Arts & Culture

He may study at Harvard now, but Trevor Ladner still defends home — Mississippi

Trevor Ladner and his family. From left, Courtney, Mary, Trevor, Wade and Trenton.
Trevor Ladner and his family. From left, Courtney, Mary, Trevor, Wade and Trenton. File

Growing up in Mississippi wasn’t easy for the gay kids on the playground, Trevor Ladner said in his salutatorian’s speech at Hancock High School’s 2016 commencement ceremony.

To this day, Ladner said he still fears public bathrooms because he was abused badly by classmates inside of them at school when he was a child.

“My entire life was a struggle of adversity,” Ladner said during an interview for Out Here in America, a podcast produced by Sun Herald and McClatchy that explores the lives of LGBTQ people in the Deep South and America’s heartland. You can subscribe now on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

“When I was in elementary school, I was always the queer kid. I was always extremely feminine ... I always did the things that girls did, and that was something people didn’t take well to.”

Despite taunting from others, Ladner found support from his friends in musical theater. When he was 16, one of those friends sent Ladner home with a pair of fake breasts.

In the safety of his closet, Ladner became Miss Annie Thang for the first time.

“I looked awful,” he said. “I had two sets of eyebrows because I didn’t know how to cover mine up, and it was completely liberating.”

When Ladner started applying to colleges, it was his journey to discovering Annie that helped him get accepted into two prestigious colleges — Tulane University in New Orleans and Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Trevor chose Harvard, and he left home with support from his family and a painting of Annie to hang on his dorm room wall. It’s been one year since Trevor left his small hometown of Poplarville. And he said he’s become very passionate about bringing Southern representation to Harvard’s campus.

In this episode, you’ll hear:

  • Trevor Ladner’s coming out story and how he ultimately found support from his family
  • How a drag queen alter-ego gave a teenager from Mississippi the platform to share a message about gender to his high school classmates
  • Why Ladner feels like his life is a “walking contradiction” at Harvard University
  • The evolution of Trevor’s relationship with his father, a former evangelical Baptist preacher

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Justin Mitchell: 228-604-0705, @JustinMitchell_