Lifestyle, Opinions

Skating helped me figure out my identity

The first time I picked up a skateboard I was at a yard sale that my mom took me to when I was seven or eight-years-old. I begged her for the $10 that it cost and made my way home, where I fell countless times before giving up and leaving it behind for the next eight years.

In high school, I got my first unofficial job and made just enough to buy myself a team deck from GIRL, a skate brand that ironically had no girls on their pro team at the time.

That skateboard took me back and forth, up and down, though mostly down.

Every time I fell, I got back up feeling tougher and more invincible than ever. I loved feeling the adrenaline pumping through my veins, which shielded me from feeling the pain of my bloodied knees and the road rash on my elbows.

I loved the adrenaline of trying something new and getting it down–carving a coping, dropping into a bowl or bombing Hill Street in Downtown L.A. on a cool summer night.

My first board opened up my world up to skating and to something I knew I always felt inside but could never identify—masculinity.

Every time I shredded a pair of jeans, I would thrift or sometimes steal a baggy pair from the men’s section. And when I had the cash I would buy a new pair of classic style Dickies that were two sizes too big.

Skate team shirts were a little bit out of my price range, so I wore baggy bootleg band shirts.

This new style not only did a better job at shielding my skin from the unforgiving concrete, but it also made me feel tougher. It made me feel like I finally had an outlet to release all my anger and frustrations.

I truly felt masculine for the first time in my young life.

After finalizing the skater look it didn’t take long for me to realize that I didn’t like the boys, but wanted to look like the boys.

Back then the skating scene did not predominantly feature female or queer identifying skaters. The skate parks were riddled with chauvinism and petty displays of pre-pubescent angst.

It was no place for a girl.

In fact, some groups would go as far as starting altercations over who was allowed to skate there. However, this made me want to skate even more and make them create space for me.

Eventually I learned about the legend of Patti McGee, who was the trailblazing female skateboarder of the ’60s. Then I found videos of Elissa Steamer and Jaime Reyes skating the streets and tearing down the patriarchy in skateboarding.

It was then that I was convinced that I could be just like them, at least in the sense of not giving a fuck about what the boys thought.

The world opened up for me and helped me find my identities. It was crucial to my development—it made me tough, street-smart and independent. It was truly the beginning of finding out who I was and who I wanted to become.

The freedom I found from skating at a young age uplifted me well into my 20s. Now I find freedom in roller skating and becoming a part of the BIPOC and queer-inclusive roller skating community.

I continue to surf the concrete waves and asphalt arteries of the city, but now I have knee pads and wrist guards added to my wardrobe.

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