Words and photos by Lois Paton
I love the positivity of the term gender euphoria and think it’s as important to talk about the ways that we can feel good and comfortable as it is to talk about what can affect us negatively. As a non-binary skater I want to share the ways in which skating has helped me to feel less ashamed about my gender and experience ‘gender euphoria.’
I started skating around 3 years ago, kind of by chance. I picked up a board in a charity shop and went along to a Doyenne (@doyenneskateboards) beginners session. Although I had come across the concept of non-binary genders I had put off engaging with the idea or talking to people about it for a long time.
Skating has been an unbelievable tool for exploring my gender, and as my confidence on the board has grown, so has my confidence in myself. I still have a lot to learn with both of these things, but skating has been a catalyst for me in beginning to embrace my gender unapologetically, and to think more about aspects of myself I had pushed away and minimized for a really long time.
Although there are varying definitions and experiences of gender euphoria, the first I heard of the term was through Meg-John Barker, who said:
‘For me, gender euphoria has primarily occurred in moments when I have viscerally reclaimed some of those lost – or disowned – selves which I mostly left behind in my childhood and teenage years.’
I love this description and it resonates with my experiences so well. With adulthood comes a fear and embarrassment around falling and failing, and an encouragement to move away from physical or dangerous sports generally (especially for those assigned female at birth). A huge part of the appeal of skating for me, and many other people, is that it reconnects me with a childhood that I was very much encouraged to leave behind. I was a pretty typical ‘tomboy’ and loved extreme sports generally, but when starting high school I quickly realised my life was going to be hard if I continued to express certain parts of myself. I became pretty good at performing femininity and ‘normality’, and was ashamed to acknowledge or talk about the ‘tomboy’ part of myself that had existed. It was only when I started skating in my mid 20’s that I engaged with these memories again and realised how sad it was that I’d denied so much joy from myself for so long.
Reconnecting to things I loved and wanted as a kid, like skating, and sports generally, has been a euphoric experience and helped me to pay more attention to what experiences actually make me feel good and bad. This might sound strange but I think I honestly stopped paying attention to this as a teen and focused on managing other people’s happiness, comfort and expectations, as a way of survival. Starting skating was like a huge act of self love, because I was choosing to do something that made me feel happy, regardless of other people’s confusion, discomfort or disapproval. It feels like I’m reversing the damage done as a teenager, where I gave up so many things in order to please other people.
This act of self love has in turn, given me the confidence to begin expressing other parts of myself unashamedly, even if it hasn’t always been met with positivity or enthusiasm from others. Skating has basically taught me to care less about what people think, and caring less is crucial to survival as a gender non-comforming person.
More recently, I’ve also been thinking about the ways that I feel and fit into the dominant skate ‘scene’ in Glasgow. I’ve realised that to be accepted and mostly unquestioned in such a typically masculine environment is a big part of the appeal and euphoria for me. To be somewhere where my masculinity works in my favour is a welcome antidote to existing in wider society where I have often been discouraged or punished for expressing masculinity.
Unfortunately I think the reasons that I feel so euphoric about the experience of fitting in to a masculine environment might also be the reason many more feminine people feel unable to take part. My ability to take up this space is influenced by both my masculinity and the fact that I am now skating at a level deemed ‘good enough’ by others, and these are privileges a lot of cis male skaters need to become more aware of. Nonetheless, for me skating has been an amazing space for me to explore masculinity fairly safely and openly.
Although in many ways I feel accepted in the mainstream scene in Glasgow, there is always an equal awareness of the ways in which I don’t fit. Seeing videos of myself skating often makes me cringe at my body and the disparity between how I feel while skating vs how I look while skating. When I’m skating I feel so powerful and strong, and kind of imagine myself to be no different to any of the guys there. But when I see videos I kind of have to face the fact that this is not how I’m seen by others. This is why having access to a community of non-conventional skaters is so important. It helps in recharging and reminding myself that all kinds of people can skate and look cool as fuck while doing it. It reminds me that my existence in these spaces as someone who looks different is a powerful thing and I hope that other people might see me and feel more able to take part as well.
Words by Lois Paton // Instagram : (@yeh.lo)