Skateboarder Leo Baker – who quit Team USA last year so they could medically transition – has shared why they don’t regret missing out on the Tokyo Olympics.
Baker is one of the world’s top skateboarders after winning a series of international skateboarding competitions, including the Street League Super Crown in 2016.
After putting a lifetime of questions about his gender on hold to focus on his skateboarding career, Baker realised he was trans at 19. But it wasn’t until they turned 29 that Baker made the decision to go public – resigning from the US Women’s Olympic Skateboarding Team last year so that they could take hormones and have top surgery.
In an interview with TIME Magazine, the week before skateboarding will be an Olympic sport for the first ever time, Baker explained why he quit the Olympic team and said that skateboarding competitions are not “the be all and end all” for him.
“I don’t care about winning,” Baker told TIME. “Sure, it feels super good to win in the moment, but I don’t need to do it again. I just want to skate.”
They also described how competing in women’s sports for so long became unbearable as a closeted non-binary person.
“Being categorised as a woman in events was just not for me,” Baker said. “I’ve been competing for 17 years, and in that space, there’s always been internal conflict. It got to a point where I couldn’t take it anymore.”
He added: “I couldn’t keep putting myself on hold… For years, I’d hated being in public spaces because then I had to be something else, this version of myself I’d created to survive and have success. All of the room I created by taking that away was invaluable, because now I’m able to just show up every single day and not have to think about, “who do I have to be today? What do I have to be like? Can I be Leo? Are my worlds overlapping?”
“And then I’d have been having an existential crisis. Since making that decision, I have never been happier in my life.
“Coming out has changed my life in so many ways. I can’t even put words to the feeling of going to a skate park and just being one person.”
Leo Baker will ‘rest easy’ watching the Olympics from home
Leo Baker said that as soon as they learned about top surgery, they knew they wanted to have it – but that, like almost all trans people, there were “so many hoops you have to jump through to get the surgery”.
On top of that, having surgery or taking hormones – Leo Baker has been microdosing testosterone for just over a year – wasn’t possible with his skate career.
“Before I resigned from the team, that [taking testosterone] wasn’t even something I could consider doing, because of competitions and the anti-doping regulations at the Olympics,” Baker said.
“I couldn’t be on hormones if I was going to compete in a women’s event, and it was hard to schedule the surgery because my competing meant I wouldn’t be able to have the time to recover.”
Baker also said that they have zero regrets about not being in the Olympics, although they wondered if they could have tried out for the men’s skating team (World Athletics rules regarding trans athletes and testosterone levels only apply to women’s competitions).
“I used to compete against guys all the time when I was a teenager,” Baker said. “Technically I could still. It’s just a matter of whether I want that. But I don’t really feel it’s necessary—and also it’s so boring.
“Maybe there’s some world in the future that has queer skate competitions, maybe that would be a fun time. For now though, seeing the competition happening from afar and knowing I’m not there and why I’m not there, I can rest easy.”
If he’d stayed on the US Women’s team, Baker would’ve been one of two openly trans athletes at the Tokyo Olympics. As it stands, New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will be the first, and only, openly trans person competing – at a games with a record number of out LGBT+ athletes.
“I feel like I’ve arrived right back where I was at the beginning when I was a kid, and when skating was this pure and sacred thing to me. I’m going to skate, and no one can say anything to me. It’s how I make my living, and it’s how I feel happy,” Baker shared.
“Nothing is going to touch it again.”