Last October, I was fortunate enough to take part in the annual Out & Equal Workplace Summit. It’s an incredible conference that brings together LGBTQIA+ professionals and allies from the world’s most renowned business organizations. Companies like Boeing, Microsoft, IBM, and more, come together not only to celebrate the queer leaders at their organizations, but also to learn about evolving queer issues and how to show support not only for their employees, but their consumers as well.
It was at this Summit that I was inspired by one young, queer leader they invited to speak about gender expansiveness and transgender identity. His name is Landon Richie, and he’s why I’ve decided to put together a series for The Gay Pro called “Contemporary Queer.”
About ‘Contemporary Queer’
The advancement of our LGBT+ community lies in the hands of leaders we know today -- leaders like Landon. Contemporary Queer is a series I’m starting to highlight today’s burgeoning leaders and activists in the queer community that the world should be listening to.
As opposed to queer historical figures, these are people of all ages from around the world that are making an impact today, and will very likely become the next generation’s queer elders and change-makers. It’s truly exciting to watch these leaders, especially the youngest ones, who are making an incredible impact at such a young age.
Who is Landon Richie?
So, who is Landon Richie? He is a transgender boy from Texas, only 17 years old as of this episode in 2020, and making waves in the Southern queer community. He has spoken out at rallies and protests against anti-LGBT legislation, and has also been featured online by RollingStone as a leader changing the landscape for queers in the Deep South. Most notably, however, he is one of the GenderCool Project’s youth champions, advocating for the advancement of LGBT youths in sports, music, and the arts.
Landon’s Impact at the Out & Equal LGBT Workplace Summit
As I mentioned previously, it was at Out & Equal that I had the opportunity to hear Landon speak, and so I’ve been following him online ever since. It was inspiring to see someone so young -- only 16 at the time -- take the stage and share his story to an audience of almost 6,000 attendees at the conference. All of them, LGBT+ business leaders and allies looking to Landon for perspective on the transgender experience.
Landon shared with us his coming out story, and how his family’s support is what truly got him through the hardship of growing up trans in a conservative Southeast Texas community. He echoed the fears and uncertainty his parents felt around his coming out; a widely understood feeling for many of the parents and family members of LGBT loved ones in the audience.
By sharing his story, Landon set the conference's tone; he provided a face to a community that continues to struggle despite LGB equality now being upheld in the United States. More so, by emphasizing how important community has been to his journey -- having the support of friends and family who created an “oasis” of acceptance -- Landon leveraged his story of success as evidence for why the work each person was doing to advance LGBTQIA+ inclusion at their workplace, matters.
Cultivating a Platform for Trans Visibility
With nearly 30,000 followers on Instagram (@Landon_Richie) Landon leverages his audience to give visibility to transgender issues. GenderCool’s profile on Landon actually cites that he sees visibility on social media, and in his daily life, as “his way of giving back to the community which has given him so much.” More so, Landon hopes that “by sharing his story openly and by being visible, he assists people of all ages, backgrounds, experiences, and stages within their journeys.”
Visibility is truly of utmost importance for our queer community, not just in saying “we exist,” but also in exposing the issues that still pervade our American society in a post-marriage equality world. Landon recognizes this, and frequently calls his audience to action, which is one of the reasons I believe Landon is setting the stage for himself to become an even more influential queer advocate as he gets older.
One particular instance that stands out to me which truly highlights Landon’s passion and propensity for leadership is from March 2019. He was a rally speaker at Texas’ All-in-for-Equality Rally, which was organized to oppose a couple of controversial provisions in proposed legislation that included religious exemption for workers (including those in healthcare) to deny service to members of the LGBTQIA+ community on the basis of their beliefs. Landon derided these measures and called for support against hate in his home state, and called for trans-affiriming policies at all levels of government.
RollingStone Hails Landon as a Queer Disruptor in the South
Landon Richie was featured online by RollingStone as a young activist, who is paving the way for LGBTQIA+ acceptance in the Deep South, along with two other transgender youths. While Landon admits that he has some preconceptions about the South, telling RollingStone that in some cases it can be “extremely conservative [with] Trump flags around every corner,” he maintains that there is a “massive community” of LGBTQIA+ southerners and allies.
Landon and his family emphasize in the article that his transition was also made easier by the overwhelming support they received from their local community, with Landon’s father, Aaron, telling RollingStone that “people have given him a chance and gotten to know him.” Further, Aaron states that it was when he met another transgender man via a local PFLAG chapter in Southeast Texas, that he realized Landon’s life could be just as fulfilling. This was after being initially fearful for his son and his future, describing himself as terrified; not knowing what to do.
With the support of Landon’s family and community, he has been empowered to be true to himself but also to serve as a role model for the community -- exposing people in an otherwise conservative Texas town to a transgender person who is otherwise just like them.
Landon Richie is a GenderCool Champion Making Global Impact
The GenderCool Project is a global movement whose mantra is to “Replace Opinions with Experiences.” Their mission is to share and amplify the stories of gender expansive youths, around the world, so as to ignite conversations around gender diversity and expose otherwise sheltered communities to education on trans and non-binary issues, and how to support gender-diverse children.
Landon is one of several youth “champions” and has shared his story globally through GenderCool. It is through the GenderCool Project that Landon has been the focus of social media campaigns to not only educate families on supporting trans children, but he has also leveraged the platform to give viewers and supporters an inside look into his personal passions. Part of the GenderCool mission is to showcase the diverse talents and passions of each of their champions, as evidence that these stories are about WHO they are; not WHAT they are. Landon maintains that he isn’t simply a “trans” person, but a musician, a writer, and an artist.
Landon is Already a Leader Who Will Continue to Break Barriers
At such a young age, Landon Richie has already begun paving the way for the trans and queer people that come after him. He has exhibited the necessary qualities for leadership time and time again, rallying support against injustice, and calling decision makers in business and government alike, to action. Not only that, but Landon is unafraid to use his voice to speak up on the behalf of himself, but also on the behalf of others who do not enjoy the same privileges he does. Landon acknowledges that as a cis-passing, white person, it is his duty to elevate the voices of his further marginalized queer siblings; particularly, queer people of color. He has a sense of duty and wisdom well beyond his years that makes him a contemporary queer that will undoubtedly go on to change the world; he already has.