Community Spotlight: Becca Mui + Syd Shannon

Mar 14, 2017Brooklyn Boulders

Who are you two and how did you start climbing?
Becca: I’m Becca Mui (pronouns: she/her) and originally from Cape Cod. I actually started climbing in Beijing in 2011. As a former dancer, climbing was one of the first things I did as an adult that felt like ballet – except without the intense and competitive culture. Bouldering is a really nice sport since you can just sit, hang out with friends and work on problems together.
Syd: I’m Syd Shannon (pronouns: they/them), and I’m originally from San Francisco. I started climbing about seven years ago at Mission Cliffs – a bunch of my friends were climbing, and once I tried it I was immediately addicted. I played competitive soccer through college until I had some injuries, and climbing was the first activity that made me feel comfortable in my body and bouldering had the team vibe of soccer that I liked.
Awesome! How did you two meet?
Syd: We met February 26, 2016 at BKB Gowanus while projecting a bouldering problem at the corner of the front wall. I was coming back from six months off the wall while recovering from gender affirming top surgery and needed a little help getting comfortable on the wall again. I watched as Becca finished a problem I had been working on, and coyly asked for her help.
The expert teacher that she is, she was able to give me great advice to finish the problem. We began talking about our work as educators and quickly became flirtatious climbing buddies, before I worked up the courage to ask her out on a date a couple weeks later. The rest is adorable history.
Cuteness. That’s some #bkblove right there. What are your climbing philosophies?
Becca: I just have fun doing it – it feels good and it feels like my body is playing.
Syd: I like the flow of it, of being ‘one with the wall’, as cheesy as that sounds. I love being conscious of how my body moves.

Becca, crushing on the BKB walls.
Becca, crushing on the BKB walls.

What are your biggest projects, on and off the wall?
Becca: I’m working on a black V5 on the front wall in climbing. As for off the wall, I’m currently helping to organize NYQueer‘s Beyond Tolerance Youth Conference for queer youth and educators.
Syd: I’m working a couple of V6s on the 45 wall. Currently, I’m a preschool teacher and I deal with a lot of transphobia, especially in light of recent events. I’m working on creating a consulting company called Activism, Respect and Gender Organizing (ARGO for short) – which is focused on dismantling gender stereotypes and supporting Trans identities in youth serving institutions. We facilitate professional development for organizations and design and distribute gender inclusive educational resources.
Awesome! Syd, can you please talk a little more about your experience as a trans climber?
Syd: Climbing is such a positive part of my greater identity – it allows me to be comfortable and confident in my body in front of other people, and allows me to show strength while connecting to other people.
Syd working the 45 wall at BKB.
Syd working the 45 wall at BKB.

However, there are still aspects of the climbing community that are ignorant to trans people and the experience we have as climbers. For example, using the wrong gender pronouns, or people calling me a girl on the wall. Some people are just unaware of the transgender experience. I personally identify as a non-binary trans person.

I feel as though climbing, like me, is an androgynous sport. It incorporates strength, delicate movement, grace, composure and endurance, which I see as a powerful challenge to stereotypical ideas about gender expression.

Climbing is certainly non-binary. Becca, how do you self identify, and what is your experience in a predominantly cis-male climbing culture?
Becca: I identify as a queer femme. I think of climbing as a queer sport, because I know so many queer people who are into climbing. It’s also great that BKB has a high number of climbers who aren’t just cis-men. Still, at the end of the day, depending on the crowd, there is still a culture and vibe highlighting and privileging cis male climbers. That’s why it’s so important for organizations like BKB to take a stand in supporting and giving space to femme climbers. It’s definitely important to create more awareness that allows for more diversity and inclusion in our community.
What is the biggest piece of advice you have for someone who is unexposed to the trans community?
Syd: Just ask! Talk to people – don’t assume and just please ask respectfully about someone’s gender identity, especially if you aren’t sure, but even if you think you are sure. People get to identify themselves.

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