Jorge Gutierrez packs a lot of punch in his small, tight, brown body.
I first met Jorge during a protest action of young activists marching at a May Day Trans Queer Contingent (MDTQC) in downtown Los Angeles in 2015. It was a transformative event for Jorge; he felt compelled to organize a similar march in Orange County and so he set about organizing, eventually establishing Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, a national LGBTQ Latinx organization working at the intersections of LGBTQ and immigrant rights, and racial justice.
This was exactly what organizers of MDTQC had hoped would happen.
Similar events sprouted up in other cities around the country, demanding that LBGTQI migrants be considered both by immigration reform groups and by our very own LGBTQI movement leaders.
His organization led a public campaign to shut down a transgender ICE detention facility in Santa Ana, California and won. They organized important actions in DC and throughout the country calling for the closing of these detention facilities, abolishing ICE completely and mobilizing the LGBTQ Latinx community across the country.
Jorge is first and foremost a strategist, a tactician, always analyzing and breaking down the political climate, thinking through how the collective can approach and pressure the system best.
He is part of a bold, fresh crop of organizers ready to take the streets with his leadership. His willingness to discuss strategy and his appreciation for organizing a base has touched a cord with a community under fire.
In an age where millennials spend more time on social media than organizing and talking face to face, Jorge has helped spark an activist immigration policy movement focused on local and national issues, debate with attorneys and politicians, average people and other immigrant workers.
I have seen Jorge take on the white establishment, even among the LGBTQ movement, challenge leaders and elected officials and do the nitty gritty work of raising up a national organization.
Jorge instinctively knows when to step back and retreat and let LGBTQ Latinx community members lead.
When Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement shut down West Hollywood for May Day one year, many white middle class LGBT residents reacted poorly and almost in fear of these trans and queer brown bodies blocking the street.
But for Jorge and Familia: TQLM this was all in a day’s work.
“Part of my work and Familia: TQLM’s work is to move LGBTQ and immigrant rights organizations to engage in grassroots organizing and direct action. Our people are ready and want direction so it is our duty to step up to the challenge and be movement builders,” he says.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I knew I was queer since I could remember but I remember clearly telling myself I was different when I was 7 or 8 years old. I came out to my mom when I was 15 and I was scared. My relationship with my father was violent and abusive because I was gay so I was scared my mother was not going to accept me. But she was loving and unconditionally supportive from the beginning. She’s my main girl, I have her back and she has mine.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
Some of the trans and queer folks I admire tremendously are Isa Noyola, Jennicet Gutiérrez, Mariella Saba and all the LGBTQ undocumented immigrant leaders and organizers in our communities taking care of our people, especially Zoraida Reyes.
What’s Los Angeles’ best nightspot, past or present?
My favorite spots were Circus and Arena but gentrification has once again pushed out LGBTQ people of color from our clubs, neighborhoods, etc. I miss those dance floors.
Describe your dream wedding.
I’d have a celebration by the beach with lots of booze (especially tequila and vodka), live mariachi and banda, dope DJ, lots of dancing and I’d invite all my friends and family. I want everyone drunk, looking glamorous, busting their best dance moves and living their best lives.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Immigrant rights and abolishing the systems that continue to criminalize, incarcerate, deport and kill people of color. Whenever I get asked this question I can’t help but think of Audre Lorde’s quote “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”
What historical outcome would you change?
The colonization of our lands, languages, art, culture and bodies. Capitalism, white supremacy and patriarchy have and continue to destroy the lives of indigenous tribes and people of color all over the world.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Watching Juan Gabriel perform traditional Mexican folklore music on TV and performing unapologetically gay as fuck across the stage when I was 8 years old. It gave me hope as a gay boy. #QueVivaJuanGabriel.
On what do you insist?
I continue to insist on love and engaging in meaningful friendships and relationships. I know I haven’t always been the best lover or friend but I try everyday. There’s a lot of love in this little brown body.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
Reminding folks to donate to grassroots LGBTQ and immigrant rights organizations in this moment.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
It would probably be titled “Brown, Jota, Bitter, and Fabulous.”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
I’d run away and stay queer as fuck!
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I’d like to think that our energies travel throughout this earth and the universe.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Less ego, more organizing and more impact.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
My mother, friends, maybe love, and definitely for tacos.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
Hmmm, that we are the same as straight people or this whole notion of love is love bullshit. We are different and that’s what makes us shine and makes this world less dull. Ain’t no queer trying to be basic.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
Definitely “Moonlight,” in the last five years. The story, acting and the cinematography are gorgeous.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Not showing emotions and being vulnerable, show it and feel it baby!
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
I have this bizarre dream that someone is going to invite me to be part of a film and I’m going to act for like 10 minutes, steal the entire damn film, and then win an Oscar. Just like Penelope Cruz did in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.”
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
That even when I fuck up I still deserve to be happy and loved.
Why Los Angeles?
Mostly cause I love being around a lot of brown people.