Queer! Faggit! Sissy! Punk! and the words kept coming. It was February of 2000 as I stormed the outside corridors of my High School. Trying to give a voice to those who wouldn’t dare come out of the closet. The murmurs of students, hands over their mouths (oh shit, what the fuck, holy shit, get the fuck out) as I stormed on by in a woman’s animal print floral top, brown slacks, tan purse, and those 1995 Monica “Before you walk put of my life” shoes in brown of course. I held my head up high and kept it moving.
The bell rang, as I walked into class immediately I was called into the administrative office where I was greeted by a counselor, assistant principal, and the principal himself. “Have a seat Rolando, we hear you have made the whole school very uncomfortable by wearing women’s clothing and we would like to ask you to change into clothing that mirrors your male gender.”
“Uncomfortable!?” I replied. “Uncomfortable is what I feel coming here everyday. Uncomfortable is what I feel having to hide my identity so others can feel comfortable. That’s uncomfortable and by the way I choose to wear this just like other students choose to wear what they wear so what’s the problem?” I was met with the response, “Well, other student’s have complaints about your attire.” I snapped, “My attire or because I’m GAY?” At this point the conversation ended and I was excused back to class.
I continued to wear women’s attire for a whole month and unknowingly to me other students started expressing their sexuality through their clothing, rainbow flags, bookbags, and even the “cool” shell necklaces that distinguished at that time who was gay or not. Once I noticed the movement and feeling accomplished I walked into the principal’s office with my “regular” clothes on and a gift bag for him. A gift for me? He said! Yes, enjoy it! It was a rainbow flag and a petition signed by students to have an LGBTQ group added to the curriculum. 2001 my High School introduced a safe space for LGBTQ students and a zero tolerance for harassment was put into effect.
I hope this memory inspires others to be true to themselves and live it up!
Rolando (he/him) is a Gay Cuban American HIV+ Man from Miami, Florida with a flare of femininity. Proud of everything he’s accomplished since being diagnosed in August of 2015, he has been part of the Miami Dade Ryan White program supporting people living with HIV in navigating the emotional roller coaster HIV Stigma. Rolando is outspoken, passionate and committed to advocating to end the stigma of being HIV+. Rolando is a 2021 Gran Varones Fellow.