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Photo: Eric Edward Schell Photography To his 26,000 Instagram followers, Houstonian Landon Richie embodies confidence—his posts are eloquent and encouraging, his face smiling and strong. He chats effortlessly about his activism, identity, and passions.It’s not until his mom, Erika, mentions an upcoming school band practice that I’m reminded the savvy individual sitting across from me is only 14 years old.James, the director of the New York Transgender Advocacy Group.That attitude could mean grim consequences for black transgender people. James recalled being sexually assaulted in the streets of Flatbush, Brooklyn, by an acquaintance.“They still look at us as men dressing up, playing in women’s clothes, which is not the case.”Many black people’s views on transgender people come in part from the central role that religion and the church play in black life, several transgender people said.It also stems from an emphasis on hypermasculinity in black culture, which has deep roots in black men having to use physical strength to survive generations of oppression, they said.“To be seen as feminine if you’re seen as a black male is a sign of weakness,” said Kiara St.
Often times, I will have a post that incites a lot of negative feedback, but my followers are quick to try and politely engage [those commenters] and to attempt to have a conversation about it.” Now entering his sophomore year at Dulles High School in Sugar Land, Texas, Richie has one main goal in mind—to form a Gay Straight Alliance on campus.She spoke to the school band director—who allowed him to wear a tux—and helped facilitate coming out conversations with Richie’s dad and siblings (all of whom have been accepting). “But, through this [journey], I have become more confident, vocal, and loud.It was through this support—and that of the larger LGBTQ community—that Richie found the courage to advocate for himself and his fellow trans youth. As I moved along in my transition, I met so many people who helped me get to the next point.“I knew that having to wear a dress would make me very uncomfortable, but I wasn’t personally comfortable [disclosing my trans status] to my band director.” So, at age 11 and a half, he made the decision to come out to his mother as transgender.
Richie’s mom was and continues to be very supportive of his identity and transition.
“That’s something I’m definitely working on trying to get,” he says, noting that the group already has a potential sponsor and a substantial interest from the student body.