Written by Kevin Dennison
While I have spoken with hundreds of individuals from around the international roller derby community, few personal stories have piqued my fascination quite like Jay Latarche’s, one of the founding members of Beijing Roller Derby (BRD). Over the past few days, they have begun to tell me about their life experiences, both on and off of the flat track, as a non-binary trans* person who has called two very different countries their home: England and China.
Born in the UK, Jay was raised in Guangzhou during the 1990’s, shortly after China opened the country to foreigners. Over the years that followed, Jay went back and forth living between China and the UK. It was during this time that they underwent a profound journey of self discovery that has made them into the person they are today.
“Moving back to England a bit older, I was bombarded with gender pronouns, something China lacks, and a very different culture that put a lot of emphasis on gender roles. That was a very confusing point in my life. I mistakenly came out 3 times as different things, before I realised that it was not my orientation but my gender that I was struggling with,” Jay explained in an introductory email they sent me last weekend. “I then went on a journey of exploration, reading and speaking to people on the internet. Finally coming to accept myself, when moving back to China, I realised that Beijing had no derby, so searched out other potential players or people interested in playing the sport. I only came across one other person, and we then started to work on founding a league.”
That other person was Hooten’ Annie from the San Angelo Soul Sisters, now known as San Angelo Roller Derby, out of Texas, who worked extremely hard with Jay to found BRD in China’s capital city. Outside of getting BRD set up, Jay was also closely involved with the Beijing LGBT centre, as well as the Beijing Lesbian centre, and they even once spoke at the Beijing American Center in the Embassy of the United States about being LGBT in the work place.
In all, Jay has been involved in derby for about 3 years. They first started skating with Milton Keynes Roller Derby (MKRD), training with both the MKRD men’s team, the Quads of War, and women’s team, the Concrete Cows, as well as in mixed sessions. After establishing BRD, Jay was Head coach of the league for nearly 1.5 years until recently moving back to the UK to live in London this past September. Jay is now skating for MKRD once again; though they also remain involved with BRD as an adviser to the Board of Directors.
I am absolutely thrilled to have Jay Latarche involved as a blog guest for next year’s Trans* Awareness in Sports Week on Derby Frontier! Make sure to come visit the blog again between March 28 and April 4 (*end date subject to change), 2015, to read more about their story!