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No posers allowed: Inside a sesh with Aunt Skatie

Southern California, the birthplace of skateboarding, is also home to its evolution, welcoming women and LGBTQ riders

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Aunt Skatie crew (Screenshot via The Los Angeles Times YouTube)

LOS ANGELES – Skateboarding has evolved from its early days when young white men were the only ones catching air. The crews crowding skateparks now, from South Pasadena to Koreatown to just east of downtown, also include Blacks, Latinos, women and queer people. 

“It’s friendly,” Lily Alonso says of the atmosphere at L.A.’s El Sereno Skatepark. “It’s honest.”

Screenshot via The Los Angeles Times YouTube

Although there had always been a small percentage of kids of color, the most famous skateboarder in the world, Tony Hawk, told the Los Angeles Times recently that this increase in diversity is the result of urbanization. “That’s where you saw more kids from different backgrounds.” 

The Times cited a recent survey in reporting Black people and Latinos now account for almost one-third of the estimated 9 million skaters in the U.S. That’s according to Sports Marketing Surveys, an international research agency. Of those 9 million, about 2.7 million identify as female and an estimated 7.4% of respondents identified as LGBTQ.

Maggie Bowen started her Aunt Skatie crew in her sophomore year of college. “I try to do weekly meetups and try to just people to come to events,” Bowen told reporter David Wharton for a YouTube video.

Screenshot via The Los Angeles Times YouTube

“It’s really cool to have a group of queer women skaters,” said Ginger Gordon. But Dan Haase wishes they saw more people like them. “I think if there were more people who looked like me or other people who are underrepresented in skateboarding, at the skatepark, then it would just be easier for everyone to join in.”

“There’s just too many dudes,” Bowen noted. Gabriela Levy agreed, adding, “Usually, I’m the only girl at the skatepark just since it’s still a male dominated field.”

And that field can sometimes be found on a public plaza, like Liberty Park in Koreatown. Regulars call it JKwon. Although Hawk’s Skatepark Project has raised more than $10 million to build hundreds of skate parks nationwide, he told the Times: “The urban landscape can be a skate park. You can do it anywhere.”

Even Tokyo, Japan, where skateboarding debuted as an Olympic event for the very first time in July 2021. Alana Smith made history as one of only a handful of nonbinary athletes out of the 160 out LGBTQ competitors at the Summer Games. 

Despite their pronouns, “they/them,” appearing right on their skateboard, Smith was misgendered by broadcasters. Even so, they walked away feeling like a winner just for being able to compete, dismissing the fact they went home without a medal. “For the first time in my entire life, I’m proud of the person I’ve worked to become,” Smith posted on Instagram. “I chose my happiness over medaling.”

Boyle Heights native Briana King told the newspaper she adapted the Instagram skills she learned in launching her modeling career to attract other women and LGBTQ skaters. She even convinced a skateboard manufacturer to provide funding to send her across the country to hold clinics, or training sessions, called “sesh” in skateboard lingo. Like Bowen, she organizes the meet-ups on social media.

“There are usually like 60 people minimum,” she told the paper. “The majority feel very comfortable being around women and nonbinary or queer people.”

But despite her many tricks, King admits sometimes she herself feels uncomfortable, as the only Black woman in a gathering. “I need a bigger gang of friends,” she said. “I’ll have more girls to skate with.”

Screenshot via The Los Angeles Times YouTube

University of Southern California conducted a study of skateboarders in 2019 that found that race, gender and sexual orientation don’t seem to matter as much when kids skate. One of those researchers, USC scholar Neftalie Williams, is a visiting fellow at Yale writing a book on what she calls “skateboard diplomacy,” which she told the Times could provide a model for inclusion across society. 

“Skaters are working through the problems of the world,” said Williams, noting that young people have built communities through skateboarding without the typical rules and coaches in organized sports. “It was such a great way to be social as an individual or a collective.”

“We talk a lot about how skateboarding helps your mental health and has a really strong network and a strong community,” Bowen said. “Skateboarding gives you that kind of resilience and determination that not a lot of other activities can provide.”

“It’s more important that more girls get into it, and more queer people, more nonbinary people get into it,” said Haase. “I think it teaches good life lessons.”

“It’s super important to have women figures show how accessible it is,” added Gordon, “so that everyone can see women skaters on the map, to encourage more women to do it.”

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How women and the LGBTQ skate community are revitalizing skateboarding culture

This skate crew, run by Maggie Bowen, was made in an effort to create safe and supportive spaces for female and LBGTQ skaters:

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World’s largest LGBTQ sporting event returning to Las Vegas 

Registration is open for the largest LGBTQ sporting event globally. Also nominations are open for the 2nd annual Ken Scearce Leadership Award

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Pickleball competitors (Photo courtesy of Sin City Classic)

By John McDonald | LAS VEGAS – More than 10,000 athletes are expected in Las Vegas January 12-15, 2023 for the Sin City Classic. The event features 24 sports and draws participants from around the globe, said co-executive director Jason Peplinski.

“For a lot of people, LGBT sports are their safe space and they like to travel to be a part of an athletic family,” Peplinski said.

