OAKLAND, Calif. - In skateboarding you fall down, you get up and try again.
Sometimes it's painful, but Cher Straub learned to push past the pain and has shot to the top.
What she does hasn't been easy. Professional skateboarding can be a tough, male-dominated sports, and not always welcoming to women. Especially women like Straub, who is transgender.
"It's like walking out the door is like a battlefield, the moment I put lipstick and a dress on," she said.
Straub said her decision to transition to female was scary at first.
"Getting chased or like, getting messed with every day" is a constant fear.
She had to learn survival skills.
"The first year of transitioning is so hard. It's like a death trap. Like if you make it the first year, like okay, like then it starts. The first year is the most trying thing. Like when I meet girls who are transitioning in their first year, I'm like terrified for their lives. It's just really scary to me," she said.
Cher Straub performs on stage. Photo credit: Rob Coons.
Straub doesn't like using the name she was given at birth, a reminder of what was a very different life.
"In 2015, no one had even said the word transgender to me," she recalled.
It wasn't until around five years ago that Straub's transgender girlfriend at the time made a light bulb click.
"One day she was like, ‘You’re totally a girl. Look at your room,'" she said. "I was like, ‘Oh my god. That’s really real.' The next day I was on hormones."
She'd never realized, even growing up in the Bay Area, that transitioning was an option.
As time rolls on, Straub is becoming more comfortable in her own skin, with her new self. Skateboarding isn't her only profession.
Long before her transition, Straub was a musician in the East Bay punk music scene, touring at the age of 19.
But when she took the stage name Cher Strauberry, she says she felt isolated. She learned resilience, self-reliance and reinvention.
"I didn't have anyone to play with me, so I just did it all myself. I taught myself kind of how to play bass, drums and guitar…decent maybe," she said with a humble laugh.
Cher Straub in Oakland, June 16, 2023.
"I was really into this person named JUICEBOXXX from Milwaukee. He's like a white rapper kid and he played with no one," she said. "He would tour with his iPod and go on a Greyhound bus and do these tours. So I just copied it basically and made it punk."
And in going solo, she caught the eye of Black Crowes' frontman, Chris Robinson.
"Chris Robinson is married to my favorite graffiti artist growing up. And they watched an Instagram Live video of me one night, in the middle of the night, playing an acoustic song and I got a call the next day and they wanted to put out a record and he did," she said.
Robinson produced Cher Strauberry's debut solo album ‘Chering is Caring.’ She said it was the caring of others – her chosen family – who helped get her on track for that success.
She considers some of those people to be her "punk rock parents."
One Black queer artist, Brontez, who preceded Straub in the East Bay punk scene, once gave Straub invaluable advice.
"I asked Brontez when I was 15-years-old at  Gilman Street at a show for his band and I asked, ‘How do you be queer?’ And Brontez said, ‘Follow your heart.,’" she remembered.
But following your heart can also lead to heartbreak.
In 2016, there was heartbreak for many in the arts scene, including Straub, when 36 lives were claimed in Oakland's Ghost Ship warehouse fire. It was a tragedy that hit the East Bay arts and music community particularly hard.
"A lot of my best friends are dead. Like tons of my friends died in 2016. I just really try and do what I feel like my little angels are telling me to do," Straub said.
The voices of those kindred spirits stay with her and have pushed Straub to put politics center stage in her performances.
Her current band, Twompsax, has been instrumental in helping her get her groove back.
This summer they'll be playing at the Mosswood Meltdown – Oakland's scrappy punk, garage and trash music festival held annually in Mosswood Park.
The event, hosted every year by film director, author, and cult figure John Waters, has drawn names like DEVO, Iggy Pop, and Ronnie Spector in the past. But it's always been an event that showcases local talent.
Cher Straub performing at the Mosswood Meltdown in Oakland, Calif. 2022. Photo credit: Rob Coons
"I don't always have a message, but this band has a message, and it's like, ‘Trans rights like, yesterday. Right now,'" Straub said.
And even though this will be the band's final show, Straub plans to continue her fight.
"I love trans kids, you know, so no matter what project I do, I'm still going to be fighting for them," she said.
It's a fight for freedom just to be yourself, she says.
Straub will continue to fall off her skateboard, but along the way, with newfound confidence, she'll land tricks and bravely shine on stage.
"I exist. I'm valid. So are all these kids."
You can watch Cher Strauberry perform in her band Twompsax, one last time at this weekend's Moswood Meltdown in Oakland at Mosswood Park, July 1 and 2.