The night before the launch of Skateism issue 1, on 6 Jan 2018 in Berlin, the magazine’s founder Moch Simos didn’t get a wink of sleep. “We were aware that launching a new print publication focused on diversity in skateboarding was a crazy experiment. Queer topics in skateboard magazines were taboo until then, and we had no idea how the skateboarding world would react. We didn’t even know if we would find enough material to sustain a second issue, since we knew so few queer skaters like us back then.” But in the days after the launch, to his surprise, Simos started receiving DM messages from LGBTQI+ skaters from all over the world.“We quickly realised that the global queer skater community was much larger than we thought, albeit almost completely invisible. And it was eager to find its voice and make itself heard.”Neftalie Williams, shot by Ryan Kellman. Maicol Cortez, shot by Neftalie Williams. Debs Akinlade (left), Chechi Udumah (right) shot by Ross Landenberger. Kamali film by Sasha Rainbow, still courtesy of Sasha Rainbow.
The situation today – just over three years (and six issues of Skateism) later – is radically different. Queer skaters are now a fixture in skateboarding publications; the biggest names among them are regularly collaborating with major sports fashion brands such as Adidas and Nike; and in 2020 a trans non-binary skater, Leo (aka Lacey) Baker, were appointed to represent the US at the Tokyo Olympics, and also became a playable character in the remastered Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater video game. Simos credits Brian Anderson’s coming out, in September 2016, as “the event” that kicked off the global queer skate movement. “It was a historic moment: a professional skater publicly announcing his homosexuality.” Just as crucial in the birth of a queer skateboarding scene, Simos says, was the work in the field carried out by Jeffrey Cheung and Gabriel Ramirez and their grass- roots collective Unity. “By promoting the concept of ‘safe spaces’ – LGBTQI+-friendly skate meet-ups – and by offering free skateboards to gay people, Unity has contributed like no other initiative to making skateboarding, traditionally a sport for straight cis men, suddenly popular among queer people, too.” Let’s Ride Together photo editorial shot by Abenah Tappiah.
Founded in 2017, Unity quickly evolved into a vast international network known for organising “queer skate days” – gatherings of hundreds of LGBTQI+ skaters…