Peplinski is commissioner of the Greater Los Angeles Softball Association (GLASA). His organization created the Sin City Classic back in 2008 as a way to provide a safe space for LGBT athletes to compete and connect.

“Sin City Classic continues to grow and evolve,” Peplinksi said. “This year we see the addition of pickleball, one of the fastest growing sports in the world, and sand volleyball, adding to the diverse lineup of competitions and events that the festival offers. We’re excited that the festival continues to expand and offers ways for all members of our diverse community to participate.”

This is the Sin City Classic’s first year of full operations since the COVID-19 pandemic and the Flamingo Hotel, the oldest hotel on the Las Vegas strip, is the host hotel. Lexus is the presenting sponsor and nightclubs Piranha and The Garden are hosting events during the MLK holiday weekend.

Additionally, nominations are open for the second annual Ken Scearce Leadership Award which honors the memory and legacy of the former executive director who passed away in 2021.

To sign-up or for more information, visit www.sincityclassic.org 

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Carrying a Pride flag- protester interrupts World Cup game

Qatar’s laws against gay sex and treatment of LGBTQ people were flashpoints in the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East

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Screenshot of news coverage at the World Cup 2022 games from Al Jazeera

LUSAIL, Qatar – During a World Cup match between Portugal and Uruguay Monday, a lone protester ran across the field waving a LGBTQ+ Pride flag moments after the second half kickoff.

Video and still images show the man wearing a blue T-shirt emblazed with the Superman symbol and the phrase “SAVE UKRAINE” on the front and “RESPECT FOR IRANIAN WOMAN” on the back.

Screenshot of news coverage at the World Cup 2022 games from Al Jazeera

Qatari security personnel chased him down and then frog marched him off the playing field. Israeli Public Radio correspondent Amichai Stein tweeted video clips of the incident:

FIFA had no immediate comment on the incident the Associated Press noted reporting that in the first week of the tournament in Qatar, seven European teams lost the battle to wear multi-colored “One Love” armbands during World Cup matches. Fans also complained they weren’t allowed to bring items with rainbow colors, a symbol of LGBTQ rights, into the stadiums of the conservative Islamic emirate.

Qatar’s laws against gay sex and treatment of LGBTQ people were flashpoints in the run-up to the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East. Qatar has said everyone was welcome, including LGBTQ fans, but that visitors should respect the nation’s culture.

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Blinken criticizes FIFA over threat to fine World Cup team captains with ‘one love’ armbands

Qatar criminalizes homosexuality by death

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

DOHA, Qatar — Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday criticized FIFA over its threat to sanction European soccer teams if their captains wore “one love” armbands during the 2022 World Cup.

“It’s always concerning from my perspective when we see any restrictions on freedom of expression. It’s especially so when the expression is for diversity and for inclusion,” Blinken told reporters during a press conference with Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in Doha, the Qatari capital. “And in my judgment, at least, no one on a football pitch should be forced to choose between supporting these values and playing for their team.”

Seven European soccer teams on Monday announced their captains will not wear LGBTQ+ and intersex armbands during the 2022 World Cup after FIFA threatened to sanction them.

The captains of Belgium, Denmark, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Wales had planned to wear the armbands in support of the LGBTQ+ and intersex community during the World Cup. The teams on Monday in a joint statement said they would not wear the armbands because FIFA had threatened to sanction them if their captains did.

The World Cup began in Qatar on Sunday.

Qatar is among the handful of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain punishable by death. A report that Human Rights Watch published last month noted several cases of “severe and repeated beatings” and “sexual harassment” of LGBTQ+ and intersex people while in police custody from 2019 and September 2022. 

A State Department official last week acknowledged to the Washington Blade that the U.S. raised LGBTQ+ and intersex rights with the Qatari government ahead of the World Cup.

The U.S. men’s soccer team while in Qatar will have a redesigned logo with the Pride flag in its badge. Blinken attended their match against Wales on Monday.

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European soccer teams won’t wear ‘one love’ armbands after FIFA sanctions threat

World Cup began in Qatar on Sunday

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Iran plays England during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar on Nov. 21, 2022. (Screenshot via FS1)

DOHA, Qatar — Seven European soccer teams on Monday announced their captains will not wear LGBTQ+ and intersex armbands during the 2022 World Cup after FIFA threatened to sanction them.

The captains of Belgium, Denmark, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Wales planned to wear “one love” armbands during the World Cup. The teams in a joint statement said FIFA threatened to sanction them if their captains wore them.

“We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband. However, we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play,” read the statement. “We are very frustrated by the FIFA decision, which we believe is unprecedented.”

“As national federations, we can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions including bookings,” added the statement.

The World Cup began in Qatar on Sunday.

Qatar is among the handful of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain punishable by death.

Human Rights Watch last month published a report that noted “arbitrary” arrests of LGBTQ+ and intersex people between 2019 and September 2022 and several cases of “severe and repeated beatings” and “sexual harassment in police custody” during the aforementioned period. World Cup Ambassador Khalid Salman earlier this month described homosexuality as “damage in the mind” during an interview with a German television station.

