INTERVIEW: JOHANNES SCHOEN
PHOTOS: DUSTIN KLIMEK
Arin! How are you?
Hi! Things are good right now, thankfully, especially with everything going on in the world.
How old are you and where do you live?
I’m 28 and I’m living on the East Coast in the US.
How is that Corona situation for you right now?
I couldn’t compare to New York or Italy but I’m starting to see the effects where I am. Somehow the local skatepark isn’t closed yet though.
What do you do for a living?
I’m a Clinical Microbiology Tech at a hospital.
“I’m a Clinical Microbiology Tech at a hospital. I run lab tests, grow bacteria and help physicians diagnose.”
That must be a crazy time to work in a hospital! Can you elaborate on your work?
I’m seeing changes every day due to COVID-19. It is kind of surreal.
I run lab tests, grow bacteria and help physicians diagnose.
Sounds very interesting!
It is! I enjoy it a lot!
Do you think you will get to test for COVID-19?
Not sure if I’m allowed to say but short answer yes, and very soon.
Makes sense. They will need all the capacity they can get.
How did your work environment change over the past few weeks?
Well, it’s crazy how fast things can change. It went from just talking about it to screening hundreds in a few days. I have to go through the whole COVID screening process every day before I clock in.
How concerned are you by all this?
I am concerned but it’s really hard to tell what’s going to happen at this point. I think life will be different for everyone moving forward but hopefully in a good way.
We need to talk again in a few weeks or months to catch up on that.
I hope I have good things to say then.
At what age did you start skating?
I think I was maybe 11? Sometime in 2002. It was a few months before the Sorry video came out from what I remember.
“I started sometime in 2002. It was a few months before the Sorry video came out from what I remember.”
Great era, great video! How did you get into it?
Yeah, it was! I’m pretty sure my friend just got THPS2 for PS1 and we ended up all getting skateboards after that.
I can relate. We are the same age, I started a bit earlier but also because of THPS. That was a magical time. What are your 3 favorite skaters?
That’s always a hard question for me. I have so many!
Here’s 3: Andrew Reynolds, Nora V., Tom Knox.
Proper selection! Your Instagram blew up overnight. Right now it’s at about 41k and your first post is from January. How did that feel?
Yeah wasn’t expecting that at all. I’ve been on private the whole time using Instagram. I just finished work that day, went to the skatepark for maybe 45 minutes and filmed the clip last minute. I got home, sat on the couch, casually looked at my phone and saw a ton of follow requests and couldn’t believe it.
What sparked it?
The clip was in my friend Devin’s edit on his Instagram which was public and someone saw it on there and sent it to Metro Skateboarding.
“I honestly debated getting rid of my Instagram or just starting a new one. I was also anticipating some backlash about being trans and wasn’t sure if I wanted to deal with all of that.”
Sounds like you did not ask for all this attention at all. And then you took your account public?
I really didn’t. I honestly debated getting rid of my Instagram or just starting a new one. I gave it an hour of thought and then just decided to see where it goes.
Why delete it?
I wasn’t sure if I was ready for that kind of attention. I was also anticipating some backlash about being trans and wasn’t sure if I wanted to deal with all of that.
You have a “READ” story highlight where you inform people about your gender. Apparently, a lot of people did not realize you are transgender?
Being trans is just another aspect of my life. I’m not ashamed of it or anything but I also don’t go out of my way to disclose it unless I feel the situation is right. Which in this case I did.
At what age did you realize it?
I think I started realizing it in middle school. I didn’t have any labels for it or anything. It was a confusing time for me and I wasn’t open about it at all. I was pretty ashamed of it honestly.
I’m glad things are a lot different today when it comes to gender and even sexuality.
So right about that time you started to skate?
I think it was a little after.
Were there different phases you went through?
Oh definitely. Some I’m not too proud of.
My wardrobe changed quite a lot from middle school to now. I was still in the closet back then you could say so nothing feminine. Unfortunately.
“I decided to come out to everyone in November of last year.”
When did you have your coming out and started dressing more feminine?
I started dressing more feminine at least in public at the beginning of last year. It was subtle at first though. I think a lot of people were curious but didn’t ask. A few people already knew I was trans long before that but I decided to come out to everyone in November of last year.
So that’s all pretty recent and still new to you?
Yeah, for the most part.
How did your friends react to it?
They were actually pretty cool about it and made a lot of effort on my behalf too. It made me so happy.
Must have been a great relief after so many years. Do you regret not doing it earlier?
Yes, it really was. I can’t even explain how good it felt. Yes, in a way but at the same time, I know the experience I have now might not have been the same back then if I did. I don’t even know if transgender was a term back then and I think transphobia was way more accepted then too, unfortunately. My life definitely wouldn’t have been as easy.
“I tried to live the typical “straight/masculine male life” denying pretty much all feelings regarding gender or sexuality. I was mentally a mess trying to suppress everything constantly but I hid it well.”
I am curious how you lived life between discovering this part of you and coming out. Did you have girlfriends? Boyfriends? Tried to keep all that away?
Yeah, I just internalized it all until I reached my breaking point. I don’t recommend it.
I tried to live the typical “straight/masculine male life” denying pretty much all feelings regarding gender or sexuality. I was mentally a mess trying to suppress everything constantly but I hid it well.
That sounds exhausting. Sorry you needed to go through that.
You don’t need to apologize. Hopefully, it’ll help me encourage others not to make the same mistake.
That’s the ultimate goal here.
What’s your advice for people in a similar situation you were in?
I know it’s easier said than done but definitely try and find someone you can trust early on. Talk to someone about your struggles and that’s not just about gender, it can be with anything you feel is stopping you from being happy in life.
Do you plan to have a sex reassignment surgery done or have you already done that?
That’s classified but I will tell you I’ve been on estrogen for over a year.
How does that work for you?
It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made for myself.
Can you describe what changes when you take these hormones?
Yeah, I know not everyone experiences the same thing but for me, it’s been softer skin & more feminine features: face, body shape, and breast.
What’s your opinion on transgender and athletic competitions? Feel like that’s a polarizing topic.
It’s a very complex topic for me. I understand where people are coming from on both sides of the argument. It’s really not as simple as some people try to make it seem. Personally, I’m not a contest skater and I couldn’t see myself ever entering one. I don’t think I’d be able to keep up in a contest anyway.
We can be happy skateboarding isn’t as defined by competition like other sports and contests are not necessary to be successful and even less to have fun.
How do you deal with negativity? Do you read comments and DMs?
I don’t really let them get to me. I just try and monitor what comments stay just to keep it more about the skating and less about gender especially when it comes to comparing other skaters.
Thankfully they’re mostly positive.
Yeah. People like P-Rod, Ishod & Co are often seen in your comment section. How does that feel?
Yeah it’s crazy to me and with the whole COVID-19 thing happening at the same time, it almost makes me feel like it’s not real sometimes, haha.
“It definitely made me feel like I should make an effort to skate more and keep some content flowing.”
How did Instagram change for you now that you have all this attention? Do you want to put out more? less?
Yeah it definitely made me feel like I should make an effort to skate more and keep some content flowing. I’m okay with that though because I love skateboarding and I feel like it’s a good excuse, haha.
Did brands hit you up about sponsorship or sending you stuff?
All I’ll say is a lot and all at once. It was a little overwhelming.
Did you go for any option?
I haven’t made any major decisions yet.
I don’t even know how all that stuff really works still. I’ve never been someone to go out for a sponsorship.
Arin, thanks for your time!
We love your skating, quick feet, and good style! Keep the clips coming, much love!
Thank you so much! It was fun.