Goddammit, let’s talk about Taylor Silverman – by Anthony Pappalardo
I was originally going to write something about the utterly shit Transphobic shit storm brought down on skateboarding by Taylor Silverman this week. I was in two minds over it. Whilst I was completely incapacitated by indecision, Anthony Pappalardo went and wrote something far better than anything I could ever write. Please hit the link above to read his full post, and if you’re still here, you can read some of my ramblings about my indecision below.
In recent years I’ve tried to contribute to the conversations that arise in skateboarding to explore where we sit in the larger world. I feel like it’s reductive to just say we should only stick to talking about who has the best hard flip or which video part is best – skateboarding is, whether we like it or not, filled with controversy and burying our heads in the sand about it when the topics get too real is ignoring our responsibility to give back something positive to the thing that has given us so much.
I also firmly believe, if you’re gonna take a side in a debate, always punch up, not down. The trans community are a people who have been sorely shat on by many people with immense privilege (especially recently). To remain silent at this point would be a disservice to the many trans skaters I have respect for – I can’t give props to trans skaters one minute, and then go silent when their very existence within skateboarding (and let’s face it, within society) is challenged.
On the other hand I felt like the last thing this situation needed was the voice of another Cis-gendered male weighing in. Those who are being vilely attacked need allies, but I didn’t feel like I am a good enough writer to contribute in a way that would respectfully express the situation.
A lot of my thoughts on how marginalised skaters are treated has been covered here on the blog before (not only because I am of a marginalised background myself), but I have often felt a little uncomfortable throwing myself too deeply into the foreground of any debate surrounding a group I am not part of – not all marginalised groups are the same and the struggles I encounter will differ massively from the struggles a trans skater may encounter.
What I will say, to echo the key points of Pappalardo’s post above: Trans Rights are Human Rights, Trans Women are Women, and Trans Men are Men. I just want to say that, and make my stance on that clear. My firm belief is that skateboarding is an art form that is difficult to quantify with clear markings of what is “the best”, and I strongly believe that competitions in our space strongly rely on a judge’s preference for tricks and style.
There is no biological or physical advantage for what makes a skateboarder “better” – I have seen very good skateboarding (and by that, I mean interesting, creative, technical and inspiring tricks and parts) from those with varying body types, personalities, disabilities, ages, etc. I don’t think your assigned birth gender has any bearing on whether you can approach riding a skateboard in a “better” way than anyone else – it’s like me saying Picasso is a better painter because he’s a man.
The sad thing about this is that the aggressor’s name has dominated the conversation here, and people are so angry about a trans skater winning a competition that people are forgetting she has a name. Lilian Gallagher is a skateboarder, just like any one of us – and I really wanted to slap a big old rad photo of her shredding at the top of this article to re-focus the conversation on a good skateboarder winning a competition for doing rad shit. Unfortunately this whole controversy has buried any skateboarding content of Lilian: I couldn’t even find any video footage of her actually skateboarding that wasn’t tainted by transphobic articles from The Daily Mail, The New York Post, or any other right-wing media cesspool. In this case, it has ruined our ability to view and celebrate another skateboarder’s actual skateboarding.
I would also like to address Ms. Silverman’s attitude that she is owed prize money and that any other skateboarder is costing her additional income. To quote Jake Phelps: “skateboarding doesn’t owe you shit, it owes you wheelbite in the rain”. None of us are owed a living from skateboarding: we are lucky to even have it at all, and I think it’s disgusting that anyone would tear down another skater just because they think they deserve a little bit of extra cash for riding what is essentially a child’s toy. If you are in skateboarding to make a profit, you’re doing it wrong.
This ran longer than I wanted to, but that should be no surprise for anyone who regularly visits this blog. If you haven’t already, I implore you read Anthony Pappalardo’s blog post on the subject, as it will fill you in on the entire story behind this controversy, and does an excellent job at addressing why it sucks.