We all love rollerblading. That’s why you’re looking at this post. That’s why we made this magazine and website. And it’s why we put our skates on day after day to recapture the feelings of freedom and empowerment that come with being on wheels. Chad Petroski loves rollerblading, too. Has for a long time. But to her, that love and respect for the activity has an even deeper meaning… it has become a necessary part of life’s balance. A key to finding and maintaining peace in times of depression and self-doubt. You see, like her handle on Instagram says, “Chadisagirlsname” — and for Chad Petroski, the road to womanhood is more easily traveled when blading with a crew rather than walking alone.
In the spirit of dialogue and helping any bladers out there dealing with their own questions, she has bravely shared her story. Please read and share.
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Chad, hi! Why don’t we start with how old you are, where you live, and how you got into blading?
Hey ONE! I’m 34 years old and I live in Fort Pierce, Florida. I was rollerblading in the ‘90s, but like, just going to roller rinks, and playing makeshift street hockey in my hometown as a kid in Indiana. But I was introduced to aggressive blading back in 2005, through my friend Jonathan Rizzo. He showed me WORDS and a couple Life+ videos, and I was pretty much hooked. He had an old pair of blue Salomon ST9’s that used to be Danny Ortiz’s (Jon Ortiz’s cousin) that he gave me for my first legit pair of skates. Then he introduced me to Thomas LiPani. Between them, I felt their passion for the sport and it drew me in.
How’s the blading scene where you live?
The blade scene is pretty cool down here. Everyone from other areas of Florida that we skate with from time to time are super chill as well. There are like five of us in the area that skate together regularly, and we all hang out outside of skating too, so it’s a good crew of good friendships, ya know. I haven’t skated many other places in the country so I can’t really compare. All I can say is that it’s hot as f**k during the summer and that definitely puts a damper on motivation, but we get it in. The winter months are primo though.
It turned into an unspoken dull pain, like when you heal from a blading injury, but it always hurts just enough to never forget about it…
Have you had the chance to attend many events, and if so, which ones?
I’ve been going to Bladesgiving for the last couple years, and the guys in the Orlando area put on a really fun bowl comp last year. Hopefully it’ll turn into an annual thing. I compete in Bladesgiving and suck, but that’s cool. I see my entry as a donation to the prize fund. It’s all for fun, and it’s a cool experience to skate in the comp. I would really like to get out for a Blading Cup or a BPSO though.
Has there ever been another skater you’ve gotten to meet or watch skate in person and just been like “whoa.”?
Yeah, Chris Moraco and Chris Padilla. We’ve all been chillin’ pretty regularly, more so like a year ago when filming for Take the Fifth (by Thomas Lipani) but, OMG… I’ve never seen anyone skate like those guys. It doesn’t matter. Park, street. They destroy everything. Like, you can’t skate because all you wanna do is just watch them skate.
Who would you say are you biggest blading influences?
Well, when I was younger, being that WORDS was the first video I ever saw, it’s gotta be Dustin Latimer and basically the entire Mindgame team of that era. And Eric Schrijn, love his style too. But like, truthfully, my friends and I were talking about this the other day. My biggest influences are the people I skate with on the regular. They are the driving force for getting better at skating. I sometimes get in this funk like “awwww, I cant do that… blah blah blah,” and they give me that push to go for it. Same for everyone ya know, we like to boost each other up.
What’s your current skate setup?
I’m riding 2016 K2 Unnaturals with Create Originals frames (in black) with Konjure Wheels loaded with a random mix of ABEC7 bearings and some anti-rockers I made on my milling machine.
How about being a transgender individual, when did you know or figure out that you were transgender?
Long story short, I’ve just always felt kinda shitty about myself without words to express it. Low self-esteem and such. My body and mind haven’t ever felt connected really. I always kinda knew in some ways, but I ignored it. I like feminine expression, and kinda wished I grew into a different body, but as a kid but was like, eh, I have a penis so that can’t be for me, don’t be vain. So I shied away from it and tried to forget about it and what not, which didn’t work. It turned into an unspoken dull pain, like when you heal from a blading injury, but it always hurts just enough to never forget about it. One day I looked at myself in the mirror and was like “what the f**k, why don’t I feel like this is me? Why do I feel like I would be happier seeing a woman in this mirror?” So I started to do some research about it and found a crazy amount of people going through the same thing. Initially, I denied it. I learned more and started interpreting my past and present feelings. Then I was like, this aint going away, and my mental heath is going to sh*t. I’m transgender, time to figure it out.
Has coming out as transgender affected your skating?
I feel that realizing I was trans and starting this transition brought me to a higher level of skating. I was essentially depressed. Skating was always a passion, and it made me happy, but I hardly ever fully plugged into it and really focused on it. Like, I learned some tricks and sh*t from before, but I needed to really get into it mentally for the greater good. I started to focus on skating not only for the fun of it, but as a serious coping mechanism. I found myself in the zone a little more. I felt good. I was getting better and I felt more confident in myself then ever. I owe skating for essentially being the greatest anti-depressant known to humans. I’ve built a lot of confidence through skating, confidence that I really needed to come to terms of who I am.
I owe skating for essentially being the greatest anti-depressant known to humans.
Something I’d like to hear you speak about is how other skaters, whether you’ve known them a long time or not, have responded to you being transgender.
