At first glance or with a simple scroll through my any of my social media platforms, I'm sure things appear confusing. Male, female, trans, drag... which is it? Don't be too puzzled though, I promise I can explain. My name is Jesus but, for anyone who knows me, it's simply J. I am 24 years young, born and raised in Los Angeles. I’m a proud and loud gender queer member of the LGBTQ+ community. I live life outside of social norms and gender constructs. But my road to self-identity is still a work in progress, and thus far, it's tested my spirit and resilience for the best.
I am a genetically 'male-born' individual of color. I am one of three siblings adopted into a traditional Catholic Latino family. Growing up, I had nothing to complain about. I lived a relatively normal childhood with supportive parents. There was one exception. I've known since the dawn of time that I was 'special'. I also really like boys. (Wink Wink) Fortunately my support systems were solid. I was privileged enough that I never had to 'come out'.
'Gay' was just another part of me, not my defining element. I fit the mold well. I presented male, I was an active athlete, excelled in school, and I've always been an over the top social butterfly. I was a typical preppy boy, well-groomed and moderately dressed all through childhood into high school. When I joined my university’s 'Prism' support group, my views on gender and identity were challenged. I knew only 'man and woman'. I learned about things like 'trans' and 'Fem', 'Masc', and the complexity of labels. I attended my first drag show and I found myself building a passion for all things queer. For the first time I began wearing cosmetics and experimenting with traditionally feminine clothing. The freedom of independence and moving away to university gave me liberty to be an individual.
I took this energy and moved to New York City to try my hand at modeling. I wasn't aware how severely the industry would challenge my identity. I found all my work as a male model forced me into the mold of masculinity. This left me uneasy. I was encouraged to conceal my femininity and mannerisms. I needed an outlet for expression, and then I found makeup. I used my free time to learn via YouTube, Instagram, and watching the artists during modeling gigs. With a leap of faith, I launched my own makeup and style page, all the while balancing financial struggles, depression and drug use. I was allowing identity and fear to spiral me into chaos. As quickly as I arrived in New York City, I was back in Los Angeles starting from the ground up, defeated and confused, but with me, I brought back a passion for makeup.
I channeled my frustration into content for my social media platforms. I began testing the limits of gender and expression. I wore feminine clothing and makeup everywhere I went. With the coming of this new style evolution, newfound passions, and vocal stance on queer culture, I lost many friendships, job opportunities, and created a rift between myself and family all the while teetering on homelessness.
I made the decision to make mental health a priority even if it meant sacrificing family relationships. Of all my sacrifices so far, this one endures; but I'm hopeful for better. I currently transition between hyper feminine and masculine traits unapologetically. With my newfound non-conformative process of thought I have welcomed new struggles too. I find that I work much harder for the same level of respect I received when I presented as a 'cookie cutter male'. Often than not people misconstrue my gender status, intentions, and character. I take those misconceptions and use them to educate people on my 'gender philosophy'. Things like fashion, style, and makeup, don't define gender, they only help shape our understanding of it. Gender is choice. And I choose not to set limits.
Luckily the newfound friends, support systems and resilience have been enough to keep me motivated and hopeful. I've met like minded individuals and I now realize that gender identity struggles are much more common than I ever realized. I was never alone. Beyond that, I've received outreach from other struggling youth who find inspiration in my expression. I'm living my truth in a genetically male body and I'm completely happy. I am a passionate working makeup artist/ and beauty/style influencer/enthusiast. I'm applying my philosophy into my work and challenging social norms about beauty. I’m choosing to morph my pain into education and live as an empowered human.
The biggest lesson I've learned thus far, is that expression isn't black or white and compromising your identity for fear of social acceptance should never be an option. I've spent enough time depressed and oppressed to satisfy the comfort zones of people around me, but now I’m aware that I was never the issue. I will continue to express myself freely and I welcome adversity with open arms because nothing is more valuable than my individuality and identity. I will continue challenging social templates and I will never stop evolving. So when you take second glance, try to look past labels. At the end of the day, I'm human just like you.
Los Angeles, CA