Maeve: Hi, I’m Maeve Marsden, and you’re listening to Queerstories. This week, Evie Ryder is a Skateboarder, film maker, and community activist. She has 20 years social work experience working with LGBTQIA+ Sistergirl and Brotherboy people and communities, and in 2020 she was voted Activist of the year at the Queensland Trans Community Awards. She performed this story at Brisbane Powerhouse leading to the first discussion of on-stage skateboard safety I’ve been witness to in my career. Enjoy
Evie:I was going to title tonight’s story ‘The Body Varial’, and some of you re going what does that mean? The body varial in skater talk, that’s the polite way – it’s the move known as ‘The Sex Change’, so it’s kind of like a coded title.
Skating down the road, down the hill. Using my right foot as a brake to the side of the board, dragging along the cement. While I hold all of my balance with one foot traveling as fast as I can on an uneven road surface. Hoping I can slow down enough to avoid rolling into oncoming traffic and avoiding pedestrians. Carrying my back pack full of safety gear.
Random people walk by on the street warily keeping an eye on me hoping I don’t crash into them. I haven’t crashed into anyone yet. Not on a skate park. Never ask the kids on the skate park if I’ve crashed into them, you get a different story. You can’t see everyone can you. Especially those nine year olds – really ruins a skate session when that happens. It doesn’t matter how much you apologise for wiping out this little child, it kind of sits with you.
The sun is starting to set with only an hour of light to go. I head towards the local skate park in West End. The temperature has just cooled down. I have a wish in my heart that the park is empty, free of teenage boys, or at least free of little kids on scooters. Please. I hope that if there are people on the park that they are chilled out and share the park and avoid using crude language. I arrive just as the sun has lowered just enough to cover the park in a lovely afternoon shade. I start by finding a nice clear spot on the lawn so that I can cover myself from head to toe in safety gear, as I have a habit of falling off at high speeds and getting injured. My current knee pads are split in half due to the constant impact of the concrete.
My safety gear makes me look like my idol Wonder Woman according to the kids at the park but it makes me smell like a dead corpse left to rot in the sun. I often wonder if that’s why most people avoid me at the skate park and that it’s not the transphobia or the sexism. Mind you when I skate I get into a zone where everyone just disappears, or turns into an obstacle to be avoided and dodge. My whole world just becomes me, the skate board and the skate park.
I started skating for the thrill of rolling down a hill. And when my dad died it became more about finding a way to deal with the grief. As I started to transition, skating without a shirt on became a bit hard. So I felt disconnected from skateboarding as I found it hard to be skating and transition at the same time, so I started to skate less and less. In this time I also became a social worker and moved to Brisbane.
In West End I met lots of queers, people who wanted to skate with me that were safe and respectful of my gender. They wanted to learn and I wanted to make friends so I was more than happy to teach. I started to hold skate classes for my friends. I wanted to teach a kind of skate boarding that embraced being queer. I’d often throw a dance move in when I fell off. I often talked about style, how you hold a skate board, it’s always about looking good when you skate. I tried to queer the term bro-mancing which was basically bonding with queers while skateboarding, or flirting – it’s a bit of a mix sometimes. I also tried to start a skate team called Team sparkle, then it became Girl Skate Brisbane and is now mostly We skate Brisbane. Trying to make a safe supportive space for people of all diversitys to skate. All this was done with community and especially my good skate friend Indigo willing who I met as a keen student wanting to fix their skateboard and looking for a friend to feel more safe to go to a skate shop with. Indigo, that’s her name, inspired me to do so much more with my skate boarding.
At this time I wanted to get better at skating and coaching so I found a local skate company and asked if I could start skate coaching for them. They told me that they would give me a go but would hold off on sending me to Ipswich due to the discrimination I might get. Little did they know I would do a lot of Skate Coaching in Ipswich, and other regional towns just as cool as Ipswich. Because it turns out regardless of what town you’re from, if you want to learn to skate people seem to not give a shit if you’re transgender. Actually I even had one young boy tell me in a warm up stretch that he did not want to do squats because that was for girls and he was not a girl.
So over all most cis men ignore me at skate parks or just ride into me or just hog a spot until I leave. Some teenage boys might give me shit if I am with my girlfriend or ask to borrow my skateboard and call it a scooter. I found with the community and skating the more I persisted the more I met cis men that were not such dicks and were overall supportive.
I was starting to win skate comps and managed to come second to some of the most amazing 12 year old girls who could kick my butt every time. It’s worth it! It’s worth it. At this time I managed to get sponsored by a local skate shop which for me was the dream, to get sponsored and give up working a boring normal person’s jobs. But while being sponsored gave me street cred, whatever that’s worth, and when I was coaching or competing it definitely did help, but it didn’t cover any bills. It also turned me into a person who skated to promote products or to convince other people to buy from the shop, skateboarding became more about the image, the show and the performance. I would get asked to do skate demos with very little practice time, often expected to impress a bunch of teenage boys who would mostly comment that if they were a girl they could get sponsored as well. One time a young teenage boy told me he liked my Instagram account and told me which video was his favourite. I think this was highlight of fame of my skate career.
My last comp would have to be my favorite though. I was told about a skate comp in an Indoor skate park for this group called the old man skate crew. The promotion said you could be female to enter, you just had to be over 35. I was like yes,finally no 12 year old girls to compete against me. I was like hell yes, a chance to skate with people my age and just maybe there will be some other female skaters to skate with. I arrived super excited at the competition to find I was the only non-cis male at the event. I figured what the hell I will give it a go and compete against the men. A few large rail slides later in the street section and I was announced the winner. I was shocked, I really thought there was no way in hell I could ever win. Then it sank in. All my life the people that ignored me, told me girls can’t skate and would only ever ask me inappropriate questions about being trans, people that hogged the parks and the skate media just had their arses kicked by me. And if I can beat them, then so can all those awesome 12 year old girls I compete with, many times over.
I soon decide to stop competing in skate comps as I no longer wanted to spend my whole day in a park waiting to get 1 min of skate time. The skating at these events became who could hog the park the most and less about giving everyone the chance to skate and learn, which is why I wanted to do comps in the first place. I put a lot of my self worth into skate comps and if I lost and performed poorly I would sink into a very dark depression for many days.
I decided that this was enough. And I needed to skate for myself, in the best way that it was safe and fun for me.
So back at the skate park in west end. I am lucky today it just me, my body feels good for a change, my agility and coordination is aligned. I decide to film my first attempt at a front side kick flip, it’s a trick some locals had helped me to learn. On this day, for the first time, Igot the trick on film. It was not perfect and it still needed lots of work but a deep smile welled up inside of me. It’s these small moments of success that keep me skating and keep me sane.
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