For years the parkour community has prided itself on being a space of inclusivity and openness. The roots of the sport lie in anyone being able to participate, regardless of your social, physical, or mental state, or the place in which you live and train. The beauty of parkour to me is that it’s always been a safe and inviting community to be a part of. Unfortunately, reality is often different from our self-imposed illusions of mutual respect and understanding. No community is perfect, and like so many other athletic pastimes, parkour has been guilty of some level of repression.
Parkour has been a largely masculine pursuit since its inception. Many of us are aware that women in parkour endure a struggle that men simply don’t experience and are largely responsible for, not to mention the lack of representation of the LGBTQIA+ community in our sport.
Knowing this, I reached out to an athlete whose movement style, fashion, and unbridled badassery inspire me and many others. Egg (@klickstein on Instagram) is a truly unique artist with their movement and I was ecstatic to have them sit with me on a sunny Saturday afternoon and speak about their experiences not only as a founding member of one of the most interesting and innovative parkour teams in the U.S., but as one of few vocal gender queer athletes in the community. I was unfortunate not to have recorded our conversation, but Egg was kind enough to answer all of my questions a second time for the sake of delivering this article.
Me: First things first, can I get your preferred name and pronouns?
Egg: My name is Egg, and my pronouns are they/she.
Me: Can you tell me about your athletic background?
Egg: Like many parkour athletes, traditional sports never resonated with me. I was lucky enough to find parkour at the age of ten, and by around 7th grade it had become my whole world. So honestly I’d say my athletic background is essentially just parkour.
Me: You hit skills that a lot of athletes are tentative to even attempt, what’s your approach to training new skills?
Egg: I’d say I have two main approaches. When it comes to learning moves that are less apparatus based and more body-centric, I rely mainly on scrubbing screen recorded clips of myself and others frame by frame to study specific things I need to change in my body positioning, set, spotting, etc. I have a running list of moves like this I want to learn / improve that I work on when I go to the gym. When it comes to more apparatus focused moves I like to learn new moves outside if I feel safe doing so. A lot of my best ideas only come to me because the spot I’m at presents them. Usually approaching those moves I try to combine muscle memories of tricks I already know and combine them together to make something new. This combination of pre-existing muscle memories also helps me feel safe and in control while trying new ideas.
Me: Is there any particularly difficult battle you’ve had in your movement career? A challenge, a skill, etc?
Egg: In my mind there are two types of battles when it comes to moving. The first is the struggle for my body and the space around me to actualize that which is in my mind. Sometimes I have a vision of something quite specific in my head, and struggling to execute that can sometimes feel like a battle. However the second type of battle, which I would argue is the underlying tension that leads to the first type of battle, is the struggle for my brain to hear what my body and the space around me are trying to tell me. I think it's easy to get caught up in some self-prescribed ideal of what my movement should/could look like, and this can easily cause dissatisfaction when it doesn’t work out. However if I can recognize the reality of the larger battle, that of listening to what is needed not wanted, I can more often reach a conclusion that feels satisfactory in my training.
Me: What spawned Beans Out the Can? How did the name and team come to be, and who are the mythical nine beans?
Egg: The Beans are a group of movement artists comprised of myself, Ross Allen, Josh Malone, Trevor Kunkel, Leo Rosenbaier, Gabe Le Neveu, Zack Karro, Spencer Hovel, and Bradley Jotte. Originally the beans was an instagram groupchat consisting of many of the current beans. The name Beans itself predates our group, and actually is a reference back to a video a number of us made together at Jump Fest in 2018. For years only some of us had met each other in person, but over time we shared enough quality time with one another to realize we all connect really well and share similar ambitions and motivations when it comes to the way we move.
