queer / trans / non-binary friends / marginal skateboarders / unity
This month, Skateboards for Hope is proud to spotlight the Marginal Skateboarders group. Marginal Skateboarders is an inclusive skateboarding community where everyone’s uniqueness is recognized and celebrated. They accomplish this by focusing on what unites us ; our love and passion for skateboarding, independent of ethnicity, age, gender, queerness or orientation.
Marginal Skateboarder’s two founding members, Paige Kramer Rochefort and Bil Gagné, generously shared their time and progressive views on skateboarding, for the Skateboards For Hope blog.
Marginal Skateboarders is an all inclusive skate movement on Facebook and Instagram, whose mission is to encourage and support marginal issues within skateboarding, including transgenderism, homosexuality and other under-represented fringe issues.
Paige Kramer Rochefort lives in the the province of Québec, Canada. She has been skating on and off for 32 years, and is the first transgender woman to win a bronze medal at the Pan-Am games.
Paige is also the first transgender woman to win a place on the podium at the Skateboarding World Cup.
Bil Gagné is an enthusiastic novice skater and primary school teacher (province of Québec, Canada). She learnt to skateboard in 2017, and shares her skateboarding progress through Instagram. Bil supports an extra-curricular skateboarding program within her school. For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
When did you start skateboarding?
Paige: I get asked this a lot and never know how to answer. It was 32 years ago...From the age of 10 to 15, then for about 2 summers in my late twenties. I stopped for 15 years before starting again in 2015 at the age of forty.
This was three years after I began my physical transition from my assigned male gender to female. It is important to note the word ‘physically’, as transwoman are psychologically female at birth.
Who or what inspired you to start?
Paige: I don't remember why I originally started at a younger age, but I started skateboarding again after asking a stranger if I could try his board. I was instantly hooked again and felt compelled to live the experience this time around as my true self.
At a much younger age (pre-transition), I didn't identify with any of the male riders or crews – so I almost always skateboarded alone and gave up because of it.
Skateboarding may be an independent activity but it still requires support and a sense of belonging within a like minded group for the majority of people. You are both members of the Les Vagabonnes which is an all-girl skate movement in Montreal.
Can you tell us more about this group?
Paige: The founder Frédérique Luyet started the group in 2013 along with the cofounders Ellyn Badens, Camille Goulet and Chloë Morin the first members of the all female group. I heard of Les Vagabonnes through an article in the Metro newspaper. I met up with them during the free women's skate nights at the LE TAZ Skatepark. I was in awe. They were all very inspirational and welcoming. At first (even though I benefited from my *cis-passing privilege) I was always terrified that they would find out I had been through a transition and that they would kick me out of the group because of it. But the group quickly gained my trust and I slowly opened up to them about being a transwoman. It really didn't matter to them, they saw me for the woman skateboarder I was. I had finally found a sense of belonging in the skateboarding community and made some truly amazing friends.
I became one of the core members of Les Vagabonnes by participating in as many events that I could with them, I redesigned the logo, and produced some of the Vagabonnes free merchandise.
Bil: A friend of mine told me about the Vagabonnes. Similar to Paige, I found a group where I felt welcomed, and had a sense of community.
If it wasn't for them, I think I would not have continued skateboarding and have evolved in the sport. They are my support. I always feel safe and encouraged skateboarding with them.
Why did you feel the need to join an all-girl skate group? Paige: I wanted to make new female friends that shared the same passion. It is also very important for me to have a female-identified 'safe' space.
What is Marginal Skateboarders? How did this idea evolve?
Paige: The Vagabonnes was originally all inclusive, but it became an all female group unintentionally. I felt there was a need to create a new group with the help of Bil Gagné, that united everyone aside from gender identity. A group that recognizes authenticity and uniqueness for those who often find themselves marginalized in the skateboarding community and industry. The blacksheep of skateboarding.
What do you hope Marginal Skateboards will accomplish in 2018?
Paige, how do you feel about being a transgender woman in your sport?
How was it to be the first trangender woman to win a place on the podium at the World Cup skateboarding competition 2016?
