Every day before he leaves his loft, the 22-year-old waif makes sure hes wearing something that makes him feel confident. Generally speaking, that is something brightly colored and body-conscious.Ssurre
, people stare, but hes used to it. Anyway, its better than when they used to call him Faggot! back in La Puente.
I like that people look at me, he says, adjusting his thick faux hawk outside a downtown coffeehouse.
Sometimes Im really up for that kind of attention; sometimes I want to be invisible. Being conspicuous and flashy is kind of a defense. I mean, animals do it: Dont eat the bright red caterpillar, its poison.
Reaching into his oversize, black ladies purse with bamboo handles, he says, Ive been waxing poetic, now I need a cigarette.
Last June, the waiter/freelance clothing designer moved into a loft downtown with a pool on the roof. The move has recharged him.
I feel like a gay, Mexican pioneer, explains Ledesma, who grew up in the suckburbs, as he calls them: Montebello, La Puente, Fontana.
I was thinking the other day, for most people its the same thing day in, day out. Most people will never know what its like to look out from their pool on their roof and see downtown.
I feel strongly connected here. This used to be my country. California belonged to Mexicans and theres a real sense of getting to my roots. I feel the energy of all my ancestors here, or rather immigrants. Weve been oppressed for so long. We were, like, kicked out of California and when we came back over the border illegally everyone hated us. Mexicans are, like, the top population in Los Angeles, but were not the most prolific. There isnt really that many whats the word? accomplished? I mean, white people can, even if they didnt graduate college, they can still get a good job. But for Mexicans we have to go garden or go wash the windows. Thats the way it was for my parents.
Ledesmas parents, both immigrants, met in Echo Park back when his dad used to hang on the stairwell below his then-17-year-old moms balcony and flirt. One day he told her he was hungry and she threw him an orange. Ledesma thinks thats the moment they fell in love.
After they were married, they had eight kids and started a pattern of packing up every couple of years and moving farther and farther east.
Moving east sucks, says Ledesma, playing with the sleeve that hangs off his dark bare shoulder, like an early Jennifer Beals. The thing with Mexican families, theyre like birds they will fly off to a new area.
In a way, Ledesma is trying to fly to his own new areas. Every step I take its like glue and all my ancestors are holding onto my feet thats how it feels. I feel like I am the first gay Mexican.
The first gay Mexican?
Maybe the first who doesnt feel guilty, he corrects himself.
He was only 12 when he told his family he was bisexual. His Catholic mother who was a farm worker picking dates and a nanny for the child of a Jewish Beverly Hills family was not pleased. She told him he was too young to make that kind of decision and that the gay lifestyle was a miserable one. His dad, an air conditioning parts builder, told her to leave his son alone.
None of this stopped Ledesma or made him love his mom any less. At 14 he had his first sexual experience, and at La Puentes Nogales High, he seduced plenty of straight boys. The first part of sixth period, I would have my lunch and then I would have my dessert. . . Everyone is gay in high school at least for a half hour.
He transferred to Faux High, better known as Fo or Fontana High, and dropped the goth look he had been sporting for a couple of years, then started wearing colors (and butterfly wings) and got a real boyfriend.
How many gay kids were at your school?
What do they say, like 4 percent? I was going to school with like 4,000 kids so there must have been 400 [or at least 160 if you do the math]. But they were all hiding. It was just me, my boyfriend and a couple of lesbian girls.
After graduation, he didnt skip a beat before he was hanging out in West Hollywood and letting old men take snapshots of him making out with other boys. He had been doing crystal meth for a while when he met a boy named Joey, who had purple hair and turned him on to heroin. The first night they spent together, Joey started calling him husband. The whole year they were together, Ledesma and Joey did heroin until one day Joey fell into a coma in Ledesmas parents bathroom and his dad told him to call an ambulance.
He spent nine months visiting Joey daily in the convalescent home until Joeys mother decided to pull the plug. Sometimes the comatose Joey would still move around in bed. Like the time Ledesma was singing the Concrete Blonde song Joey to him and Joey started to cry. The nurse said he had never done that before.
After Joey died, he would visit Ledesma in his dreams. Until one night Ledesma told him (in a dream) that the relationship was over and he wanted Joey to move on. Thereve been no dream-visits since. Ledesma still carries a picture of him and Joey in his purse. The photo was taken by a Swedish couple for an anti-drug PSA. The boys look incredible in full makeup beside a chainlink fence. Needless to say, they were high.
Why do you think you were so courageous about coming out so young?
I think its cause I am intelligent I admit that. To me, the smarter you are the crazier you are, and I dont give a fuck. A lot of people get embarrassed, get overwhelmed by it. I was like, Im gay! And everyone was like, Wow!
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I think everyone was excited. Cause nobody knew anyone else who was gay. I mean, Im not ugly. Ive always been this really slight . . . people arent threatened by me. People always responded warmly to me. A lot of people are always like, You remind me of someone. I feel like I have connections with almost everyone on the planet. I think Ive been put here on Earth to keep meeting people and teaching people new things. I hope that people have a different way of thinking after they see me; or I hope that I am something new to them.
Do you mean to say you are a muse?
Can you be a muse and an artist? Maybe I am my own muse?
Who inspires you?
Its funny. Cause I consider myself an artist but I dont care about other peoples art. I really dont.
Do you consider yourself an artist?
Yes. Just because you arent painting and making something outside of your body to show people doesnt mean you arent an artist. I make art every day in my head. Things I see, music. Art is every one of your six senses being stimulated at the same time. The sound around us right now could be considered art.