Kennedi Deck’s Memoir–A Message to You

photo by Tanner Pendleton; thumbnail by Oli Gagnon

June 26th, 2020

I decided that instead of doing a classic interview, I would get some of my friends to ask me some questions, a sort of Q&A. A few are directly involved with snowboarding, some not at all. Some are queer folks, others CIS folks. I told them they could ask me about anything, snowboarding or not, gay or not. I feel like I got a good little mix of questions.

This Q&A is pretty short and sweet, so I wanted to start off by talking a bit about my personal experience, up til now, of coming out and being a queer person in snowboarding.

I knew I was gay when I was 13. I never really knew anything about gay people, and I sort of just thought everyone liked everyone. I was mistaken. The first person I ever told was my childhood best friend. Swinging on the swing at our elementary school I blurted out the words, “I’M GAY.” To my surprise, he didn’t care at all. He even thought it was cool, ‘cause we had one more thing in common: girls.

Although my first experience coming out was positive, it wasn’t so positive in my own head. Now, not only was I a dirty tomboy preteen, I now had this added outsiderness. I struggled a lot from then to 16, constantly trying to convince myself I wanted to wear dresses and kiss boys. It didn’t work.

photo by Oli Gagnon

Luckily, my first snowboard coach was a queer women. While she was teaching me how to bend my knees and frontboard, she was unknowingly teaching me that it’s okay to be gay. That mentorship was huge in me moving forward with my own self acceptance. Once I started to accept myself, things fell into place. I told some friends in high school and actually ended up in a relationship with a girl. That likely prompted me to inform my parents what the fuck was going on.

I came out to them when I was 16. They didn’t take it very well and probably thought it was just a phase. At first, we had some really bad months. After that, things got a bit better, and now, several years later, our relationship is the best it’s ever been. They have blossomed into accepting and understanding who I am.

It wasn’t easy to be open with my family, but I’m really happy I had the courage and privilege to come out at such a young age. Many young people don’t have the privilege of knowing they won’t get kicked out of their house for being gay. I was very fortunate.

Having to come out at such a young age led me to not only be more open with my family but everyone around me too. Although there were many times when I felt like I had to hide this part of my identity, I always tried to be transparent with myself. I think that can be attributed to the extra time I had while coming out in the middle of high school (the worst years ever). 

In comparison, coming out to a community of snowboarders doesn’t feel as scary as being one of the very few queer people in a redneck high school. Though occasionally, there have been times when the snowboard community seems to have that exact same redneck high school feel. 

Regardless of how difficult it can be at times, I’m so grateful to have snowboarding, because it helped me get out of my close-minded small town. When I was 17, I moved to Calgary (Treaty 7) to be closer to more boarding opportunities. Being in the “bigger” city helped me a lot. Whether it was finding new stuff I was into, like drawing or clothing, or simply seeing another queer person walking down the street. Having that accessibility to LGBTQ+ people is really important, especially when I was just coming out. Being able to have that community is huge, making like-minded friends that you can really hash out some gay stuff with.

photo by Oli Gagnon

I grew up often being the minority in many situations, from being the only girl in the SRD crew driving around Calgary (Treaty 7) to film a snowboard movie, to then being the only out queer person in a video full of women. It can be really exhausting to navigate who you can trust or talk to about this big chunk of your being. Even though I have been a minority in most situations I have had to address my own privilege as a white person. I can only imagine how people of colour or queer people of colour must feel within the snowboard community. We can’t stop at simply making space for the LGBTQ+ community in snowboarding. The culture needs way more intersectional representation than that. 

Fast forward to now, and I’m jumping in a van full of CIS straight guys and being scared to say anything that might expose my true identity. It’s not like anyone is forcing me to do it; I want to go snowboarding, it’s what I love to do. 

Oftentimes, I’m still taunted with these sorts of questions about being queer in the snowboard community.

Will this affect my career? Will brands not want me as part of their image? Will the guys or girls not want me on trips with them? Am I being too GAY?

But in the end, I’d like not to think about these things. I just want to snowboard. I want to be able to be myself and be accepted by not only my peers, but by the industry itself. And I know I’m not the only one who wants this. However, I feel incredibly fortunate to have found people, a team, and companies that are accepting and straight-up down for the person I am. But I do think the industry has a long way to go in their acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community. If you are down for the queers, right on! But how is anyone supposed to know. I want to encourage people to start by talking. Ask someone what their pronouns are, ask someone about their partner, or just make an effort to make it clear that you’re an ally rather than sitting on the sidelines in silence. At the very least, buy a damn t-shirt so when you are wearing it we can tell that you are down!  

photo by Oli Gagnon

Katelyn: Within the snowboard community, do you feel accepted as an out queer person?

