Archive for the ‘Queer Stuff’ Category

This weekend I was at the mall, and guess who I saw sporting a rainbow in the window display at H&M?  Gus Kenworthy! The skier has teamed up with the clothing brand as part of their Pride Out Loud campaign.  H&M will donate 10% of sales of their pride line to United Nations Free & Equal.

It’s hard to ignore Gus these days, especially now that it’s Pride Month.  He and fellow gay Olympian Adam Rippon co-hosted the TrevorLIVE New York Gala on Monday and lit up the GLAAD Media Awards in April with a kiss.  They also talked with Good Morning America on what “Pride” means to them.

Gus isn’t the only action sports athlete sporting the rainbow. Skater Brian Anderson posted this picture of himself on Instagram:
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Last year Brian and Lacey Baker were featured in Nike’s BETRUE campaign. Lacey herself collaborated with Sam McGuire for a pride-themed photo. Proceeds benefit victims of the Pulse shooting through the onePULSE Foundation.
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Five years since my post about queer athletes, I still think action sports can be more gay. However, I’m stoked to see athletes be able to express themselves more openly and participate in Pride events with support from their peers and fans. I know they’ve inspired many queer kids because as a queer adult, I feel inspired to wave the rainbow (quite literally with Gus). I hope to see more rainbows in the next five years (and maybe some campaigns with trans action sports athletes?).

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Alright we’ve reached the end of my day-to-day recaps of X Games Aspen. I’m going to do my eXponential Awards review, and then we can finally move onto Oslo (and hopefully life won’t kick me in the butt again).  Sunday had non-stop snow again.  Visibility wasn’t as bad as Saturday, but the athletes still struggled and my mom refused to come out even during the day.
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I took this on the shuttle ride to Buttermilk since I’d never seen this much snow, not even when I lived in northern Japan.

Men’s Ski Slopestyle

  • Jossi Wells got a well-earned gold.  Like Spencer, he’s been at X for a while, but this is his first win here.
  • I think Jossi is younger than me, but they kept making him sound like an old man because he’s married with a dog.  His family actually brought the dog out.
  • I loved the little touches Bobby Brown put in his runs.  He did okay, and it seemed like he was ready to just head out.  However, he did stop to say “hi” to people and thank me when I complimented him.
  • Joss Christensen skied with a broken hand.  He usually uses poles so not having them was a little weird, according to him.  The awkwardness showed.
  • Our Olympians had a really rough time overall.  Then Gus Kenworthy put together a sick run on his third and final attempt.
  • For all the hate Gus got for coming out in a such a public way, he has helped freeskiing.  Not just with making it a more accepting place, but he’s brought in new fans.  He knows that responsibility comes with visibility because he took the time to greet fans and take photos.
    day4-dad0374 Gus was stoked on the flag.  Mission accomplished.
  • Also, for the bad rep that “fangirls” often get, they were super nice and encouraged me to get up to the front with them at the end so that Gus could see my rainbow flag.  Gus’ mom saw it first and gave me a thumbs up.  I’m glad he has such a supportive family (especially since I had kind of an awkward conversation with my parents about why I brought the rainbow flag).

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I nearly cried when I read Gus Kenworthy’s coming out story (I probably would have cried if I had been alone in the room).  As a queer-identifying individual, I know how difficult it can be to express that aspect of you.  Anyone who is not a straight, white cis-gendered male is going to have it rough in a lot of places, not just action sports.  Unfortunately our community lags behind in creating more acceptance.

Two and a half years ago, I wrote a post titled “Action sports need to be more gay”.  Now we have one.  Although I don’t want to take away from what Gus has done, the headlines citing him as the first gay action sports athlete erases the struggles of those who came before him.  In fact, Cheryl Maas took a stance against Russia’s anti-gay policies when she was in Sochi.  For many reasons, that didn’t make huge headlines, and the simple truth was that things haven’t changed until now.  Gus won America’s heart as part of the Men’s Ski Slopestyle podium sweep in Sochi and also as the guy who brought home some puppies (though he clarifies that it was his boyfriend at the time who did most of that), and he more than earned freeski cred by being a five-time Association of Freeskiing Professionals champion.  He fits that privileged mold with the exception of being gay.  In other words, he had a lot to lose and yet a lot of power.

