Robert Gamboa knows what happens when you lift people up and help them get on the road to life again.
With a slight twinkle in his eye, the minute you meet him you know him and you can feel pretty sure he loves you. He’s just that kind of guy.
New Yorkers would call him a mensch. In LA, he’s “just about the best person you could hope to meet.”
Gamboa has his hand in everything West Hollywood: HIV/AIDS advocacy, sobriety, healthcare, homeless youth, social services, LGBT issues, and more.
He’s simply and sincerely an advocate for what’s right.
One prominent WeHoan, who asked not to be named, said, “Robert is the one person in West Hollywood I would trust with my life. He’s a powerful and loving man and I am grateful to him for all that he has done and does.”
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I’ve been having sex with men my whole life. I finally came out to my friends when I was 22. No one was surprised. Except my ex-girlfriend. I came out to my family at 26. My mom was the hardest person to tell. I’ll never forget that conversation as long as I live.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
Harvey Milk is my LGBT Hero. While there hundreds of men and women who could easily fill this role and who’s shoulders we stand upon and who fight the good fight every day, Harvey Milk had that fine balance of effective activism, charisma, and civility. A characteristic I would love to have. Peter Staley, the amazing AIDS activist from New York also shares this attribute that admire so much.
What’s Los Angeles’ best nightspot, past or present?
I don’t drink alcohol. But I do like to go out to the Eagle, Faultline, Oil Can Harry’s, Bullet and The Abbey from time to time. Depends on what mood I’m in. Sometimes I need some hot leather men. Sometimes I want to some hot cowboy line dancing. Sometimes I just wanna let loose and shake it down. I hope I’m not too old to still do that. LOL
Describe your dream wedding.
I had always wanted my twin brother to be my best man at my wedding. Since he passed away 5 years ago, I don’t think about it much. To me, it really doesn’t matter the time, place or setting. The dream wedding would be looking into my husband-to-be’s eyes, saying I do and being totally and completely in love with him and he in love with me. And knowing that we will spend the rest of our lives together. That would be a dream come true. None of the details really matter after that. Well, maybe the honeymoon. LOL
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Healthcare. HIV/AIDS. Homelessness, Substance Abuse, Mental Health. Immigration. Public Safety. Public Health. Full Equality for everyone. I work in all these fields, so it is hard to narrow it down to just one thing. They all intersect at some point and that includes both LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ populations.
What historical outcome would you change?
I wish there had never been slavery. I wish women would have always been able to vote and were never seen as property. I wish the US Government would not have responded the way they did when HIV came out 30+ years ago and tackled the issue immediately. I wish 9/11 wouldn’t have happened. There is so much I wish wouldn’t have happened. But I guess I would say most recently that I wish Trump hadn’t been elected President. America isn’t perfect. But the mess Trump is making now seems to be growing exponentially. I fear the damaging effects of his administration could be long lasting and dire.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
I don’t know if this falls under pop culture, but marching with the Lesbian and Gay Band Association in President Obama’s Inauguration in 2013 and playing my saxophone for the President. He fist pumped as we were passing by with a beautiful smile. We played Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” and Pitbull’s “Tonight”. I’ll never forget that experience.
On what do you insist?
That everyone has amazing potential to bring each other up. A lot of times we don’t see it or feel it because we are caught up in our crazy, self-doubts, or fear. But when we can step out of that just for a second, it’s pretty effing amazing the things that we are able to do!
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
“Chaos? What chaos? Nothing to see here. Move along. All is fine in Trumplandia. LOL #DominoesFalling #WhosNext? #ScaramucciOut” was my last Tweet with a picture of dominoes falling.
My last Facebook post was asking for volunteers for a focus group in West Hollywood.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“A Blessing Is Not A Blessing Unless It’s Shared”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
LOL! My attraction to men is so strong, not even the smartest scientists or most powerful of the gods could take me away from men. I love men. I love everything about men. The physique. The smell. The sex. The love. The romance. The heartbreak. The butterflies. The intimacy. The kindness. The crazy. The power. I love it all. Besides, science can’t fix what ain’t broken!
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I believe there is some kind of central energy that connects all living things. I don’t really know what that looks like. But I like to think that we are all connected. We start as one. And we will end as one. And the “in-between” is a big test of learning to love each other.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
We can do nothing. Or we can do something. DO SOMETHING! Use your powers for good. We all have special experiences, skills, or talents that we can use to not only better ourselves, but help our community become even stronger. We all have to give 150% to pull each other up and make each other better. We all have to give. A blessing is not a blessing unless it is shared. That is what life is about for me. What can I do to help others discover the best versions of themselves? I also have to remember that I am no better than or less than anyone else. We are all in this fight together. And no one wins unless we all win…together.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
True Equality. I would give my life so that we could all be equal in every way whether you are LGBTQ, female, male or non-binary, of a religious minority, a person of color, etc. I dream of the day when there will be no barriers to life. When we will all have equal access to opportunities, services, jobs, housing, and anything that will help us all become better as a society. I dream of the day when there would be no racism, sexism, misogyny, bigotry, xenophobia, homophobia, or hate in general. I just want love, acceptance and cooperation. #TrueEquality
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That we are weak. That we don’t deserve equal footing because we are weak and less than. I hate that. The strongest people I know are LGBTQ. And everyone better move out of our way.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
Beautiful Thing. It’s a British coming of age love story between two young men growing up in hard times. I saw it many years ago. It melts me every time. Every. Time. I might start crying now just thinking about it. LOL. Where are the tissues? It also made me a huge Mamas and Papas music lover as they play as much of the movie’s soundtrack.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
I hate it when people wait for someone else to make the first move. Just do it already. If you want something or someone, go for it. At least try. You never gain anything without taking risks.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
I don’t know that there is anything I covet. I’ll interpret the question as “most prized possession”. My most prized possession is my saxophone. My dad bought it for me in 9th grade. We didn’t have a lot of money. It took him many years to pay it off. My twin brother was always mad at me because our first car ended up being a lemon instead of a nicer car because of that saxophone. My dad made a lot of sacrifices to get me that sax because he knows how much I love playing it and making music. I still play it to this day, 25 years later, and have had some pretty incredible performances and experiences. If there is one thing I would take with me to the grave, it would be my saxophone. Mostly because it was given by my father’s love and what it means to me.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
To not eat so many burritos. #PutYourHandsUpAndStepAwayFromTheTaco! LOL!
Why Los Angeles?
I used to hate Los Angeles. I never wanted to come here. A small town Texas boy like me didn’t want anything of the superficial and crazy LA lifestyle. But I got a great job offer in 2004 that I couldn’t refuse. So, I left San Francisco and came to LA. I fell into a near-fatal addiction. Life was pretty grim. But, in 2009, I got sober. I made a ton of friends who showed me a quality of life I had never known. Since 2009, I have fallen in love with Los Angeles and West Hollywood because they gave me a second chance at life and showed me how to live life to the fullest. They showed me that I can make wonderful things happen and save lives too! They gave me purpose. I have met some of the most amazing people and built lasting, loving friendships. The traffic is always a sore spot. But that comes with the territory when you live with 11 million other people in LA County. There is so much awesomeness and opportunities in this beautiful town. So, I love LA. =) <3