In March of 2020 after some insightful conversations with Spencer, we messaged the group chat and told them that me and Spencer were making a youtube channel called the beans movement, and that anybody who had interest in contributing was welcome. Everybody was on board, and with this being at the beginning of Covid when the lockdowns had just started, it seemed like the perfect time to focus on training, and focus on our collective efforts and goals into a more focused vision. After playing with some shorter form content, we quickly realized we all were interested in working on a big long haul video project. While not all of us had people to train with, we all began saving clips and individually working on video parts, with the larger goal of editing them together into a full length. For all of us this was our first time focusing our training around a focused project, and the process was very illuminating as to how beneficial such a process can be for further developing our personal style. Looking back, the final product is a little rough around the edges, but I am still so so proud of how much work all of us put into it, and I think was an important step in proving to ourselves what we are capable of as a group.
Me: Is there anything big coming from Beans in the near future?
Egg: Coming out of winter we have a lot in the planning phase right now. Last year our main goal was getting Trevor, Josh, and Leo to Colorado so the five of us (me and Ross were already living here) could move in together. We got a place at the end of last August, and since then we have mostly been focused on getting everybody nice and settled into our new lives together. At this point I’d say we’ve all found a good routine, and we’re all very excited for our first summer together. I don’t want to say much in terms of specifics quite yet, but all I can say is this summer's gonna be one to remember. One project I will mention is that with the recent addition of our long time friend and talented mover Bradley Jotte, we’re planning on helping him film and edit a solo project to more properly introduce him to those who might be unfamiliar with his work.
Me: What are your goals in parkour?
Egg: I have a lot of goals, but I guess if I were to try to be concise, my ambition is to contribute what I can to both the artistic and cultural progression of parkour. I want to help make parkour a more inclusive scene. I want to see more diversity in both who does parkour, and what parkour can look like. I want to see parkour athletes/artists establish a sponsored video part culture similar to that of skateboarding or other action sports. Overall, I want to engage with this beautiful activity as much and as deeply as I can while my body and mind are fresh and young.
Me: How has parkour helped you outside of your movement practice?
Egg: It sounds really corny, but I would not be alive without parkour. My teenage years were a really dark time for me, and for a substantial period my movement practice was all that kept me going. At points it was the only source of joy or inner peace I was able to find. It has also provided me with a network of friends and peers who have supported me through these hard times. It has also helped me establish a healthy relationship with my body, something that has not always been easy for me for a variety of reasons.
Me: What are your hobbies/passions outside of parkour?
Egg: Most of what I engage with is movement related in some capacity. I rollerblade, almost as frequently as a train parkour these days. I also ski when the weather decides to let me do so. I’m also quite interested in various studio arts, but these days that usually looks like editing or designing logos / clothes.
Me: What is your preferred parkour shoe?
Egg: Lately I’ve been swapping between a number of different pairs. I’ve come to find that I don’t necessarily have a favorite shoe that stands out above the rest for all the different types of ways I like to move. As I’ve gotten more into rollerblading, I’ve noticed a relationship between the type of rollerblade a rider uses and the type of style they emulate in their movements. I’ve been trying to approach my parkour shoes in a similar way. I think chunky heavy shoes can actually be really fun to move in, depending on your stylistic intentions. However, out of everything I’ve tried in the last year or so, I really enjoyed moving in my homies pair of nike SB dunks. Those shoes had the perfect mix of a skateboarding shoe and a running/athletic shoe.
Me: Can you tell me a little bit about your journey to becoming the Egg that we all know?
Egg: As I mentioned a bit earlier, my teen years were a difficult time for me. I was dealing with a lot of mental health difficulties, and I never really had the chance to figure out who I was. When I moved to Colorado to start college I finally felt like I had the time, energy, and space to figure out what I believed in and how I wanted to be in this world. I pretty quickly began to question my gender identity, but more broadly the system and structure of the gender binary in general. Traditional notions of masculinity had never resonated with me, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that to break down the world into two distinct and intrinsically different types of people based on the types of body parts they have is absurd. People come in all sorts and varieties, and the only reason many are fooled into believing in the gender-binary is that it is a self-perpetuating cultural cycle. We instill our youth with binary notions of what it means to be a man and what it means to be a women, and in the pursuit of wanting to fit into what our cultural norms tell us we need to be to be “normal” and accepted many grow up in ways that just further perpetuate this belief. I am a complex and multifaceted individual as all of us are, and cannot easily be described by my anatomy. I express myself in all sorts of ways, and do not feel tied a performance of gender. Generally these days I would say I identify a bit more with femininity than I do with masculinity, but I believe both exist within me in some capacity.
