provides amazing services for LGBTQ+ youth. I always like to let folks know how amazing GC2B is in case they might be seeking any type of transitional apparel. If you’re seeking general news, entertainment, opinion, etc. from the queer community, be sure to check out Autostraddle  and ThemDecolonizing Fitness is an amazing educator & trainer who inspires many within the community whether they skate or just have an interest in general sport/fitness. Also be sure to support your local queer community as often as possible.

queer skate alliance

Interview by Marta Popowska
Photos by Lana Von Haught & Tristan King

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