I’m Chris Landtroop and I’m from Irving, Texas.
When I was 18, I was in undergraduate school at Texas Tech in west Texas. There were lots of tumbleweeds and cowboys and not gay people. There were two gay bars that were really just lights and raves and drugs and I thought that that’s where I belonged.
I came out for the first time at 19 at the end of a hospital bed after being institutionalized for trying to kill myself because I thought that would be easier than telling my dad I was queer.
When I graduated from undergrad and moved back to Irving, Texas and started teaching there at the same schools that I went to as a kid, I had a partner, Britney. We lived together. And a vice principal asked me when she came to one of the games – I was a cheer coach. Imagine that. Rah. He asked who this person was and at that moment forward, she became just my roommate. And it ruined our relationship because I hid her, I hid me, and I pretended that I was just another heterosexual. And it was okay because I quote-unquote passed.
I had a relationship with a counselor in the school district and when it was rumored that we were having a relationship, I didn’t get the support that I wanted. I didn’t like that they called it a lifestyle, “they” being the administration of the school, because to me a lifestyle is yoga, not being gay. So I decided to resign after almost 9 years of working in this district and being a part of the district since I was 5 years old.
When I resigned on a Wednesday, I gave them two months. Well, that Friday, that week, they said that was my last day. So I came up with this extra time to figure out where I wanted to go and how I wanted to get there and who I was going to be when I got there. I was going to make the Batman symbol across the country in my car because I thought I was, you know, that was a symbol of strength and character. I got all the way up to the east coast and I was in Philadelphia for 16 hours and made the decision not to go anywhere else. I left my car at the airport, flew back to Texas and drove a box truck back, 27 hours in the rain the entire time. It followed me.
When I got to Philly, I was still, I guess, pretending to be straight, allowing everybody else to make assumptions about my sexuality and gender identity. I was dating someone at the time shortly after moving to Philadelphia who didn’t pass, but I still was pretending that I was this hetero person that everyone assumed I was. So even working at this nonprofit when we had events and we brought our partners or spouses, I wouldn’t bring her because then that would out me, I guess. And even in Philadelphia where we’re so diverse and everybody is so – working on being inclusive, it just still didn’t feel right.
I remember November 8, 2016 very clearly. I had no idea that the the polls would go the way that they did and I felt so blindsided by it that I realized I had been living a fake life for so many years. And it was – it was in that moment of realizing that maybe had I said something or spoken up for who I am or what I believe in, then maybe I could have changed somebody’s vote. Maybe I could have helped them connect to this idea that some people still saw as so wrong.
Around 9:30 or 10 that night, when I just knew that it was not gonna go the way I thought it was going to go, I came out on Facebook so that everybody in Texas, the large population of voters in opposite of the way I vote, maybe could connect with somebody who was what they thought was wrong and see that it wasn’t so wrong.
And after that, I had several former students come out. I got a private message from a former student explaining that I inspired him to tell his story and to come out and live his truth. I was so proud of him because I knew how hard it was and I know that he made such a difference not only in his immediate family but in the district. You know, changing the eyes of what that looks like. Giving him the ability to be out and loud and proud and and say, “Well Miss Landtroop did it, so it’s okay if I do it” made me know that even if it was just that one person that I reached, it was worth it.
So after I finally came out, I came out with bells, whistles, Christmas lights all year long. Multicolored Christmas lights that just scream, “This is who I am and I don’t have to look a certain way to be a part of this community and I don’t have to fit a certain mold to wear my queerness and to speak about it.” I didn’t know that I was unhappy until I realized I am now happy. I didn’t realize that living in such duplicity, you know, just I was this person during the day and then I was this person at night – it wasn’t just hurting me, it was hurting those around me. It was hurting people I didn’t even realize it could affect.
And and now all I get to help so many organizations. No matter what the organization is, no matter what the cause is – the cause is serving, if it’s helping queers feel safe, if it’s helping queers feel that they love themselves, if it’s helping queers figure out how to tell their story, then it’s an organization I have to be a part of.