Paige: I have to thank the Jackalope for being a bit if a trailblazer in that matter. Winning was really unexpected. All I was aiming for was for trans people to have some visibility at an event like that. It may not have been 1st place but it is of major importance for all trans-identified people, and had a very positive impact in the Montréal trans-community.
There was some controversy from some *cisgender individuals who thought I was at an unfair advantage. Transphobia and sexism is often caused by ignorance and fear. These people clearly didn't do any scientific research on the impacts that years of hormone therapy has on transwoman, especially at my age.
(*cisgender: adjective. Denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex.)
How was your experience winning bronze medal as the first transgender woman to represent Canada at the Pan-American skateboarding competition in 2017?
Paige: Surreal. I cried on the podium and it felt great. I can't thank Annie Guglia enough for giving me her place at the competition and that opportunity.
When I came home I asked myself, why wasn't I hearing about other trans-peoples’ skateboard achievements? I couldn't be the only one? So recently I posted a ‘shout out’ video clip on Instagram to let others know that they are not alone. The feed back was touching.
Bil, how and where do you teach skateboarding in school?
Bil: When I started skateboarding, my self esteem grew rapidly. I also understood that you need to be focused and perseverant to become better, but the feeling of landing a trick for the first time is worth all the effort.
Then I thought: Hey, it would be so great if I could share that feeling with the kids I’m teaching!
It took me 2 months to build the project, I was amazed how fast it become real. The approval from the school board was an important step; they found the project innovative and refreshing. So, since January 2018, I’ve been teaching beginner kids once a week in a safe environment with small obstacles like quarter pipes and rails.
Two schools in Sherbrooke and Québec have included skateboarding in their sport studies programs.
Do you believe skateboarding should be more available in school curriculums?
Bil: I’m pretty sure it should be! There are so many values in common such as perseverance, heightened self esteem, effort, mutual aid and many more. Skateboarding is still viewed as a marginal sport (he-he!) but people need to know all the good it can bring to kids! and older people like me (ha-ha!).
I've seen kids who were so shy that they couldn't look me in the eyes at the first course, but now they are always talking about tricks they’ve done and how impatient they are to go skate outside. They are radiating happiness, it's so beautiful to see.
What was your worst injury outside of skateboarding?
Paige: A broken heart. Bil: As an ex contemporary dancer, I broke many things.
My knees (which still hurt to this day) are the worst injury.
Which skaters do you admire, and why?
Paige: I admire every original and creative skater doing their own thing and just being themselves. Andy Anderson, Una Farrar, Camille Goulet to name just three off the top of my head.
Bil: So many! My favourite skateboarder is Lacey Baker. She’s out of boundaries, she reminds me that you can be very different and still be awesome.
There are also many skateboarders that I love watching like Paige Krämer and Camille Goulet. (Paige: Aaww. <3)
How do you think groups like Marginal Skateboards affect skateboarding culture?
Paige: I think it unites people and reminds everyone of the essence and the reason we all began skateboarding... It's a form of expression and it's fun.
How do you feel about the use of sexual femininity to advance a career within this sport?
Paige: I am a feminist so I strongly believe that a person should have the freedom and the right to choose that if they want. If our display of femininity (whatever a person thinks it to be) is misunderstood by the public as sexuality it will have a negative impact though.
An example of negative results would be objectifying girls by displaying them in bikinis at events or on products, to sell unrelated products.
Have you ever been a victim of pay inequity at a skateboard competition?
Paige: Yes, but recently event organizers have been adjusting this issue.
How can female skateboarders move towards pay equity?
Paige: By supporting each other, the companies and the events that have female riders. Facebook and Instagram ‘likes’ are important but making informed purchases weigh in greatly.
If we like it or not, skateboarding is also a business.
As founders of Marginal Skateboarders, do you hope marginal issues will become mainstream within skateboarding?
Paige: Sadly there will always be people left in the margins, no matter.
If people we consider marginalized today eventually get recognition for their talents and finally benefit from it, then we are evolving as people, which is great!
Which new causes do you think Marginal Skateboarders will identify with in the future?
Paige: Groups are often created from personal experiences and the instinctual human need to bring together others that share a similar one. Be it an injustice, life goals, similar values, an identity, a passion or an activity.
Thank you for being a trailblazer. See you in the park!