Art, Representation, and Skateboarding



By TJ Porreca Sarah Williams-Cain, CONTRIBUTOR

A look at the Bay Area’s first queer skate collective, Unity Skateboarding

Gabriel Ramirez flashed a sheepish smile and laughed with his friend “Smalls” as they posed with their skateboards in front of the Unity Press workspace where their love for skateboarding coincides with their involvement in the LGBTQ community in the Bay Area.
Unity Press is located on the second floor of a bookstore on 13th Street in Oakland Calif..
The walls are engulfed in original artwork praising visibility, identity, and more importantly, representation. The words “Trans Lives Matter” fill posters and prints in the small workspace.
Unity has monthly meetups located primarily at Rockridge Bart station in Oakland where Cheung and Ramirez skate and sell merchandise. The meetups provide a safe haven for queer skaters who have been rejected by the sometimes unaccepting skate community.
Unity Skateboarding is a queer skateboarding collective that started in 2017 and was originally curated and developed by artist Jeffery Cheung. Cheung and partner Ramirez have been the face of Unity.
“I wasn’t out in high school,” said Cheung. “When I was skateboarding, I heard homophobic slurs all the time, like ‘faggot,’ or ‘that’s so gay.’ It’s not a very safe environment for a queer person to come out.”
Unity is attempting to reclaim their space and make the presence of queers who skate a visible narrative in San Francisco’s notoriously violent skate scene.
Since the 1990s, the demographic of the skateboarding community has had a large presence of heterosexual-cisgender men but has been changing with the help from groups like Unity Skateboarding.
Unity aims at rebuilding the image of a stereotypical skater and aims to put a stop to the shunning of queer people in the skate community.
“I guess I have always loved skateboarding but the difference with Unity is now I can love it with other people. I don’t feel like an outsider anymore,” said Smalls.
Cheung and Ramirez are the catalysts for making the necessary change in the skate community in the Bay Area through their emphasis on giving back to the community.
“Jeff and Gabe aren’t making money off this collective, they’re giving back,” said Smalls. “Supporting. And creating space. This has inspired countless others to start something similar in their own town… I see people taking responsibility to create spaces for their communities. It’s rad.”