J Stryker may not be a household name, but to the geeky LGBT community, the person behind the name is a symbol for empowerment.
Jonathan Stryker began his career as a cosplayer, but soon felt a desire to start up the very first LGBT geek conventions in Florida. He opened up to more risque cosplays and branched out into strip dancing during his own time slots at conventions across Florida. SFGN reached out to Stryker to discuss his life from cosplays to coming out as gay to strip dancing.
“When I went to my first convention, Supercon 2006, I saw all the people dressed up and how close the community was to each other,” he said. “That made me feel really good and wanting to stay there, making costumes and meeting people.”
That feeling of acceptance inspired him to launch OUT Con and Okama Con, the only two LGBT-focused anime and geek conventions in Florida.
“There are people who need to feel safe who might not feel comfortable going to other places,” he said. “I wanted to create one to let people know there are places where you can be completely yourself and never need to second-guess that you won’t be comfortable there and that you’ll be accepted.”
With no other LGBT-specific cons in the entire state, Stryker took the initiative. “It had to be done.”
The cosplayer-turned-convention-owner hears a lot of success stories from con-goers who attended Okama Con in January. “So many. All the time I get it,” he said, noting how many people walk up to him to tell him how accepted and safe they felt. “Just because of the name and what we promoted, and because we state it is LGBT.”
Stryker hopes his safe space encourages people to come out, similar to how he gradually came out over the course of his high school years. He was inspired by his older brother, who came out as a drag queen after growing up gay, shy and insecure.
“He’ll light up on stage and be more himself and completely express himself. Seeing that was really inspirational to me, even if I had been doing costumes before he came out as a drag queen. It really inspired me to do more performing.”
It wasn’t until last year that Stryker came out to his parents.
“My brother’s gay so I guess that made it easier,” the cosplayers reflects. “My mom said, ‘You know, if your dad doesn’t like it, he’s out of the house and you’re staying.’
For others struggling to come out, Stryker has a message: “It’s worth it. It’s so worth it just to be yourself.”
“I think it’s a really liberating experience,” he continued. “There are going to be people that are okay with it and there’s going to be people that aren’t going to be okay with it, but at the end of the day you get to be yourself and you get to open up and just show a completely different side of you that is just so freeing and so liberating.”
“It’s worth it. It’s so worth it just to be yourself.” — J Stryker
Stryker applies that logic to his online persona, J Stryker.
“He is kind of my alter-ego. My regular Jonathan is a very quiet, shy guy. He sat in the back of the class, he didn’t talk to a lot of people. J Stryker was the showman who put on costumes and put himself out there in very different ways.”
In doing so, Stryker gets a lot of flak from haters that bash his sensual photos, push their religion on him and harass him for being gay. How does he handle it?
“I don’t,” he put simply. “I rarely respond to negative comments if ever. I have so many good ones that I don’t want to put attention to the negative ones.”
Stryker puts that self-confidence into his love of strip dancing, which he performs at local conventions across Florida and even uploads to his Facebook page.
A few years ago, Stryker considered himself a chubby, insecure kid. That changed when he vowed to make a change these past three years, beginning to work out and feel more confident in himself.
“When I started becoming more confident in myself, which was just in the past three years, I wanted to feel better about myself so I started working out,” he said. Once his confidence grew, he “released everything at once.”
“I started doing sexier stuff in cosplay and I noticed that people really liked it and people were really inspired by the fact that I was the chubby kid and now I’m the naked one on the internet. I like inspiring people to be confident.”
“I really like the feeling you get when you’re stripping and being seductive. It’s a really cool feeling, not only for the sexual aspect but it’s also very empowering to me when everybody’s looking at you.”
Some people approach him to ask if he’s worried about future employers seeing his sexual pictures. “Who cares if you’re shirtless on the internet, do whatever the fuck makes you happy,” he stated. “I want to live my life the way I want to with my rules and I can’t think of the consequences like that. I can only be myself.”
What does J Stryker have in store for the future? “I want to get more into music and branch out. I want to do more cosplay and do more sexier modelling.”
Stryker is releasing his first single this year, an “electronic sexy” song titled ‘Fucboi.’ It’s set to be released once the video is finished.
“I’m not just a sexy cosplay. I’m not just one thing. I’m a lot more than that.”
May 6 and 7
DoubleTree by Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center
711 NW 72nd Ave
Miami, FL 33126