Vancouver Queer Skate offers community during COVID-19

Where other groups have had to dissolve, this one skates on

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By Alaina Saint Amour 

One of the few inclusive groups prioritizing queer people during the pandemic, Vancouver Queer Skate is bringing LGBTQ+ folks together.

The club has been key in providing a sense of community and belonging to many who have felt isolated, or have been treated differently, solely due to their identity.

Aaron Mou, who began skateboarding with the group before the COVID-19 pandemic, said VQS was a big part of his introduction to a safe and inclusive skating community.

“What I saw at VQS, it gave me the motivation to go out there [and] realize I wasn’t alone,” Mou said. “That’s what it does for a lot of people.”

Vancouver Queer Skate was created over two years ago to bring together members and allies of LGBTQ+ community to a safe space to learn skateboarding.

During the early days of the pandemic, the group tried to maintain contact online among members when in-person events were cancelled. Turning to social media, the group set-up a Discord channel for attendees to find others who wanted to skateboard together. 

Together again 

In January, when the group was finally able to meet-up again outdoors with safety measures in place, it hosted its first returning practice session at the seasonal Green Mini ramp on Granville Island. The group’s official winter sessions wrapped up a couple of weeks ago and they hope to resume skating together in the spring.

According to VQS volunteer Cameron Sasyniuk, the permission to use the ramp again has reunited members safely.

Sasyniuk said that returning to the ramp changed the game. 

Michelle Pezel co-owns Antisocial Skateboard Shop and is also vice-president of the Vancouver Skateboard Coalition which, along with Granville Island, created and hosts the Green Mini ramp. For VQS it’s been a place for attendees to make friends but also to ensure they have a positive skateboarding experience during the pandemic.

“[In skateboarding, LGBTQ+ folks] don’t feel like there’s room for them,” Pezel said. “But like, there is room in skateboarding and people do need to make more room.”

A place to feel included

Mou previously felt he needed to alter his mannerisms around skateparks to fit in, but at VQS he was confident to be himself.

“They just provided an environment where you didn’t have to second guess, you didn’t have to change your pronouns, and you didn’t have to hide,” Mou said.

VQS’s last night on the Green Mini ramp was Feb. 26, but the group looks forward to when restrictions are loosened and they will be able to organize events again.

“You can connect with anybody and go skate with them,” said Sasyniuk. “That’s what we hope is that people kind of end up [doing]… meet[ing] each other.”

Mou said groups like VQS mean a lot to those who identify as LGBTQ+.

“Pride comes from community,” Mou said. “You can go off on your own and become a strong person, but to be surrounded with like-minded people, especially if you’ve never got to experience that, is second to none.”

In the slideshow below, reporter Alaina Saint Amour spoke to volunteer Cameron Sasyniuk on what VQS means to him. 

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