Jesus Montelongo started encountering anti-gay bullying at an early age, but local LGBT organizations helped him not only survive, but thrive
Jesus Montelongo still recalls vividly the day near the end of sixth grade when his class was headed on a graduation trip to the zoo.
Montelongo said he was looking forward to the trip because he’d always loved nature and animals. But shortly before the class was to leave, his teacher pulled him aside and explained that there would be no room on the bus for gays.
Instead of going on the trip, Montelongo said he was sent to a room full of unsupervised children, many of whom had been his everyday bullies since as early as the first grade. On this day, they surrounded him and hit him with books, chairs and whatever else they could find.
"That’s when I started coming home crying," Montelongo said. "That started my suicidal thoughts and my disbelief in religion. That was a turning point in my life."
Six years later, Montelongo is getting set for another graduation.
On May 30, he’ll walk across a stage having finished in the top 5 percent of his class at Molina High School in Southwest Dallas.
Montelongo, 18, recently accepted a scholarship to the University of Texas at Austin, where he plans to study nursing and social work beginning this fall. And Montelongo’s inspiring tale of overcoming relentless anti-gay bullying — as well as major socio-economic disadvantages — has earned him the first-ever scholarship awarded by LULAC Chapter 4871-The Dallas Rainbow Council.
LULAC 4871, the organization’s LGBT chapter in North Texas, will host a fundraiser to help pay for Montelongo’s college-related expenses on Sunday at Kaliente, with the nightclub matching all proceeds.
Jesse Garcia, president of LULAC 4871, noted that the LGBT community often doesn’t hear about anti-gay bullying until it results in a murder or suicide.
"This one actually made it," Garcia said of Montelongo. "Rather than feeling sorry that we lost another kid, how about we celebrate one that actually made it?"
Garcia also said Montelongo’s story is a testament to the importance of LGBT organizations in North Texas.
In addition to the Dallas Rainbow Council, Montelongo has been involved with groups like Youth First Texas, where he serves as an ambassador, and the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network, where he serves as Texas’ Jump Start Student Organizer.
"Jesus is living proof that our community and our dollars are working," Garcia said. "He is a product of all that fundraising, all that mentoring, all that volunteering."
Indeed, Montelongo credits his turnaround to the support of LGBT groups, and especially Youth First.
Although he was harrassed for acting "feminine" for as long as he can remember, Montelong0 said he didn’t come out as bisexual until 15. He got involved with Molina High School’s Gay Straight Alliance, which he now leads, and the group’s faculty sponsor referred him to Youth First.
"That’s when I realized that there was hope for me," Montelongo said. "I always wanted to go to college, but it wasn’t until I went to YFT that I received the motivation."
Montelongo said he plans to stay involved with Youth First and other LGBT groups in Dallas and Austin during college, and he eventually hopes to become a counselor for a nonprofit organization that deals with LGBT youth and/or immigration.
He also said he’s grateful for the LULAC scholarship, noting that 70 percent of students at Molina High School are economically disadvantaged.
"I’m really thankful because in my school there are a lot of students who are in the same situation as me, who don’t have the same opportunity," he said.
The fundraiser for Jesus Montelongo, recipient of LULAC 4871’s Scholarship for 2009, will be held Sunday, May 17, beginning at 10 p.m. at Kaliente, 4350 Maple Ave.
ONLINE EXTRA: Read an essay written by Jesus Montelongo about overcoming anti-gay bullying.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 15, 2009.