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Photo by Peter Hapak/ ESPN

By sharing his story, Gus has raised awareness of the microaggressions, like using “gay” to mean something “uncool” or automatically assuming that there’s a girlfriend or even this little sketch that implies two men can only be in bed together for comedic purposes.  Those little things hurt, but they’re often hard to see when homophobia is associated with a slur-filled tirade or the Westboro Baptist Church protesting.  Now the action sports community can no longer pretend that a problem with homophobia and toxic masculinity does not exist.  Although contest organizers, sponsors, and other athletes can choose to remain silent or make a bad j, we fans will notice.

For me, I hope that the support means that there can be a safer space not just for LGBTQIA individuals, but anyone who is a minority in the action sports world.  I came into the scene because it promoted “freedom of expression” and united those of us who weren’t into the more popular sports.  I fell out of it partly due to the realization that I’d been seeing a facade.  My liberal politics have distanced me from my old motocross message board buddies; I can’t be myself around them when I’m not sure how they’ll respond to my interest in feminism or queer politics.  The day before Gus’ story broke, a photo of my drag king alter-ego with a skateboard on Instagram received a homophobic slur.  I brushed it off as some immature teenager or self-loathing adult with nothing better to do, but whey should we let anyone get away with such hateful actions?  To be a community, we have to help one another.

And that’s what I will be watching for.  We’ve taken the first step by listening to Gus’ story and Tweeting out our support.  Being an ally is more than that.   I’m still learning and constantly checking my privilege (because even if I identify with the LGBTQIA spectrum, my queerness is not always apparent or as big of a difference as my being female in a male-dominated world).  We’ve got to work together, and I have hope that a bunch of action sports fans will find the courage to be themselves.  Because that is what I feel like I can do even more now.  I don’t know if I’m making it to Aspen for Winter X this year, but if I do, you bet I’m gonna be waving a giant rainbow flag.

My apologies for not updating in a while, especially since I have yet to recap two X Games events (this global format is not working well with my schedule).  I’m going to put it off some more for a topic that I think is very important: queer politics.  Ever since NBA player Jason Collins made headlines by coming out, I’ve been thinking about the lack of openly gay athletes in action sports.

Our community could stand to be more queer.  There are many fans who fall under the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bi, trans*, questioning, intersex, asexual), and I’m pretty sure there’s at least one pro identifying as each of the letters in the acronym.  Then why don’t we have more action sports stars who are out and proud?  Why do we not have a spokesperson for LGBT issues?

For a while, I had deluded myself into thinking that the quietness was a result of everyone being so accepting.  After all, it was casually mentioned in an X Games broadcast that snowboarder Cheryl Maas had welcomed a baby with her wife.  “Nothing to get worked up over” was the message, but what if it had been a male snowboarder?  There are articles calling out for a gay skate, snow, or surf icon.

cheryl photo cherylfamily_zps93aa75d6.jpg

Although I haven’t seen Cheryl talk about her sexuality, she does bring up her wife (snowboarder Stine Brun Kjeldaas) and posts pictures of her family on her Tumblr.

We need one.  I can’t count the number of times I saw the word “gay” being used in a derogatory manner on freestyle motocross message boards.  I’ve seen BMX articles with a homophobic tone.  No, the action sports world is not accepting; it’s  not immune to the dominant straight male attitudes that permeates throughout mainstream sports like basketball.

A decade ago, Tim Von Werne (featured in the “skate” article above), Matt Branson, and Robbins Thompson had to deal with coming out and ending their careers.  Birdhouse pulled Von Werne’s interview because he talked about being gay, and that convinced him to not turn pro.  After much trauma, Branson dropped out of the ASP pro tour.   Thompson got sick of the questions and negative comments (and having “fag” spray painted on his car didn’t help), and he quit as well.  This is not encouraging for queer youths wanting to do action sports.

Times have changed a bit.  There are allies like snowboarder Scott E. Wittlake and Skateboard Mag writer Rob Brink (both quoted in the “snow” article linked above).  We’re seeing more interviews with athletes who are gay and lesbian.  King Shit did a feature on transgender skater Hillary Thompson.  While she’s not pro, there have been more articles about her and they’ve been very positive.
heather photo Hillary-Thompson-OllieUpToCrookedGrind-Raleigh1_zps9a19ef47.jpgPhoto by Sam McGuire for Jenkem Magazine

My list of pros who are openly gay, lesbian, and trans is small, but I hope that it grows and will include other orientations too:

However, as the documentary Out in the Line-up reveals in the surfing world, and action sports in general, things are far from equal… or even safe.  Until the community has a well-known name who is out and proud or a real push to promote equality, it’s going to be an uphill battle.