this short film explores lgbtq bias in the skateboarding community
We sat down with the film’s creator, NYC artist and photographer Tom Kneller, to talk about the experience of being an openly gay skater.
Still via Blue Like You.
For a supposedly inclusive counter-culture, the discourse around being gay in the skate world is surprisingly lacking. That’s something that Tom Kneller wants to change. In his new film Blue Like You, the NYC photographer and artist takes a closer look at the skate community with openly gay skateboarder, Stephen Ostrowski, in an attempt to improve visibility for future generations of young LGBTQ skaters.
The film contests LGBTQ bias in the skate world, which is traditionally deemed a testosterone-fuelled, hetero-dominated space. “Skating is a path a lot of people choose at one point or another in their life” Tom tells i-D. “My experience with this world happened when I was younger and coincided with the time I started to discover my sexual identity. I saw first hand the difficulty in being accepted as someone who is gay within the skate community.”
Two years ago, in a video posted on VICE Sports, professional skateboarder Brian Anderson chose to come out as gay -- something that reignited Tom’s interest in the issue of LGBTQ acceptance in skateboarding once again. “My name is Brian Anderson, I’m a professional skateboarder, and we are here to talk about the fact that I am gay”, Brian says candidly in the video. He later explained in another interview: “Life’s too short to hold this stuff in.” With his decision to come out, Brian Anderson became one of the most high profile athletes to come out in recent years, and the impact of that on the wider skateboarding world cannot be underestimated.
Tom says that in the years since, the skating community has become more inclusive, but in spite of that there’s still more work to be done. “Homophobia is absolutely still a thing, but there’s also good progress”, he tells i-D. “Unity is a queer skateboarding collective from the Bay Area of California that creates an encourages safe spaces for people to skate together regardless of sex, race, gender, identity or ability. People who want to reclaim skateboarding.”
Since its inception in 2017, Unity has also branched out of the Bay Area, and Tom says it’s also started to make its mark in NYC. It’s the work of collectives like Unity and also the influence of gay skateboarders like Stephen Ortrowski and Brian Anderson that Tom focuses on in Blue Like You. “The importance of the film is in raising awareness of what it means to be gay in the skate world, which is still deemed a traditionally heterosexual space.
“I want to show that skateboarding doesn’t inherently belong to anyone, regardless of who is most represented.”
Watch the full film here: