Meet Leo Baker, the trans skateboarder promoting inclusivity in the sport

After making headlines for quitting the USA Olympics team, Baker now skates as his authentic self and promotes inclusivity within the sport.

Leo Baker doing an ollie over a bin.
Image: Instagram: @Leo_Baker

Transgender skateboarder Leo Baker was born in Covina, California, on November 24, 1991. He didn’t have the most conventional upbringing, spending a year in foster care, but that’s where he found his love for the sport, getting his own skateboard not long after watching his two older foster brothers with theirs.

Baker moved back in with his birth mother at the age of three and was free to skate whenever he wanted. After Baker discovered that he had a biological brother at around the age of eight, they began to skate together. “We were like lil’ twins,” he remembered.

He started skating nonstop and at the age of nine, he decided that he wanted to become a professional skater.

One Christmas, their mother signed the siblings up for skating lessons with Ryan Miller. Miller noticed how advanced Baker was for his age, saying, “From the moment I saw [him], I was like, this [kid] is too advanced. These kids are learning how to roll around, push and maybe do some turns, and [he’s] already out there doing kickflips.”

Growing up in the skating world, Leo was known as Lacey Baker, a young blonde-haired girl, and received a lot of attention because of that. The first sponsorship he landed was with Billabong, a surf clothing company that also includes skateboarding attire, but he was going to be forced to wear more feminine clothes, so he refused.

“I remember hearing that and being like, ‘There’s no fucking way I’m wearing that shit’,” Leo recalled.

When Baker was 11, Miller filmed one of their skate sessions and took the tape to a Utility Board Shop, which earned him a sponsorship. He entered a skate competition and won not long after, being awarded a trip to Australia. He went on to compete in skateboarding competitions at just 11 years old and became one of the youngest X-Games finalists at the age of 14. 

During his high school years, he travelled everywhere, going to competitions. Despite all of this, he didn’t become a professional skater until years later due to the infrequency of women’s competitions, in which he was participating before his transition. Contests were crucial for women’s skating at the time, even if the prize was only €2,000 per competition.

During that time, he developed his own personal style, and after school, at around the age of 19, Baker started to express himself more by wearing the clothes he liked and getting a short haircut. “I started to do what I wanted to do,” he said.

At an early age, Baker knew he was a boy, and at the age of 19, he realised he was trans. Because of this, in early 2020, Leo Baker made the hard decision to leave his Olympics dream behind. 

Since he was little, he won countless skating competitions, and qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo summer games was another huge achievement for the athlete. It was also a chance to show the sport to a global audience, as it was the first time in history that skateboarding made an Olympic appearance.

It was no surprise that Baker qualified for the Olympics after winning the Street League Super Crown in 2016 and numerous other international skating competitions. However, he had qualified for the women’s team.

The Olympics is categorised by sex assigned at birth, instead of gender identity. Currently, there is no option for non-binary or genderqueer people to compete. Being misconceived constantly was taking a toll on Baker’s mental health, and he had to step away from the Olympics at the age of 28 and figure out what to do next. 

Stephen Ostrowski, a queer skateboarder and Baker’s close friend, visited him soon after Baker made the tough decision and exclaimed, “Do you know what’s crazier than doing the Olympics? Saying fuck the Olympics!”

Since leaving Team USA, Baker has been using his platforms to promote inclusivity in skateboarding. He has starred in a Nike campaign, featured in the iconic Skate video game created by Tony Hawk, helped establish Glue – a queer skateboarding company, and more.


Baker has had no regrets since leaving the Olympics, admitting, “I am happier than I’ve ever been in my life, beyond what I could have ever even imagined.”

He even went on to have his own documentary, Stay on Board: The Leo Baker Story, which premiered at the 2022 Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ+ Film Festival on July 21, 2022, and was released on Netflix on August 11, 2022.


The documentary includes interviews with Baker’s partner, mother, acquaintances and celebrities, including Tony Hawk. It also looks at the importance of community for newly out people.

The Outfest premiere brought a sense of completeness for Baker.

“A chapter of my life is closing and something new is beginning, which feels really nice to move into a more private space in my life where I’m not constantly talking and sharing and picking apart who I am,” he told Them in an interview in Los Angeles at Netflix’s headquarters.

“But I’m also super grateful to be able to share this part of my life because it will be helpful for a lot of people to witness the trans experience —  one version of it anyway.”

The actual production of the documentary underwent a journey. In the early stages of filming, directors Nicola Marsh and Giovanni Reda received feedback that their depiction of Baker’s story was being affected as cisgender filmmakers. They contacted Alex Schmider, GLAAD’s Director of Transgender Representation, and asked for his perception on how to approach the matter with more variation. Schmider ended up joining the project as an executive producer.

“Credit to Nicola and Reda who, when made aware of the film’s limitations, knew to engage with a filmmaker from the trans community to help tell Leo’s story with authenticity,” Schmider said in an email.

Regarding what Leo Baker hopes people will take away from the documentary, he said: “Honestly, just listen to the children. Things are just simpler when you’re younger. And when that stuff surfaces — like gender stuff or whatever identity stuff — I feel like it’s so pure that it’s impossible to question.

“As we get older, things become more and more conceptualised to the point where we’re like, ‘You have to fit into these constructs, and blah, blah, blah’. But the kids know what they want. Let them fucking be.”

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