Even with the high-profile coming out of pro skater Brian Anderson, skate culture can still seem incredibly straight, macho and bro-centric. Jeffrey Cheung’s Oakland-based Unity Skateboarding is hoping to bring more inclusiveness to the sport.
“I wanted to start Unity for the next generation of skateboarders, to show them that queer people do exist. I felt alienated because of my sexuality. If something like this existed when I was younger, it would have completely changed my life and the way I viewed myself. I would have felt better about who I was and would have had a sense that I wasn’t alone,” said Cheung.
He formed Unity in 2013 with his boyfriend, Gabriel Ramirez originally as a an outlet for their music. Unity has evolved over the past few years and does a little bit of everything – publishing zines, designing/hand-painting boards, and hosting regular skater meetups, it has its own ‘creative space’ which comes complete with a radio station, print studio, zine store and community workshop program.
Even with its counterculture roots, skateboarding has, for the most part, remained a predominantly white, heterosexual sport. It can be absolutely alienating for people who fly the rainbow flag.
“Brian Anderson officially coming out was a big step for queer people in skateboarding, but there is still a lot to do until skating can be inclusive to people of all identities,” said Cheung.
“I think that femme, trans, and queer people of color are the most marginalized in the society we live in, and unfortunately, this is also reflected in the skateboarding world. We are always especially supportive of QPOC people that skate or want to learn how to skate, and try to provide them with the resources they need whenever we can,” add Cheung.
Unity is a kickflip in the right direction as Cheung and his crew are offering a safe, inclusive space for queer and POC artists, skaters and outsiders.