This winter, snowboarder and friend Jessy Brown, came out to me. She, at the time, was ready to let go of old baggage. Jessy was ready to identify as They/Them. Since this decision, Jessy transformed. We’ve been shooting and shredding together since 2017 but, I’ve never seen them more comfortable with themselves as they are now. Even their snowboarding has improved. The best part? By being true to themselves, they’re helping pave the way to deconstruct gender conformity in the snowboard community.
I’ve been fascinated by this self-realization. So, I also interviewed trans snowboarder Devi Gupta, and co-founder of Pink Dollar Possy, Casey Pflipsen, hoping to inspire others who want to break the mould.
Through these interviews, I’ve learned this isn’t about you, me, or any one individual. It’s about progressing our collective consciousness and elevating our experience to become better humans and a better community. Being inclusive, changing our language, and opening our minds is essential to the evolution of not just snowboarding, but humanity as a whole. The roots of snowboarding have always been about going against the grain, thinking for yourself, and expressing oneself in their own way. This is the next step.
From Issue 14.2
Words and Photos by Lauren Powers
Pronouns: She/Her | Sponsors: Donek Snowboards, Black Strap Industries, Pink Dollar Possy | Place: Gresham, Oregon | @transsnowboarder
Devi, how has identifying as trans changed your snowboarding experience?
Devi: Hormones have completely changed my body as well as my mindset on and off-hill. Estrogen has alleviated so much of the gender dysphoria that I had but, it has also changed me in ways I wasn’t expecting. Nowadays, when I’m battling a trick and crash hard, I just start crying. Also, existing as a trans woman trying to fit into society’s gender constructs has made me a lot more timid and shy. I try to not to make small talk with strangers on the chairlift because I’m self-conscious of my voice and worry that I will get misgendered. I spend more time waiting to drop because I let other people go first, and when I get snaked on my line, I just slow down and let it happen. Women have better judgment of risk, no doubt about that.
Pronouns: They/Them | Sponsors: Salmon Arms, Ashbury, Dakine, VANS, Jones, NOW, Red Mountain Resort | Place: Nelson, BC | @jessy_brown_
Jessy, when did you decide to come out as non-binary, how did that feel?
Jessy: Coming out as non-binary was hard. I feel like I waited until I deeply realized my own truth and confidence to own that. I came out on my 30th birthday as a present to myself.
Exposing yourself like this must be a huge step. Were there any other inspirational moments in snowboarding that made this a bit easier?
Jessy: The first “out” article was with Torment Magazine, where a few big-name riders told their story and came out in the industry. That article set the stage for me to follow suit. Before that article, I thought that if I came out as queer, then non-binary, I would lose my support. So, to see Jake Kuzyk, the big-name street slayer, come out and be supported for being himself, I was so hyped for him and had the motivation to do it myself.
When did you decide to come out, Devi? Were you already in the snowboard scene?
Devi: I identify as a trans woman and use she/her pronouns. I am currently 26 years old but I came out of the closet when I was 24 and that’s when I started hormone replacement therapy (HRT). I have been snowboarding since I was 15 years old and began competing shortly after. However, sadly my desire to continue competing in snowboarding was another reason I stayed in the closet for so long.
What’s it like participating in competitions, do people give you a hard time for being in the women’s category?
Devi: It’s precisely for this reason that I don’t compete anymore which really sucks. I believe that it would be 100% fair for me to compete in the women’s division. I believe that after taking hormones I do not have any advantage over cisgender women in snowboard events. All of my muscles have decreased tremendously and I do not have nearly the same level of endurance. I am pretty wiped out after two hours or less of riding. I am more prone to breaking bones because estrogen makes my bones fragile. I also have to deal with my pelvis shifting to look more feminine which has given me tons of lower back problems. With all of these changes, I believe it is more than fair for me to compete in the women’s division. After all, I am a trans woman, and trans women are women, so I should be allowed. The issue is a growing number of people disagree and I would get a lot of hate. I’m already dealing with a lot just existing and being myself so I don’t need any more hate. I have a lot of respect for trans women who are brave enough to face transphobia and compete in the women’s division. I hope to one day follow in their footsteps and start competing again.
Jessy, how do you see yourself fitting into women’s snowboarding?
Jessy: Fitting into a category was always challenging for me; I didn’t really fit the norm. When I was in high school, my safe place was skating with the boys at Ambleside Skatepark (West Vancouver). There was no judgment about being the only female. With snowboarding, I have always been a part of women’s snowboarding… I don’t believe there needs to be a separate category for non-binary at all. Enough with the categories, let’s just board and have fun and push each other. That’s what it’s about.
Devi, you mentioned that hearing other riders say the word ‘tranny’ to describe a transition feature is offensive to you, can you explain?
Devi: In most contexts, the ‘T word’ is a derogatory slur used against trans people. In the context of snowboarding [the term tranny] has no place in my opinion. However, skaters and snowboarders have been using it for a long time to abbreviate the word transition. Most people do this without realizing that word is used to put down an already marginalized community. Whenever I overhear that word, even in reference to transition, it makes me wonder if they are calling me the T word. To make the snowboard community more inclusive, I urge people to eliminate the word from their vocabulary and just say transition instead.
How do you see gender norms in snowboarding? How does identifying as non-binary break those barriers for you,?
