Unity: An Accepting Home for LGBTQ Skaters



Although there are 500 skateparks across the United States, there aren’t many places where members of the LGBTQ community can feel comfortable skating. Luckily, that trend is starting to change.

The skateboarding culture has been known to sometimes be a hostile environment for women, members of the LGBTQ community, and anyone who wasn’t immediately accepted by the other skaters. Unity is a queer skateboard collective in California that prides itself on welcoming skaters of all kinds.

“Growing up, I skated with your typical skate crew,” said Victor Valdez, a 31-year-old skater. “That’s what skateboarding was, and kind of still is. It’s this super-open, diverse community that’s super-jock-ish. They have these really heteronormative standards, it’s almost like football.”

Another skater, Oakland’s Trevor Straub, enjoyed skateboarding at an early age, but spent a decade away from the sport as Straub focused on identity exploration and struggled with the negatives associated with skate culture.

“I lost all my friends,” said Straub, who is now 25 and identifies as gender nonconforming. “I didn’t skate for 10 years. I just quit — I didn’t own a skateboard, I didn’t look at skateboarding magazines. I hated it.”

Straub found that the typical skate scene to not be welcoming at all — until Unity started bringing together LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming riders in an effort to reclaim the sport.

Jeffrey Cheung, a 28-year-old artist from the East Bay, created the skate collective after reflecting on both the troubling current times and his early skating experiences.

“I wasn’t out in high school,” Cheung said. “When I was skateboarding, I heard homophobic slurs all the time… It’s not a very safe environment for a queer person to come out.”

Unity officially began on January 1, 2017, and now hosts a monthly skate gathering in Oakland that draws close to 50 riders each season.

“The next generation of skaters will be queer and better than ever,” added Cheung.

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