Leo Baker is aware of he’s residing the very best model of his life up to now.
“I film street skating and put together video parts [for skate videos] and I get supported for doing those things,” says Baker over a late breakfast in July. “That’s, like, the ultimate dream.”
This life additionally contains working his personal firm, Glue Skateboards, with co-founder Stephen Ostrowski, in addition to lately releasing his first track. He’s even featured as a playable character within the up to date model of “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater,” the online game that taught him skilled skate boarders exist.
It’s the long run that’s teased through the closing moments of the documentary “Stay on Board: The Leo Baker Story,” out now on Netflix, however was certainly not assured. Directed by Giovanni Reda and Nicola Marsh, “Stay on Board” follows the transmasculine skater as he works to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics as a member of the U.S. Ladies’s Skateboarding group whereas navigating his evolving understanding of his gender and the toll that this profession constructed round being assigned feminine at delivery is taking over him.
“I just wasn’t really equipped or prepared to figure out what that would be like, to transition,” says Baker, who admits he hadn’t given a lot considered how he would tackle his gender when he signed on for the challenge. “I just didn’t think it was in the cards for me.”
A veteran skater, Baker was used to conserving his gender identification one thing he was open about with solely his family and friends and separate from his skilled life. However because the cameras roll to seize Baker’s anticipated journey to the Olympics, the movie paperwork simply how a lot sustaining a “split life” between his genuine self and the general public persona (and assigned gender) hooked up to his profession is unsustainable — till he publicly declares his identify, shares his pronouns and quits the Olympics.
“It just got to the point where the need to transition was so apparent,” says Baker about the true life “plot twist” documented within the movie. “They just captured a really special moment of life, where I kind of just reached my breaking point on camera and then had to make a decision about what to do about it. It was a pivotal time in life and [it] just happened to be caught on camera.”
“What was really interesting to me about Leo and his journey was that he’s someone well known in the world [who was] having to navigate being on such a huge platform and going to the Olympics,” says Alex Schmider, the director of transgender illustration for GLAAD who serves as an government producer on the movie. “The testament to choosing yourself above everything else, despite what everyone else is telling you to pursue and do, was just really compelling to me.”
Baker’s story is one which has been resonating with audiences since even earlier than “Stay on Board’s” Netflix debut. The movie premiered on the 2022 Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ+ Movie Pageant final month, the place it received the viewers award for documentary function. The response is a credit score to the collaborative spirit behind the scenes, with the administrators reaching out to different filmmakers like Schmider and movie editor Sasha Perry who might personally relate to features of Baker’s experiences.
“As a trans man myself, there’s often this feeling that you have to compromise and sacrifice what you love to be who you are,” says Schmider. “Knowing what Leo was contending with — with his love of skateboarding, and also wanting to be himself — I think I was drawn to that story that we rarely see of not having to compromise who you are and really stepping into your full self in a way that is empowering not only for trans people, I hope, but for all of us to not bend to society’s expectations of what success looks like.”
As Baker displays on his journey since filming wrapped on the documentary, he notes that one of many greatest shifts he’s seen is the aid he feels now that he not has to navigate who he’s “supposed to be in what setting.”
“Just to strip away all of the, like, fragments of iterations of who I am and just be myself and that’s it, that’s been the biggest relief,” says Baker, who recounts how the skating trade had lengthy put pressures round his assigned gender and the way he offered himself. He admits he was initially frightened of what might come within the aftermath of publicly popping out — together with transphobic feedback on social media and having to area interview questions on his expertise earlier than he would have had time to course of it for himself.
He was additionally not sure of what his place can be within the trade after his transition, particularly since he had beforehand skilled his skating profession simply disappearing. However this time his sponsors haven’t solely caught by him, he feels they “have [his] back even harder now,” which permits him to give attention to extra of his inventive pursuits and get again to what he loves about skating.
Amongst these endeavors is Glue, which Baker co-founded with fellow queer skater Ostrowski, about whom he has solely effusive reward. Along with designing skateboard decks and attire, the corporate is a approach for Baker and Ostrowski to domesticate a supportive area for his or her group of skaters. As a result of for all that skateboarding has been related to being a group of self-identified outcasts, it’s additionally an trade that has traditionally been heteronormative and never all the time inclusive of LGBTQ+ skaters.
At Glue, “a bunch of us are trans, genderqueer, women — it’s really just a dope group to be a part of,” says Baker. “It’s awesome to build that family out and really just be supporting people that we truly just love and care about as humans.”
Though “Stay on Board” focuses on Baker’s private journey, he’s conscious that the movie is arriving at a very fraught time for the LGBTQ group. Conservative politicians have been more and more hostile towards queer individuals, with quite a few states passing laws that particularly targets the trans group and trans youth. These legal guidelines embrace these banning entry to high school sports activities, faculty bogs and gender affirming care.
“I can’t fathom what that must be like to know that it’s possible to be trans, get support, get the things you need, and then have the government just, like, rip it away,” says Baker. “For me, I just had no f— idea. I was naive and didn’t really know what I needed. But if you know what you need and can’t get it because the government is invalidating you, it’s just crazy and really, really sad.”
Because of this, Baker is worked up in regards to the giant attain Netflix has as a platform and hopes individuals the world over will see his story, one “version of what it’s like to be trans.”
“There’s so much information out there about how gender is expansive, and I hope that people, any kind of people, get in touch with that, because it’s really actually beautiful,” says Baker.
And what he’s most wanting ahead to subsequent after sharing his story as extensively as he can is to get again to the enjoyable of skating and doing the issues he likes to do.
“I’m really excited to just get back to the simplicity … and just skate and take care of my body and run the company and just make music and not talk so much,” says Baker. “There’s going to be a time where I’m like talking less, and that’s gonna be great.”
‘Stay on Board: The Leo Baker Story’
The place: Netflix
When: Any time
Score: TV-MA (could also be unsuitable for youngsters beneath the age of 17 with an advisory for coarse language)