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Queery: Ari Gutierrez

The powerhouse volunteer leader answers 20 queer questions

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Ari Gutierez (right), her daughter Emma (center) and her wife Connie Arambula (left). (Photo courtesy Gutierrez)

“Emma’s mom” – this was my first introduction to Ari Gutierrez Arambula at All Souls World Language School, where our children attend together.  

“Emma’s mom” quickly became Ari, the powerhouse volunteer leader at school. Serving on multiple parent-led committees and leading the marketing for our new performing arts program, she leverages her many talents to garner publicity and support for the school and to simply get things done.

Ari is admirable in so many ways – she perseveres, unwavering in her desire and her fight for justice and equity for all – for the kids at our school, the LGBTQ youth she serves, and for any group of marginalized voices. 

And Ari succeeds in her fights – because, in addition to her steadfastness, she maintains an unassuming calm and a quirky sense of humor that attracts others to join her in her cause and charms even the toughest opponent.

I have had the opportunity to witness this force not only at school, but also in the community. Last year, I was proud to support Ari as she was recognized at L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis’s Inaugural Pride Reception for her dedicated service, civic pride and numerous contributions.  

Most recently, she and her neighbors have taken on the City of San Gabriel upon learning that a developer plans to build a massive condominium complex on native land next to what is now the Alhambra Wash. 

Ari is a friend and a fierce ally to so many, including me.

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I came out a year after college at age 22. The hardest person to tell was my mom because maintaining her love, acceptance and support mattered most to me.

Who’s your LGBT hero?
I am in awe of LGBTQ people of color and ethnic minorities who transcend their station in life to selflessly contribute to a movement that helps not just LGBTQ people but also their community at large. People like Bayard Rustin, Harvey Milk, Sylvia Rivera, Frida Kahlo but also people from my own LGBTQ LatinX community who are everyday activists in the work they do including Roland Palencia, Laura M. Esquivel, Elena Popp, Myriam Gurba, Bamby Salcedo, Lester Aponte and many more.

What’s Los Angeles’ best nightspot, past or present?
Nothing in L.A. comes close to the ambiance and camaraderie at the Bonham Exchange in my hometown of San Antonio in the early 80’s before HIV/AIDS changed everything. In L.A., The Latina Lesbian Erotic Poetry Reading gatherings of the early 90’s were the best because they lifted-up our culture, our femininity and our intelligence.

Describe your dream wedding.
We married at a beautifully serene pocket park in South Pasadena where we previously shared family time with our then three-year-old daughter. I loved that it is Eddie Park, which was close to Edie Windsor’s name. We had a small group of close friends and the ceremony was performed under an old Oak tree. A dream wedding is having friends and family affirm you and your new spouse’s love and commitment to each other – that’s what’s important. The location, cost and everything else is secondary.

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Social justice in all its forms including access to education, a fulfilling career and being able to live and provide a good quality of life with your family and friends.

What historical outcome would you change?
The negativity of the Yes on Prop 8 campaign was very mean, hurtful and fear inducing. I wish that our society had been beyond accepting — through a ballot initiative — that type of hate against LGBTQ people or anyone else as acceptable.  That’s why we HAD to fight back

What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?\For me, 80’s pop music because it’s fun, soothing and brings back fond memories of the time. Every now and then I switch to 70’s and 60’s music for the same reasons.  

On what do you insist?
Loyalty, Honesty, Compassion.

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?I posted photos of my 9-year-old daughter meeting Sen. Elizabeth Warren and learning to Pinky Promise. It was a win on many fronts but I’m most excited of my daughter’s blossoming political awareness. She wants to meet Greta Thunberg next.

If your life were a book, what would the title be?
She was There When…The book would focus on important turning points in social justice in which I played a part.

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
I would not change my sexual orientation. Instead, I wish science would discover a way to assure families will accept and love their child no matter their gender identity, sexual orientation.

What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
Whatever its name – I feel there is certainly an energy beyond our physical world that creates life and brings us together as living beings who depend on love to survive as much as food and water. That is no coincidence.

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Be strategic, use your skills and resources.

What would you walk across hot coals for?
My family.

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That there are no LGBTQ people of color in communities of color and that people of color communities do not accept us.  

What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
Summer Lovers (1982)

What’s the most overrated social custom?
Getting to work on time.

