During the month of June, ATA is highlighting LGBTQIA+ employees of membership organizations who support our mission of promoting civic engagement in Austin’s tech sector. Up first: Chris Luedtke (Loot-Key), contractor with Google.
ATA member profiles are unedited, and the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to Austin Tech Alliance, the author’s employer, organization, committee or other group or individual.
I was born and raised in Chicago. After my Bachelor’s, I ventured off to Seattle for rain, coffee, and layering of flannels. I began my career as a case manager for HOST (Homeless Outreach Stabilization Transition) doing street outreach to vulnerable populations in Seattle. During this time, I assisted with research and implementation of harm reduction programs, like sober housing, methadone clinics, and needle exchanges, as well as set up and testing of new less restrictive court options for Seattle’s new mental health court and drug courts.
After a move to Austin, I began to study User Experience Design- after seeing the potential to make a bigger impact not just for the communities receiving services, but also advocate for the direct service workers needing support to provide these services. I am currently contracting with Google, and pacing the house during news cycles.
What does Pride mean to you?
Pride began as a movement to solidify the rights and existence of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. Pride is a time to reflect on what our community has achieved- and digest the struggles we face in our future. It’s time to check my privilege as a white male, try to continue to educate myself. What it affords me in life and within our community. As a Queer man, I ask what does this label and identity mean to me, and how do still I still fit in this community?
Pride is about happiness and finding ones-self. The memory or sneaking out at 16, and going to Chicago for a Deee-Lite concert surrounded by a Queer community. It stands out because it was the first time I found a room full of people I felt safe with, and the butterflies in my stomach became real- that’s pride.
Pride reminds me I had enough privilege, smarts and luck to survive a world that is constantly telling me I am wrong. A lot just give up. What’s the point of running, if you’re continually being told you run like a fag? Or told “real men” don’t do this or that, Or called a girl every time you dance. You eventually stop dancing. Even things as simple as walking, can get you made fun of. Eventually you have to stop watching yourself and critiquing ever shake of the butt and learn to say, “f**k your idea of what a real man is.” I prance because it’s natural and superhuman.
We all suffer from being told “male locker room talk,” is normal. Being gay didn’t bring me hardship. Other people made my life harder because I was gay. This community taught me that I wasn’t wrong and it was the world around me that was wrong.
Pride is rejecting the idea that “gay life” is all about sex and gay men could never fall in love- because they do, they have and always will. Pride allowed me to say I am a good person. I am an innocent person. Being a gay man has never nor will ever change that about me.
You sorta come across two kinds of thought in this world, Why should others suffer like I did? Or why shouldn’t others suffer like I did? This sadly is our choice of political parties at this point. Demonstrated by the politicians that try to sell the LGBTQ community as immoral. Every queer kid has meet that bully that wants to hurt someone and we have hopefully found our allies to help when it was time to push back. Pride is about being an advocate for all because Gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.
How are you celebrating Pride this year?
Sleeping in late every morning of June with my family-partner Matt and our dog Louis. Also trying to tune out the lackluster government response to just about everything. I just turned 46, and this is actually the 50th anniversary of the first Pride parade. During the quarantine, I have been doing a lot of hula-hooping, juggling and reading to stay human.
I have also started a cathartic sort of doodle side project creating a timeline of the LGBTQ communities political and social gains. As I have been reading I am noting our community organizations like ACT -UP, Queer Nation, etc,. Because these organizations shouted together for those in need when the government was not listening. Because of gay civic action-it is ok for me to be me, to teach, to work, to love. As I do this I am finding courage from them. This community has struggled, fought and celebrated wins, but these three years have demonstrated how quickly our wins can be lost. I also just read Chistopher Isherwood, “The Berlin Stories” (1945). That shows how swiftly reality can change for the worse as it seems like history is repeating itself.
Why is civic engagement important to you?
Over the past 10 years, the LGBT movement has witnessed wins that an earlier generation would have thought impossible: from the first-ever statewide popular votes legalizing same-sex marriage to President Obama acknowledging LGBT rights in his inaugural address to the nation. The White House was rainbow and Bert and Ernie landed a New Yorker cover. However, as the struggle for legal equality of LGBT people in the United States continues to advance, the movement has a lot of questions about the future. How will it keep the rights we have and continue to advance a broad range of issues. Especially with the passing of people like Larry Kramer this past week, Who will be the movement’s future leaders?
In 2019, advocates tracked at least 26 deaths of at least transgender or gender non-conforming people in the U.S. due to fatal violence, the majority of whom were Black transgender women. Sadly, 2020 has already seen at least 12 transgender or gender non-conforming people fatally shot or killed by other violent means. These victims, like all of us, are loving partners, parents, family members, friends and community members. They worked, went to school, and struggled. They were real people.
I believe civic engagement is important to protect our community physically, legally and online. Technology has proved a mixed blessing for LGBT+ people. Social media companies must do more to keep LGBT+ people safely privacy online where they can receive death threats and online harassment all the time, which affects … the mental health of our community.
Visibility, empathy, and connection are crucial to the progress of LGBTQ members in our larger communities. While we have unquestionably made progress, our visibility can do more to ensure that all of us are not simply tolerated, but celebrated for the diverse perspectives we bring.
Can you share some of your LGBTQ+ role models?
Heroes, and hope are provided by:
- My partner Matt.
- People who call bulls**t and are the first to blurt out that the emperor is wearing nothing at all.
- The left of center.
- Each and every member of my community and its ally’s that have stood up and paved the way for the privileges I have.
- AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) formed by Larry Kramer, and Queer nation for being in the worlds face.
- All the non-biological families in “Paris is Burning.” House defined
Writers, artists and rebels that have inspired:
- Andy Campbell: Queer X Design- The first-ever illustrated history of the iconic designs, symbols, and graphic art representing more than 5 decades of LGBTQ pride and activism.
- Sarah Schulman: Gentrification of the mind: witness to a lost imagination. A memoir of the AIDS years (1981–1996)
- Andrew Shane: Designing for Social Change- for designers who want to use their problem-solving skills to help community organizations.
- Paul Cadmus, his artwork, but in particular, “on the playground,”
- Chistopher Isherwood: A Single Man (1964)
- Armistead Maupin for showing me you can always find a family- Tales of the City (1978)
- Randy Shilts: for his reporting and advocacy-read And the band played on, and The Mayor of Castro street the life and times of Harvey Milk.
- Harvey Milk: Hope Speech
- Clive Jones: When we Rise
- James Baldwin-Just because words matter: Giovanni’s Room (1956)
- John Rechy: City of Night (1963)
- Patricia Highsmith all her work but shout out to: The price of Salt (Carol 1952)
- Gore Vidal his essays and City and the Pillar. (1948)
- Keith Haring-Never stop drawing
- Yoko Ono
The Graphic World of Paul Peter Piech
- John Singer (later Faygele Ben-Miriam) and Paul Parwick
- Peter Wichern, a businessman from Seattle
- Freddie Mercury