Peter Tatchell, a British activist, on Oct. 25 protested the country’s LGBTQ+ and intersex rights record while standing outside the National Museum of Qatar in Doha, the country’s capital. A State Department official on Nov. 18 acknowledged to the Washington Blade that the U.S. raised LGBTQ+ and intersex rights with the Qatari government ahead of the World Cup.

The U.S. men’s soccer team while in Qatar will have a redesigned logo with the Pride flag in its badge. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will attend their match against Wales on Monday.

England played Iran on Monday. The Netherlands on Monday will play Senegal.

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Far right angry U.S. Soccer honors LGBTQ+ people for World Cup

The logo is being used to protest Qatar’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Same-sex relationships are criminalized in the country

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USA Soccer team media area Qatar (Screenshot/YouTube Sky News Global)

CHICAGO – The decision to support the global LGBTQ+ community by the U.S. Men’s soccer team with a redesigned logo incorporating the LGBTQ+ Pride flag to its badge which will be seen at the USA Soccer team’s hotel, media areas and parties throughout the Qatar World Cup, has angered far-right homophobic groups in the U.S.

The logo is being used to protest Qatar’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Same-sex relationships are criminalized in the country with up to seven years in jail, while queer Muslim men, under Sharia law, can be punished with death.

The World Cup begins on Sunday on November 20 and the US team is slotted to play against the team from Wales on Monday the 21st.

“Our rainbow badge has an important and consistent role in the identity of US Soccer,” A US Soccer spokesperson said. “As part of our approach for any match or event, we include rainbow branding to support and embrace the LGBTQ community, as well as to promote a spirit of inclusiveness and welcoming to all fans across the globe.”

Media Matters reported that Daily Wire Host and transphobic/homophobic host Matt Walsh in a rant on his daily show said:

“The corporate gay pride stuff is just sheep’s blood on the door signaling that they are the chosen people so the angel of cancellation passes them over. But as far as symbolism goes, I think it is appropriate that they should change the colors of the American flag with the colors of the LGBT flag.

“I mean, it’s horrendous, it’s traitorous, it’s treasonous — if I was in charge of the country, they wouldn’t be allowed back into the country — but it’s also appropriate.

“Because the LGBT nation, LGBTistan we may call it, is, after all, the country that corporate America as well as the United States government seeks to represent.

“Now some people predict that we will eventually in the future become two countries, there’s going to be some civil war. But the point is we’re already two countries. There’s one that salutes the Pride flag and despises the American flag, and one that salutes the American flag and has no use for the Pride flag.

“At this point, it’s only a matter of making the split official, I suppose. Something that we will probably never do, but we should.” 

During a press conference Gregg Berhalter, head coach of the US men’s soccer team, said: “I think that when we are on the world stage and [we’re in] Qatar, it’s important to bring awareness to these issues, and that’s what Be the Change is about.”

Berhalter was referring to the campaign launched in November 2020 following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin, to put a spotlight on human rights abuses and social injustice.

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No disputing winner: Jacob Caswell is first in nonbinary category

All three of the top nonbinary finishers are a part of Front Runners New York, a group for runners who are LGBTQ

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Jacob Caswell/Instagram

NEW YORK – For the first time in the history of the six major marathons around the world, organizers of the New York City Marathon awarded cash prizes to the top nonbinary runners. 

Jacob Caswell, 25, of New York City, finished first in their category on Sunday, earning $5,000, for running the 26.2 mile race in 2:45:12. 

“None of this would be possible without so many people putting in amazing work so that I and all future runners have a more inclusive space to run in,” Caswell posted on Instagram. “A major thank you to everyone!”

This was Caswell’s first time running the NYC Marathon, but they’ve been training by competing in a half-marathon in Brooklyn—winning the nonbinary category—and as well as the New York Road Runners 10K in Queens this past June. 

“Being able to not even win but just compete as yourself, it’s just been freeing,” Caswell told The New York Times.

In the NYC Marathon, they finished 172nd overall and 24 and a half minute ahead of this year’s second place nonbinary runner, Zackary Harris of New York City. Last year, Harris, 27, finished first in the nonbinary category, but at that time there were no cash prizes. Justin Solle, 28, also of New York, finished third of the 45 nonbinary runners. 

While most of that category’s runners hail from the Greater New York metropolitan area, there were also nonbinary runners from Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Washington State and even from Germany. 

This race was only the second time a World Marathon Major race registered nonbinary competitors. Marathon organizers in Boston, Chicago, London and Berlin followed New York’s lead; Only the Tokyo Marathon has not, according to NBC News.

The Times reported the Philadelphia Distance Run became the first organization to offer equal prize money to nonbinary athletes in September.

Photo by Da Ping Luo for NYRR

All three of the top nonbinary finishers are a part of Front Runners New York, a group for runners who are LGBTQ. According to The Times, Front Runners New York is working with groups like New York City Runs to offer more opportunities for nonbinary, trans and trans nonbinary runners. 

“Nonbinary runners have been here this whole time,” Harris told the newspaper. “We’ve been forced to run in categories that don’t match our gender identities, and now we’re seeing a shift in sports to actually recognize us.”

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