What trophy or prize do you most covet?
Good health and income now and in my retirement years.

What do you wish you’d known at 18?
That people will try to stop your success because of who you are – don’t let them.  

Why Los Angeles?
I came to Los Angeles for a career in advertising – I got that and a whole lot more!

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Miscellaneous

Social Justice PolitiCorps spotlight on Trans activist Ebony Ava Harper

#BlackTransLivesMatter

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Ebony Ava Harper (Photo courtesy of California TRANScends)

By Andi Bianchi | SACRAMENTO, CA. – The Social Justice PolitiCorps, (SJPV) is an organization in the state’s capital city devoted to crowdsourcing political information as it relates to social justice and disseminate it what the organization terms an accessible manner so “we can be proactive instead of reactive.”

As part of that mission, SPJC’s blog this week is spotlighting and acknowledging a brilliant visionary here in the Sacramento community, who is working tirelessly to better the lives of trans folxs. Her name is Ebony Harper.

She is an award-winning, nationally-recognized, activist and humanitarian. She identifies as a Black trans woman (pronouns she/her/hers), and she has spent a good majority of her career fighting for justice and equality, not only for the transgender community, but for ALL the members of our community.

Ebony currently serves as a Program Director at Public Health Advocates (PHA), and as the Program Manager for California TRANScends (which exists in partnership with PHA and the California Endowment). California TRANScends is a statewide initiative that works to promote the health and wellness of transgender people throughout the state of California.

SJPC sat down with Ebony to ask her more about what drives her fierce and unrelenting drive to take part in social justice activism.

What does social justice mean to you?

That we fight for those who don’t have a voice, that we provide a voice for those who can’t speak. Social justice to me means fighting for the most marginalized, it means changing the culture so that we create a more loving community.”

“It means giving the most marginalized an equal shot at life.”

“Social justice means dismantling all the systems that oppress people, including climate issues, which are strongly tied to racial injustice.”

Why are you involved in social justice?

“I’m a big ol’ Black trans woman, so I have no choice BUT to be involved in social justice, because facing society means engaging in the fight for social justice.

My existence pushes back against the narrative, and against the cookie-cutter mold we put the world in, society is hostile towards my existence. Then also, experiencing ostracization and marginalization myself has resulted in me not wanting others to feel that way, and in wanting to make life better for all marginalized communities.”

How do you self care to keep fighting for social justice?

“I disconnect when I need to, and I connect with my chosen family and friends. I travel when I need to get away from work and everything. I sometimes go home to Jamaica and visit and connect with family there. I struggle with self-care at times, but I do affirm that self-care is critical to the movement, and our mental health needs to be taken care of. Self-care, for me, is also being vulnerable and connecting with others, and sharing my story. My self-care often looks different depending on the day.”

We want to thank Ebony for her time and energy. Please support her and her work in any way that you can so that she can keep fighting the good fight. #BlackTransLivesMatter

Andi Bianchi, a transmale, is the editor of the Social Justice PolitiCorps blog.

The preceding article was originally published by the Social Justice PolitiCorps blog and is republished by permission.

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a&e features

Queery: Amir Moini

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In his book by the same name, there are “22 life lessons” that Netflix employee, Amir Moini, wants to share with you during LGBTQ History Month.

Amir Moini.

While you might wonder what might this handsome young man might be able to help you with that you already haven’t experienced, you may be surprised at the fresh outlook and optimism that fills every page. 

This self-help book, coming from “someone more f*cked up then you”, boldly takes us thru his journey of early adulthood and self- discovery of the importance of mental health while navigating thru financial difficulty, a tumultuous relationship, his mother’s alcoholism and coming out on the other side finding peace and happiness with everything around him.

Moini’s optimism is clearly present through out the book and within the first pages if you don’t already know him, you quickly want to invite him for a virtual coffee just to help you navigate through this interesting year. It’s his optimism and uninhibited passages that have you rooting for him throughout his journey.

When perusing his Instagram page you are once again treated to that optimism and growth which takes you from LA to Amsterdam and various places in between while you continue to admire this young man with the infectious smile who spends his work days creating Employee Branding opportunities for Netflix.

Moini’s goal is simple – inspire, lead by example, and embrace your complete journey – as messy or imperfect as it may be. 

