Teen recounts growing up gay in Carson

Jim Grant / Nevada AppealCarson High School senior Frankie Esquer talks about her experiences of being gay in high school.

Jim Grant / Nevada AppealCarson High School senior Frankie Esquer talks about her experiences of being gay in high school.

As a freshman, Frankie Esquer walked into a girls bathroom at Carson High School. All heads turned.She could understand the reaction. From the time she was little, Frankie — her real name is Francesca, but she hates being called that — has preferred dressing in traditionally masculine clothing. She wears her hair short or pulled back, and doesn’t wear make-up.What she couldn’t understand, she said, was the teacher who yelled at her to get out. Then, realizing she’d made a mistake in judging Frankie’s gender, the teacher lectured her on dressing appropriately.“She told me I should pull up my pants, not wear a sweatshirt,” Frankie recalled. “I couldn’t believe it.”Since then, Frankie has only used the nurse’s bathroom at the school.While it’s inconvenient, she said, it’s a relatively minor burden and considers herself fortunate as an openly gay teen.“It hasn’t been horrible compared to the stories I’ve read,” she said. “People seem to bully guys more than they do girls.”Frankie, 18, grew up the youngest of eight children. With her sisters being much older, she was raised mostly with her five brothers.When their hair got a buzz cut, so did hers. She wore their hand-me-downs.“I was always with my dad,” she said. “He would just dress me in overalls and jeans like my brothers. T-shirts and a hat.”In Carson City elementary schools, she said, no one made fun of the way she looked. She had a group of girl friends, but her closest friends were always boys.In middle school, that changed somewhat. In the seventh grade, she tried to dress “girly,” even wearing make-up some days. But she felt too uncomfortable. “I went back to my brother’s clothes,” she said. Still, she said, she maintained friendships with some of the most popular girls — to some extent.“The only people I was worried about were the guys the girls always hung out with,” she said. “Guys are completely different about it.”So she would avoid her friends in group situations, spending most of her lunch hours and other breaks during middle school alone.“My counselor was my best friend for a while in middle school because I had no real friends,” she said.As she struggled with her feelings of being different, she came to the unavoidable conclusion. She was gay. And she didn’t know how others would react. “I was scared about what my family would say,” she said. “I was scared about what society would say. I was scared what my friends would say.”But she resolved to tell them.“I was already alone,” she said. “I figured if I put it out there, either you’re going to like me or not.”And that turned out to be true. Some of her family accepted her, others are still hoping she’ll change.“I just kept my head held high,” she said. “That was the only thing to do. A bunch of friends dropped me because of it. But I got a new group of friends.”Even her male peers, who she once feared would reject her most, have been accepting.“I’m just their bro,” she said.However, she knows others have had a more difficult time. After reading last year about the rash of gay teen suicides, she was downhearted for several months.So when she had to come up with a senior project this year, she decided to create a club to increase understanding and launched the school’s first Gay-Straight Alliance.While there has been some push back from some students, Frankie considers the club a success so far, with more than 60 members, both straight and gay. “It’s a place that if you don’t feel like you fit in, everybody who goes automatically fits in,” Frankie said. “I feel way more accepted here.”She hopes the club will continue after she graduates as a way to pass on her personal mantra.“I am who I am,” she said. “If you don’t like me, that’s on you. You’re missing out.“That’s something I always try to let people know. You are who you are.”


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