Jessy: The industry focuses a lot on males, and females have had to push that boundary to get recognized, especially initially. Darrah Reid bought up a great point in her Bomb Hole episode. She says, “there were only a handful of ladies' parts in the early days compared to the many dudes' parts.” It's hard filtering through the two binaries in everyday life; not everyone fits one or the other. Snowboarding is so special. We are passionate, like-minded people… which is a great foundation to work together and have less separation.
How does being transgender effect you while snowboarding at the resort?
Devi: The dude/bro vibes that have plagued the snowboard scene are extremely toxic to the trans and non-binary community. When people look at me in my snowboard gear, a lot of them just look at my men's boots and height and proceed to call me ‘dude’ or ‘bro’. Then I have to choose whether or not it’s worth correcting them, most of the time I don’t for my own safety. This makes getting on the chairlift with strangers unnecessarily stressful.
Jessy, what do you want to do within snowboarding? It seems like you're just stepping into your spotlight now.
Jessy: It definitely feels like my real journey has just begun. I want to represent the minority of non-binary + trans + female boarders pushing to get the equal acceptance and support that the males have in the industry. A dream of mine is that if I ever got the chance to have a pro model, it would be non-genderized; anyone could rock it. If I can influence someone to be their authentic self while being a supported snowboarder, that might bring comfort to others to be whoever they want to be. When you truly get down to who you are and love that part of yourself, you just accept others for their truth, there isn't room for categorizing or judgment. It's really just being a boarder that likes to go boardin’… simple as that.
Devi, How do you want to represent the trans community in snowboarding?
Devi: I want to be an example for trans people in the snowboard community to show them that you can live your best life without sacrificing your favourite sport. There is no masculine or feminine way to snowboard and we should all feel free to snowboard in our own way despite our gender identity.
How can the snowboard industry level up in balancing the scale? And how can we change our language to be more inclusive?
Jessy: If the acceptance is there, love will spread and welcome more people, brands, and marketing strategies to think outside the gendered norms. For example, unisex soft goods and hard goods and equalizing marketing budgets for all riders, regardless of how they identify is a great pivot point.
Devi: There are many times that people get on the chairlift with me and the first thing they say is, “Hey man, how’s it going?” From there I don’t know how to proceed and usually just pretend I have headphones in. While many people try to claim that the word dude is gender-neutral, it isn’t to me, [and I think] we shouldn’t assume someone’s pronouns until we ask them. I would really like to see the snowboard community make an effort to change their habits to make snowboarding more inclusive for everyone.
Jessy, At the end of the day, What would be your message to the world?
I have daily mantras that keep me hyped. The first, "feeling good, looking good," means if you feel love for yourself, you will always look good no matter what comes in front of you. The second, "you got it, go get it!" is my go-to before dropping in. It pretty much means being your number one fan. That confidence pushes you; whether you land or not, you use that confidence to try it. You can be "different" and still fit in and be successful. You have to love yourself… this is what it looks like for me.
Jessy and Devi both spoke highly of Pink Dollar Possy. Noting them as an integral piece in progressing toward greater inclusivity in the snowboard world. The PDP is making waves in the scene, and letting it be known that there is a place for you, even if you never felt that before.
We talked with Casey Pflipson and Elias Lamm, friends and founders of the movement. They were hyped to collaborate on their responses during this interview. —Lauren Powers
Pronouns: He/Him | Co-Founder: Pink Dollar Possy | Place: Minnesota | @kickpflipsen / @pinkdollarpossy
So Casey, how and why did Pink Dollar Possy get started?
Elias and I grew up snowboarding together in Minnesota. Throughout middle school and high school we were both in the closet. We both came out when we were about 18 or 19-ish. Our whole childhood we thought we were alone in this snowboard world, but little did we know we both were kind of going through the same thing. The Possy was founded in 2019 because we just wanted to ride with and find more people like us.
Is Pink Dollar Possy inclusive?
Yes, we are, we support all women, BIPOC, queers, and anyone who doesn't fit the norm.
Where are you located? Who are your sponsors and affiliates?
Our roots are in Minnesota but we got Possy homies across the map. We got a couple of sponsors who helped us film our last street movie, Performance. Synch Tec, Arbor, and Flux.
What are you finding to be most controversial in snowboarding today?
Companies pretending to be inclusive during pride month but doing nothing else for us the other 11 months of the year.
Lets talk about LGBTQIA2S+/non-binary, I know I’m still learning, and I feel education is the biggest piece in getting everyone on the same page. How can we reframe our current language to be more respectful?
I hear people say the abbreviation for “transition” when talking about snowboard features and that's so wack. People gotta go back to saying transition and not the short version. If you say the short version of transition it is a direct slur against trans people and you sound dumb AF. And I also still hear kids saying "gay", or "faggot" all the time. Even at my home hills in Minnesota. Not cool.
What do you think the snowboard community is lacking? How does that affect your goals with the Possy?
We are lacking representation and support for queers in the snowboard world. But I am happy to say I can see that it is slowly changing. We are showing the world queers belong here just as much as anyone else. [We’re] stoked to see more diversity, creativity, and expression come as more queers get involved.
How can the snowboard community become more inclusive?
Just—be good to people; we are all human. Shout out to everyone involved with the Possy and anyone who has helped us along the way.
For those seeking connection, education, and contribution to inclusive snowboarding, consider following: @pinkdollarpossy @seensnowboarding