The sports world of snowboarding has some new LGBTQ visibility.
While there are plenty of professional athletes who have come out in 2020, there’s one field in sports that has often been ignored on this front. The field of snowboarding. Unfortunately, like with many other sports, there’s a lot of homophobia wrapped into snowboarding competitions, events, and spaces. But if you turn your attention to the field, you will now see some LGBTQ representation. That’s because after this year’s Pride month five professional athletes came out.
But who are the faces creating new LGBTQ visibility on the halfpipe?
Snowboarder and filmmaker Tanner Pendelton opened up about his sexual orientation through a Pride interview. He’s now believed to be the first openly queer snowboarder in the world. While talking to Out Magazine, Pendelton noted how he wanted to publicly share his identity with the world and change the narrative of sports.
“The narrative in action sports tends to be, ‘It’s okay to be queer as long as you rip and present as masculine,'” Pendleton said. “The more stories we hear, the closer that moves to, ‘It’s okay to be queer, because it’s okay to be queer.’ I wanted to share my story to move our community in that direction.”
As OutSports reports, Kuzyk came out toward the end of June too. The Vancouver native posted a photo of himself with a rainbow across his face on Instagram. To caption the picture, he wrote, “I always wondered what this moment in my life would look like. I guess it looks like this! I’m very proud to be gay!”
Then in his interview with Torment Mag, Jake Kuzyk noted how he has know he was gay for most of his life.
“I’ve known I was gay forever, but when you’re really young, you don’t really know in the full sense. You understand that something’s different, but it’s tough to comprehend. I’ve been doing both those things every day since I was 10 years old. It wasn’t until years after starting to skate and snowboard that I fully realized this part of me was different.”
But if you gay sports fans now think you have a chance with Kuzyk, you’re sadly mistaken. When asked if he’s in a relationship, the athlete said, “I think so. Maybe?”
After coming out as gay, Kennedi Deck noted how she grew up surrounded by the guys and was considered a tomboy. That said, she doesn’t think that affected her sexual orientation.
“Since I was young, I’ve always been a ‘tomboy,’ so I think being surrounded by guys felt like second nature. In the moment, I don’t think I really noticed or cared, you know? I feel like I’ve always seen gender as a sliding scale, so it wasn’t really anything I thought about,” the athlete explained. “Looking back on it now, no, I don’t think it really played a part in my personal identity. I think I have always had a pretty good grasp on my identity in terms of what I like, who I like, what I like to wear. I think, if anything, I probably felt more comfortable being with the guys than being with girls.”
For deaf snowboarder Chad Unger, openly discussing his sexual orientation was difficult just a few years ago. But like the others before him, deciding to come out was both a personal journey and a commitment to his community.
“I hope our stories will help others to come out and be free sooner,” he explained in his video interview, which you can watch above. “I also want to recognize that there are BIPOC out there who need us more than ever. Despite being deaf and gay, I’ve lived an incredibly privileged life. So, I ask you to come and fight for their rights like how they fought with us for ours.”
“It’s a good day to be gay. Two years ago today, I wouldn’t have said that.”
For Jill Perkins, giving herself a sexual orientation label does not work. But, she expressed to Torment that she still considers herself non-straight. And for Perkins, understanding and accepting that fact took time.
“I feel like I just recently started to accept myself and my feelings. I wasn’t necessarily fighting them; I just never fully embraced them. That being said, it took time for sure. But that’s important. Nobody should feel forced into situations or feel like they need to express themselves in ways they aren’t ready to.”
Thank you to all five athletes for sharing your truth with the world!