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York Shingle

Paul Wellman

York Shingle


The S.B. Questionnaire: York Shingle

Chatting with the Cabinet Maker Who Doubles as Roller Derby’s Lady Faga


When asked, “What your most marked characteristic?”, York Shingle answers, “Unclear.”

That’s a bit surprising, because after three years of doing this questionnaire (this week is the anniversary!), I’ve never met anyone so comfortable in his own skin, so aware of who he is, so fully embracing of his identity. It’s as if an old soul lives in this young, self-assured man.

York is a cabinet maker who grew up in Santa Barbara and learned the trade from his dad; together, they are Shingle Wood Working. “Not many people have the opportunity to learn that craft, and especially to learn it from your dad,” York told me with a smile. He’s also taught Spanish and math.

But Mr. Shingle may even be better known as “Lady Faga,” the first male to join the Mission City Brawlin’ Betties, a mostly female roller derby team. He attended a match about five years ago, and was impressed by “seeing women of different body types and athleticism.” That compelled York to join the team by donning fishnets, short-shorts, and a brand new persona. He quickly came to love the community that roller derby builds, as it overcomes individual teammates’ conservative or liberal beliefs. “I love them like family and embrace our differences,” said York, whose real family cheers him on from the sidelines.

After living in Seattle, Guadalajara, and New York, where he learned to make chocolate, York is happy to be back in his hometown, since he’s not a big city person. “I’m ‘team Grandma,’” he confessed, which means he’s in bed by 9 p.m. most nights.

Here, York Shingle, a.k.a. “Lady Faga,” answers the Proust Questionnaire.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Nothing. I’m far from perfect, but I’ve done a lot of work to love myself and all those imperfections.

What is your most treasured possession?

My roller skates. When I started playing roller derby here five years ago with the Mission City Brawlin’ Betties, I was the first male to join the team as a skater. I wasn’t athletic and had never felt comfortable on team sports, being gay. And then I found this amazing group of mostly women who pushed me and supported me and turned me into an athlete. And my skates are what made that possible, and still do!

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Trying new things and just diving into them. I moved to Seattle a few years ago without a job so I could live closer to my nephew (and brother and sister-in-law). Then I moved to New York because I had a living room to stay in and ended up staying for a year and making chocolate in Brooklyn. Some of my greatest adventures came about because I said yes to opportunities that scared me.

What is your motto?

“A is for action.” If you want to do something, do it. If you appreciate someone, tell them. If you want to get a new job, figure how to make it work and then make it happen. Figure out what’s between where you are and where you want to be and start making progress. Werk mama.

What do you most value in friends?

I love people that can vacillate between super serious and not serious at all. I want to be able to talk about the massacre in Orlando and how we can affect real change both with gun laws and in creating a more welcoming and healing LGBT community, and later we can gossip for hours about who will be best on RuPaul’s drag race this week.

What is the quality you most like in people?

I like somebody who recognizes and appreciates their communities, whatever communities that may be, whether it’s work, school, neighborhood, volunteer group, roller derby team. Someone who appreciates the people around them and shows that appreciation.

Who do you most admire?

A number of my friends really inspire me to be a better person, especially Greg Prieto and Tara Uliasz. They live their lives with such a strong commitment to social justice that it pushes me to find ways to be more inclusive and a better friend, neighbor, uncle, and community member.

What do you like most about your job?

I love getting to work with my hands and create a product that people love. My dad taught me woodworking and he emphasized quality and such a high precision to detail that I have yet to meet a customer of his who was dissatisfied. It’s a tough (and wonderful) legacy to follow.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? I think some of my happiest moments have been spent around the dinner table with family (both given and chosen). I love spending time making meals with the people I love and then sitting around the table enjoying each others’ company.

What is your greatest fear?

Unclear.

What is your greatest extravagance?

I didn’t own a car for a number of years, so driving to work everyday feels pretty extravagant, especially when I stop to get coffee on the way. It feels luxurious to not start my day by getting warm and sweating a lot from a bike ride.

What is your current state of mind?

Transition. I’m hoping to be back in the classroom teaching either Spanish or math in the fall. I taught for a couple of years and got away from it so that I could take a few years to learn woodworking from my dad. While I’ve loved learning from him, I’ve really missed working with students and am hoping to get a job teaching high school.

What is the quality you most dislike in people?

Inefficiency. I loved living in New York because people were so direct. It might have been rude, but you knew where you stood with them.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“Write a sad poem in your journal and move on.”

Which talent would you most like to have?

I love when people are immediately outgoing and friendly to new people. I constantly observe them to see what kinds of questions they ask and what gives them that immediate openness.

Where would you most like to live?

I would love to live in a Latin American country again. I lived in Guadalajara, Mexico for a while and would love to go back for an extended amount of time. Maybe Mexico City for a while? There’s an amazing art and queer scene there. I’ve also heard great things about Buenos Aires.

Who makes you laugh the most?

When I’m with my friend Palmer, her girlfriend often has to warn new people that we can be a bit much. Also, since I work with my dad, we crack each other up pretty often. It’s scary how similar we are (which yes, means I’m calling myself funny), and how we can make each other laugh.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Beyoncé. I don’t even think I identify with her that much, but “Lemonade” is just so amazing that I’m constantly listening and/or singing and/or watching it.

On what occasion do you lie?

I coach the new skaters to my roller derby league and while I never give them compliments they don’t deserve, I maybe stretch the truth a little bit about how good they are in the first few weeks of practice.

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