Skateboarder and artist Jeffrey Cheung has one mission: “to represent and support queer skaters.” To that end, he started Unity, a company that’s more of a creative umbrella for him and select partners. His projects include a band, a run of zines, skate meet-ups, and even a skate shop. Most recently, Cheung began designing and hand-painting decks with depictions of, and affirming messages for, LGBTQ skaters.
The decks portray nude bodies of different races and sexes, all painted in Cheung’s signature art style. Some of the figures are on their own, while other decks show naked couples cuddling tight. All of them are smiling, showing that they aren’t just accepting but proud of their bodies and identities. The boards also include handwritten names of LGBTQ pro skaters and captions like “Together As One” “Like It or Not!”
Excited to announce we are starting UNITY queer skateboarding! For everyone but especially for queer minded humans. Launch party coming early February! Dreams do come true!!!!!!!!!!❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ Also! If you are queer identified send us your “sponser me tape” you don’t have to be “good”#queerskateboarding @unityskateboardingo
Homophobia in Skateboarding
As a queer skater, Cheung takes LGBTQ representation in skateboarding seriously, as shown in an interview with Huck Magazine. He says, “Despite its counter-culture attitude, skateboarding has, for the most part, remained homogeneous and conservative.” From his experiences, he knows this “contributes to the alienation of queer people.” A big part of this is toxic masculinity. In his words, there’s a “macho-bro mentality” that discourages “folks who don’t identify or present themselves as masculine.”
Cheung said, “Homophobia and transphobia can be witnessed in almost every facet of skate culture.” However, things are gradually changing. Brian Anderson, winner of the World Cup of Skateboarding in 1999, came out as gay in 2016. In a Vice Sports documentary, Anderson claimed he stayed in the closet so long because of the community’s casual homophobia. He said, “Hearing ‘faggot’ all the time made me think, at a young age, that it was really dangerous to talk about it.” In the interview, Cheung calls the coming-out of a beloved champion “a big step for queer people in skateboarding.”
Of course, all this is just part of the larger push for LGBT rights and acceptance. Thankfully, Cheung’s efforts with Unity are making a difference, as shown in an interview with KQED Arts earlier this year. He showed them a few examples of fan mail he has received daily from around the world. “There are so many queer skaters out there,” he said, “and it’s incredibly gratifying to know that Unity Skateboarding is encouraging and affirming for them.”
People can purchase these custom decks at Unity’s skate shop in Oakland or on their website. He says he will hand-paint another 200 unique designs until he starts screen-printing them on the boards.
Want more news about the fight for LGBT rights? Here’s the dramatic story of a gay CEO who spoke out … and a man who threw a pie in his face.