Me: Can I ask what gave you the courage to come out?
Egg: It felt more out of necessity than it did out of desire. I had first come out to a few friends closest to me at the time and was working toward finding the confidence with myself to present myself as I wanted to be seen by others. Then Covid hit and my school kicked everybody out and I had to go move back in with my parents. This was another pretty dark time for me, and being removed from my support systems weighed on me. It was around this time I came out to my parkour friends, and soon after on social media. Constantly being referred to in a way that didn’t align with how I saw myself was draining and while coming out online was really scary, ultimately it felt necessary if I was going to continue posting online at all.
Me: How has your gender identity affected your movements, if at all?
Egg: Coming to terms with my gender identity, and more specifically my femininity, opened up a lot of doors for moving in ways I had not previously considered. I’m always striving for authenticity in the way I express myself through movement. Who I am has everything to do with the way I move. I am greatly inspired by dance and the practice of channeling emotion and our sense of self into the way that we move. My gender has become a big part of that. I think it has also allowed me to break down some of the ways in which traditionally masculine ideals have influenced parkour as a whole, as well as my own training background. I have noticed over my years of training that the parkour scene as a whole seems to value difficulty and execution over all else. There are many ways to push boundaries in movement that do not involve focusing on physical strength and prowess. The focus on the physicality of our movement feels directly tied to the fact that parkour practitioners are disproportionality cis men. My performance of masculinity I partook in in the past influenced me to value the athletic aspects of movement over the artistic. Realizing this deeply changed the way I approached training.
Me: What struggles have you had to deal with that a cis person might not have?
Egg: I’m gonna limit this to parkour specific struggles, because honestly the world is generally not a very friendly place for trans people and I could do a whole interview alone about what it feels like to live in a binary world as somebody who exists outside of one. Being one of few vocally gender queer athletes in the parkour community can be a lot to handle sometimes. I get weird, creepy, or hateful comments and DMs pretty regularly. I would say a lot of this comes from people outside of the parkour community, but not all of it. Thankfully at this point I’ve found it easier to just ignore these messages and focus on the many amazing people who do support me. However some of these interactions online have led to instances where I have not felt welcomed or safe at certain parkour events or spaces. More benign, but still a pain in the ass is the way in which the male atmosphere in certain parkour spaces can make me feel; like I need to perform in a masculine way to be accepted or respected.
Me: What can we in the parkour community be doing to become more approachable to the LGBTQIA+ community?
Egg: Stand up for people, and call out bullshit when you see it. I think the parkour community could hold ourselves to a much higher standard for speaking up against the hate and transgressions that do occur within our community. I also would love to see more support for not online female and gender-queer athletes, but for anybody who wants to play with moving in more feminine ways.
Egg is an exceptional athlete, freerunner, parkourist, what have you. They are a definitive representation of everything that I would consider important about parkour, an exploration of art in motion, not bound by the constraints of a society that insists we follow the rules, use the stairs, and fall in line. I am humbled by their honesty and willingness to open themselves up to the parkour community for better or worse.
Parkour has always been an enigmatic and mercurial athletic artistic experience, not to be bound by any one type of movement or definition. We as the all-powerful parkour community put huge value in that notion of exploration. If our sport is as inclusive and all encompassing as we preach it to be, then it’s high time we put our money where our (here it comes) collective mouth (there it is) is. We have the ability to be a warm and welcoming community to anyone who desires a space to develop their movements and seek self-improvement. Let’s explore that.
All photos and videos courtesy of Egg