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Jonathan Escobar, gender-bender 

'Why be called "gay" or "cross-dresser"? Why label? I'm only 16. I wanna have fun.'

Editor's note: First Person is a series of commentaries that give voice to those not commonly heard in Atlanta media.

In August, 16-year-old Jonathan Escobar left his childhood home in Miami to live with his sister in Kennesaw, where his family thought he'd get a better education. But after three days at North Cobb High School, the administration ruled that Escobar's fashion was a distraction to other students. Escobar claims he was told he could only return to class if he dressed more like a man. So he withdrew from the school. His decision rocketed him to the national spotlight, with stories in the Huffington Post and the New York Daily News, an appearance on "The Tyra Show," and a 9,000-strong Facebook group, "Support Jonathan."

I was born and raised in Miami. My parents are very traditional. We would go to church on Sundays, a Catholic church. And we'd always have the house smelling like Spanish food. We would have the whole family over. We would have a party, with the entire neighborhood invited.

Everyone knew I was going to be different. As a child, I would do performances. I would set up a little stage and would sing and act and dance. And I would put on weird clothes. People would always tell me that I would be a big movie star. As a child, I would always dream about living a glamorous life: big jewelry, big dreams.

I had a really good childhood. I'm very thankful that I have my parents. They're very loving and very accepting. My dad draws; he's an artist. On both sides of the family, there are artists. My brother's an artist as well. We're all very creative in our own ways. We're all very supportive of each other's artwork.

I think that my parents like the influence they've had on my fashion. My father loves '70s glamour and loves music of the '70s and '80s, like Kiss, Queen, and AC/DC. And my mom would have this little old lady stuff, like vintage stuff with huge hats. Basically, I just blend both.

I was always an artist, pretty much. I would always find a way to express myself through makeup, a weird hairstyle. When I came to Georgia, I would shop at antique stores and use larger shoulder pads to make these weird little outfits. It's not that I like to wear girl's clothes. It's my art. Why be called "gay" or "cross-dresser"? Why label? I'm only 16. I wanna have fun. I don't stick to titles.

Edward Gorey inspires me. Tim Burton pretty much got all of his inspiration from Gorey. Edward Gorey wrote children's books, but it would be like, "A is for Amy falls down the stairs." I love his books and his little characters. I love monsters. Little evil critters inspire me. Uncle Fester from "The Addams Family" inspires me. If you Google me, you'll see one of the pictures where my shoulder pads are on crack – he inspired that outfit. His shoulders were all the way up.

It's really funny, because the school that I went to [in Miami] was very "ghetto." There were always fights and there was always police. And when I was in my outfits at school, people would be like, "Oh my God, Jonathan, I don't know how you survive." I survived. People would stare – but it's Miami. People are open to that. When you go to South Beach, you see lots of people like me. And the principal was really accepting. One time, I was called into the office, but it was just to see who I was. And it didn't get me into trouble. They just giggled. They were just like, "Wow, you look very feminine."

When I was first being enrolled [at North Cobb High School], I told the guy who was enrolling me that this is the way I dress. I hope there's not a problem with it. He called another girl in to get someone else's opinion, and she agreed. They said, "You have every right to dress however you want."

We discussed it the first day, Monday, and they were cool with it. But Wednesday, it was a problem. They were just all jealous. I was gorgeous. No, I'm kidding. There was a fight at the school, and someone called me a faggot. I think he had a crush on me. And then someone stood up for me. And the administration blamed it on me. There's a part in the dress code that says if a student's outfit distracts at school, the principal has the authority to change it. They said it was me causing a distraction.

It's just sad. How was I a distraction? I wasn't screaming or cursing or wearing bold makeup. I just wore skinnies and flats and tight tops. They handled it the wrong way. I have every right to be in school. They should've educated the students instead of forcing me out. What's going to happen to the next kid that goes to this school? Are they going to be given the option to change who they are? Are they gonna push them out as well?

To the people who supported me, I want to say thank you. They agree with me that this is all wrong. Hopefully, they're looking for change just like I am. I think this is why people at school, gay people, are afraid to come out. They fear how society works. People who are different are afraid to express themselves.

Georgia's weird. I miss Miami. I might move back and go to beauty school. I pretty much have my mind set on going back, probably in December or November. Georgia is pretty, but I don't do anything here. It's quite depressing. I miss going out. I miss catching the bus and going to South Beach and shopping downtown and seeing all my gays and lesbians and having fun. No one's open here. I'm just tired of whole "What happened in school? Tell me more."


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