Cave Homo, a queer art zine based in New York, made waves last year when it dedicated its entire first issue to openly gay pro skateboarder Brian Anderson. With photos of the skater wearing a leather S&M mask, the zine depicted an unapologetically queer side of Anderson that a lot of skaters—including the zine’s publisher, Luke Williams—had never seen before. Williams grew up skateboarding, but he first met Anderson through the queer community. In his mind, Anderson’s coming out in 2016 was a step toward making skateboarding more accessible to once-marginalized voices, and he saw the zine as a way to continue this progress.
Williams sees it as his mission to make it acceptable to be out in subcultures that aren’t always open to it. “The deepest cut besides my own coming out was that the first man I fell in love with was in the army, and was killed in Iraq,” he told me. “I found out by opening the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He wasn't out and I didn't feel like I could go to his funeral because I was younger and I didn't know how to explain who I was or why I was there.
“That set off a militant feel that people should be out and free no matter what because we only get one shot at life and the clock is ticking.”
The second issue of Cave Homo focuses on another unapologetically queer skate icon, Lacey Baker, and features work from 17 different queer artists, as well as new photos of Anderson. There’ll be a launch party for it this Saturday in New York City, but if you’re not in town he’ll be selling the majority of the 666 copies online. We caught up with Williams ahead of the new issue’s release to talk about Baker and Anderson, why Cave Homo isn’t actually a skate zine, and what he wants readers to take away from the magazine.
VICE: How did Cave Homo get started? Who else is behind it?
Luke Williams: It’s just me. But Christian Trippe, my friend from London who is a photographer, was coming here for work. I called him up and said, “When you’re here, we should work on a project together. We could do a photo zine of Brian Anderson’s tattoos.” I called Brian right afterward and he was like, “A tattoo zine? Maybe. But it sounds cool and we should do something.” When Christian got here, he was lucky enough to get an apartment that had a photo studio built into it, so we just shot it there.
How did you first meet Brian?
I stopped skating probably thirteen or fourteen years ago. I blew my knee out really bad and I didn’t get surgery. I always had blue-collar jobs and I had to be mobile, so I just started wearing a brace. What happened was, I’d met [Brian’s] husband Andrew before they were together. I was at the beach one day after I’d moved here, and walked up to Andrew on the beach, and Brian was lying next to him. I was like, “What the fuck is going on? I don’t understand.”
And that’s how you found out he was queer?
Yeah. We were on the gay section of Riis beach. They were up close to the water and I just walked up and ended up hanging out. I don’t remember the second time we hung out or anything like that. It was just kind of like casually getting together after that, and then we became friends.
As a queer skater, I thought it was really cool to see something that was so in your face about basically saying, This is a queer skate zine and you’re going to look at some things that are queer. And you’re going to do it because you love Brian Anderson!
That’s totally the point. It actually really tripped me out for a while after we did the photo shoots, because I grew up loving BA and so it was really hard for me to look at the [non-skate] images and be OK with it. It kind of just freaked me out, because the only images I ever saw of him were of him skating. Or Welcome to Hell or whatever video parts he was in. So it was like, “I can’t put this out there! I can’t do this.” I didn’t even show him for two months or more after we took the pictures.
When I think about BA, I think about the back smith or the back tail at the UCI hubba . But I never think, “BA is hot.” Then you look at those photos and there’s no way around it.
Right. It was a super weird thing and I struggled with it in a lot of ways just from my own view of him and how I thought he should be represented. But he is amazing. He threw down so hard for the photo shoot. We probably shot pictures for like eight hours or something like that.
Now that you’ve been out of skating for so long, would you consider this a skate zine? Obviously the upcoming second issue is still about Lacey Baker.
I guess…no? We kind of purposefully left skateboarding out of it. There’s only one picture of [Brian] ollieng on the rooftop that day. Like, over a pair of cowboy boots that he had. But we left everything out because there were people who were saying, “Oh you should have more pictures of him skating or get pictures.” But I was like, “No!” I actually got in arguments with people at work about it. The world has seen 25 years of Brian skating, this is supposed to be different.
I think the timing was really good, because it feels like we’re having this moment in skateboarding where people are really starting to understand that there are all these different people who love skating, and that there would be a lot more of them if we made skateboarding more inclusive.
It really is like housecleaning or whatever. It’s amazing. I think that Brian really spurred that [for skateboarding]. At the time he was really the biggest figure coming out. It’s not like Michael Jordan, but maybe like Dennis Rodman?
Is it because they have similarly fluctuating hair?
So, maybe Cave Homo is not a skate zine, but I heard about it because of people talking about it at the skate shop. What do you want the mainstream skaters who might pick it up to take away it?
I don’t know. I think that was another intentional thing about the design for it. There’s no lead in, there’s nothing at the beginning to tell you what to think. You just kind of flip through it and you absorb it and you process it the way that you do, and hopefully you enjoy it. But even if people are repulsed by it and put it down, it’s still going to make some kind of impression and make them stop and think, Well, is this person not my hero now because they’re gay? Even though they’re fucking amazing at the thing that they do. Or can I still like this person? I think that’s an important turning point for people in their lives, when they stop to think about any kind of minority or queer person or any kind of person they’re not normally exposed to. There’s always going to be your first exposure to something, and it never really means anything until it’s personal.
The reader has to decide how they’re going to react to it, basically?
Yeah. And another objective of the thing is for people to be OK with themselves, whoever they are. It doesn’t even have to be a queer thing. Maybe they have other things or interests that they’ve been keeping a secret and they feel like it sets them free to just live the life that everyone should: Being completely themselves no matter what.
Tell me more about issue #2.
This new issue, to me, is important because I just think it’s interesting to segue into something else where you look at a different queer person with a different experience at a different point in their career. There were two really kind of crazy, contrasting photo shoots we took with Lacey. One where it’s Lacey as Lacey is. Then the other one is more of the look of kind of what people would expect a girl to look like.
Yeah, but it’s just kind of a way for Lacey to take control of the public image, what people’s perception might be. Or what people might have told her at some point, like, “If you want to be sponsored, you need to be this or you need to be that.” People can do whatever the fuck they want, but I wonder if people were actually free to be themselves, what would they do? I think Lacey is free to do whatever Lacey wants.
It’s on that same theme of being whoever you want to be.
That’s the thing about this that’s important to me. I want people to understand what the queer spectrum is outside of the lens of some big magazine that’s trying to sell advertising and have sexy people or whatever. I don’t care about that, that’s not the objective of this. It’s to show strength through diversity and for people to show parts of themselves that they’re proud of and shine.
Yeah, I mean, even as somebody who doesn’t really present as stereotypically gay, I felt very seen by it. Like, “This is my shit, I feel in touch with my sexuality reading this.”
Yeah! And it’s OK. All the parts of your life that you have broken up into different sections, eventually you create your own world where all those parts can simultaneously exist. And that’s when you’re purely yourself and you’re the most free.
And that’s Cave Homo, right?
That’s Cave Homo.
The Cave Homo issue 2 launch party will be Saturday night in New York City at 127 Henry Street from 5 to 9.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.