To be honest, not really. It is still something that I try not to bring up or talk too much about. It’s hard to know if certain people are okay with it or not. Not that I want to be friends with someone who is homophobic, but sometimes with snowboarding its just nice to be known as a good snowboarder and a good person. Someone’s perspective on my gender or sexual orientation shouldn’t change their perspective on my snowboarding abilities or the person I am. But a lot of the time it does. So no, I don’t always feel comfortable or accepted being out.

Do you feel like you can express your own individuality within snowboarding, especially when you have to represent brands? For example, having to wear women’s specific clothing or colour ways.

I had a hard time with this when I was younger, like getting some stuff from brands but they are like skinny fitting women’s snow pants, or like pink jackets and shit. I was just so grateful to be getting something for free that I just had to rock it. I usually would just spray paint whatever I could so it would just be black or white, or learn how to order everything in a double XL just so the skinny fit is a little bigger. 

But now I think I’m lucky to represent brands whose stuff I actually like and am able to have a say in helping with colourways, etc. And it seems like they are down for my image and style too, which feels nice. I think people are really sick of seeing “fake” women in action sports. They want the real deal. 

Kennedi’s Pride Shirt that she’d like you to wear

Tyler: What is your daily motivation? And do you have a routine?

Lately I’ve just been wanting to be healthy and happy. So that’s been driving my motivation to get out of bed, go workout, make a painting, hangout with friends, or go see my therapist. I just moved to Vancouver so I’ve been waking up and having a coffee, making breakfast. Then I try to do something outside, meet some new friends, skate, paint, find a fun summer job, eat some good food and unpack my room. That’s the summer routine—get in shape and be healthy and happy going into the fall.

Mikaela: Marry, fuck, kill? Shoes, shorts, shirts?

Marry shoes, fuck shirts, kill shorts. 

Your house is on fire, what are the three objects you grab?

#1: This old lamp my parents used to have when they were my age.

#2: My New York ball cap that I stole from an old roommate. 

#3: My Smiths records.

Raewyn: If you could genetically combine two fruits to make a brand new super-fruit, what kind of fruit would the new fruit be?

I really like mangos and blackberries, so it would be a cross of those. Maybe like a blackberry the size of a mango—easy to eat, with the texture of a mango, but tastes like a blackberry, and has, seeds because I kind of like when they get stuck in your teeth and you have to pick them out. It’s like a challenge. 

How many concussions have you had, and how’s your head?

I’ve bumped the old noggin a few times for sure. I’d say I’ve had two real good ones and maybe a handful of little bumps. Honestly, I think I’ll try and wear a helmet a bit more often. Snowboarding and not. Your brain is important and having a concussion sucks. It always makes me feel like shit. So why not wear one when I can? That being said there is a weird stigma around helmets in snowboarding, but it would be nice if that changed.

Kennedi’s Rookie of the year Part from the all-girls video “The Uninvited” (2018)

JJ: If you could tell your 16-year-old self one thing that you know now—about yourself, the world you inhabit, or about those you interact with—but didn’t then, what would it be ? 

I would tell my 16-year-old self to continue to keep working hard and good things will come. Also, that you’re not alone. There are so many more queer people out there like you than you think, snowboarding and not. 

Finn: What was it like when we were younger being surrounded by CIS straight guys as everyone’s developing their own identities. How do you think that played into your relationship with personal identity? Or continues to?

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 wasnt really anything I thought about. 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.

How many kits do you usually bring to a spot? How many kit changes at the spot is too many?

I will usually bring like two different things to wear. I’m a big fan of the “look good, feel good, ride good” philosophy. So I have to keep those options open, need to be looking good. Also, I believe there is no limit to kit changes at the spot. Sometimes even mid-battle you have to switch it up–new kit energy haha.

photo by Tanner Pendleton

Fawn: Is a hot dog a sandwich? 

I mean, technically, it kind of is. But I don’t think so. Also, I don’t really like hot dogs, so maybe I’m biased. 

How do you plan to incorporate and bring awareness to the LGBTQ+ community in a snowboard industry that’s currently heterosexually dominated?

I think that this Torment Pride Week is a huge first step in bringing awareness to the fact that there are queer people in snowboarding. I think it’s super important for the younger generation not to feel scared to be who they are—in snowboarding or not. I think a good way of doing that is showing them that we exist, and that some of your favourite snowboarders/ filmmakers/ photographers are gay. I know it would have helped me when I was younger. 

Beyond this, I think just continuing to be vocal and open helps so much. Pushing brands to be more inclusive, of not only queer people, but women, people of colour, and minorities in general. Hopefully this week can get the ball rolling in the right direction, and we can build some momentum on making snowboarding more inclusive for everyone. 

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