I haven’t been really open about it until recently. It’s still an uphill battle for me to present authentically. Especially during a session. Makeup is a waste because I sweat and end up just wiping it off. I find it extremely hard to ask people to use other pronouns (she/her/hers) for me. But the people I skate with regularly have been really accepting. They mess up my pronouns sometimes but I’m understanding about it. I know they are trying. I can’t get mad, ya know. Everyone around me basically has to transition too. They will eventually fully see me as me. A few moths ago, we were at a premiere party in Miami and nobody batted an eye really. We’re all friends. It was the first time I ever met Jesse James and he was the only person to ask me about my presentation. And he was super cool with it, he was like fuck yea, do you. Gaby Velasquez really made me feel special that night too. She told me that I’ve looked prettier and prettier the last few times we’ve hung out and honestly, it meant the world to me. So yeah, I’d say the response so far has been pretty accepting
What about in non-blade life? What sort’ve work do you do, and how do any of the things we’ve already discussed, like blading and/or being transgender impact your day to day?
I’m a machinist, and a mechanical designer. I’ve been in the industry for my entire adult life really. I can operate pretty much any machine tool effectively, but I’m most proficient programming and running CNC equipment. The things they are capable of are mind-boggling and I absolutely love it. Being trans impacts my day to day more than blading because it’s something that I have to try to deal with while interacting with people. I don’t “pass,” so I never know if I might end up in a confrontation or what not. I haven’t had anything major happen to me so knock on wood. Luckily, I work at a university, and they adhere to anti-discrimination laws, which is comforting. If I worked somewhere else, who knows what type of situations I’d face. But I always am thinking about blading. Like, is our sesh gunna get rained out? What section should I watch on my lunch break? I show my coworkers little clips and stuff from our sessions and they all think it’s cool. Blading makes me feel good, so generally it keeps me cheery during the day, and I actually think it kinda rubs off on others sometimes too.
Have you thought about starting a company to make skate parts?
I have, but I’d rather not honestly. I love skating so much, but unfortunately, I take my career too seriously. I don’t want company obligations to detract from my love for skating. I’m more than happy to make custom skate parts or repairs here and there. I like using my skills to help out other bladers, but I don’t want to risk creating animosity between skating as an activity and skating as a business.
Over the past several years gender equality has become an important part of the rollerblading world too, maybe most easily identified in the Bladie community. As a trans woman do you consider yourself part of that group?
Yes and no. As someone that identifies as a woman, yes, as a gendered label, no. I personally don’t feel blading is, or should be, a gendered activity, so why segregate it into sub-genres based on gender identity. But I think it’s great for representation in a mostly male dominated sport. It’s like “Yo! Women are out here killin shit too!!” To me, it represents a shift in our culture that needs to happen. Action sports in general have always had a masculine veneer on the outside. Like still, aggressive skating companies don’t produce women’s specific apparel that I know of. Skateboard companies do though. I know that money in our industry is tight, but women blade too, and not that they need to cater to us, but it would be nice to see more products to show that they support women bladers.
I knew that regardless of where I was in life, I would always love and find joy in skating.
I saw a post on your IG feed where you’d started altering old skate shirts to give them a more flattering shape. I thought that was really cool. Anything to share about that process or the thoughts that led you to start altering your own blade past?
Yeah, like I just mentioned, I can’t buy anything that lets me rep blading while expressing my femininity, so I decided to make do with what I have. I browsed Pintrest on how to upcycle men’s tees for a feminine fit, and found I can easily take a shirt that fits how I like and basically trace that outline on a shirt I want to alter, then all I gotta do is just sew along the line with the shirt inside out and trim off the excess. I hem them a little as well. I still have a lot of tees to do. But what’s cool about it is that now I’ll actually rock those oversized vintage England tees that would otherwise rot in my drawer. I can’t get rid of them, ya know. I need to figure out an easy way to redo collars nicely without just cutting them and letting the fabric fray away to nothing.
What steps have you taken to start transitioning? What are you future goals with your transition?
When, I first realized I was trans, I started growing my hair out and basically began to generally feminize my appearance. Over time, I became more and more aware of my true self and began laser hair removal and started to see a therapist. My therapist diagnosed me with dysphoria and has supplied me with a medical referral to start HRT (hormone replacement therapy), which will basically send my body into like a second puberty, except with female hormones. My body will undergo some physical changes that should allow my body and mind to feel more aligned. Granted, I’d love to see my body take on a more feminine shape, but I can’t expect to see drastic changes at my age. But I can’t live my life as an emotionally disconnected individual. Future goals are just to continue to grow into my identity. I will eventually pursue changing legal documents to correct my stated gender, and possibly go with a name change. As of now, I’m comfortable with my given name, but it definitely leads to misgendering me during conversations. I may get top surgery as well, but I’m not completely set on that. I’ll continue to see my therapist as needed. And I will of course continue skating, as that’s a hugely therapeutic activity in itself.
One of the main reasons we asked if you would be comfortable having a public discussion like this was so that we could try to provide guidance or awareness to anyone out there in the blading community that may be questioning their gender identity. What would you say to anyone who may be experiencing these questions for themselves?
Do some research and talk to someone you trust about it. If you hold it in, it’ll only kill you slowly from the inside out over time, trust me. It took me a long time to open up to anyone about it and it was such a relief. See a therapist. They will ask some questions that will really get to the bottom of your own internal questioning. My therapist loved the fact that I skate because typically, people that are questioning fall into a deeper state of depression when they are inactive or don’t have anything productive to focus time and thought on. Blading has really helped me mentally. I knew that regardless of where I was in life, I would always love and find joy in skating. Skating builds strength in ways that cannot be physically measured, and you will need every ounce of it. Besides, skating is individual like your identity is. With skating, everyone has their own style and no one but them can define it. Same with how you identify. Do you.
Special thank you to Chad for sharing her story. ONE is committed to diversity in blading.
Photos by Anderson Gillis
Proud of you, Chad!!
Follow your heart Chad.
You will always be in my heart no matter what your still you to me! BE YOU!
Awesome and inspiring.