“We are alive once, and then it is gone – it is worth living fully open and vulnerable,” he writes in Chapter 21 entitled, Let Go of the Shame.Start letting of your own shame and order your own copy of “22 Life Lessons” at: https://www.amazon.com/Life-Lessons-Someone-More-cked/dp/B088N94CKC

To learn more about Amir Moini – Follow him on Instagram @amirmichael89 

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell? I came out in 2006 when I was 17 years old, so I’ve been out for almost 15 years now. It’s wild to think that I’ve almost been out more years than in. The hardest person to tell was the first person because it made it real, which happened to be my best friend from home. 

Who’s your LGBTQ hero? Marsha P. Johnson. Johnson was one of the prominent people involved in the Stonewall uprising in 1969 and deserves more recognition. 

What’s Los Angeles’ best nightspot, past or present? Putting me on the spot! Some of my favorite LGBTQ bars are Cobra (which recently shut down unfortunately) and the top floor of Mickey’s because of the music. Oil Can Harry’s is a gem. And I’ll never say no to Karaoke in K-town. My favorite places for a drink are Lock & Key, Chateau Marmont, and Birds & Bees. 

Describe your dream wedding. Simple, sleek, and small. I want to actually enjoy it versus worrying about too many details. 

What non-LGBTQ issue are you most passionate about? Environmental reform. 

What historical outcome would you change? I mean, don’t we all know that one… 

What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime? Britney changed my life. Everything she does is pop culture.  

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet? Promoting a campaign for work. 

If your life were a book, what would the title be? I actually do have a book! It’s called 22 Life Lessons By Someone More F*cked Up Than You, which I published earlier this year on Amazon.  

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do? Being gay is a gift, so I would do nothing with that information. 

What do you believe in beyond the physical world? Karma. 

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders? Take breaks because we’re in it for the long haul. Self care is important to be our best selves. 

What would you walk across hot coals for? The people in my life that I love. 

What’s your favorite LGBT movie? To Wong Foo is such a classic and was ahead of its time. 

What’s the most overrated social custom? I don’t understand people who wear shoes on in the house. I like my place super clean. 

What trophy or prize do you most covet? It’s a stretch, but getting picked to be a lead in a Playground dance class and being in one of their videos. It’s something I always wanted to do and I worked really hard to get there. So that video is a prize to me that I can look back on. 

What do you wish you’d known at 18? Take in all the moments with your friends and family. I wish I spent more time with my grandmother and asked her more questions before she passed.  

Why Los Angeles? I’ve lived here 7 years and I still discover new things. Every day here is an adventure and you never know what’s going to happen. For example, one time I was on the couch bored on a Friday night (pre-Covid) and three hours later I was at a club on stage with Iggy Azaela. Only in LA. 

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2020 Election

David Vela wants your vote

The LA Community College District leader answers 20 queer questions

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Angeleno David Vela is a member of the Board of Trustees for the Los Angeles Community College District, Seat 3, and a familiar face around town. You may have heard from him recently and if you haven’t yet, you will. He’s passionate about college affordability and access and has always been a strong champion in the community to see others succeed, and, well, he wants your vote.

For the past two years, Vela has pushed the system to make sure students come first, demanding cutting edge curriculum and fighting for budgets that are fair and balanced. And he has made looking out for LGBTQ students of color a particular priority.

Vela is passionate about making it possible for students to  reach their educational goals as quickly as possible and without putting them in debt in the process.

As a current trustee, former community college instructor, County Supervisor’s Deputy and school board member, Vela has the experience to govern in times of crisis.

His experience and knowledge of government proved to be an asset during the COVID-19 pandemic that plagues the district. Vela ensured that the district converted to online courses immediately to avoid the interruption of studies, again, proving his dedication to his students in the LA community colleges.

Vela grew up in Los Angeles and early on, knew that education was the key to get him to where he wanted to go, having been encouraged by his mom who raised him by herself and instilled in him the importance of going to college and graduate school.

Vela holds his undergrad degree from UCLA and his master’s degree from Pepperdine University. His interest in education continued and he served an eight-year tenure on the Montebello Unified School District Board of Education, from 2007-2015.

Vela currently resides in Montebello as well.

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?

I have been out for the last 15 years. The hardest person to tell was my mother because I feared that she would reject me but I was wrong. Ultimately she became my biggest supporter and friend.

Who’s your LGBTQ hero?

My biggest LGBTQ heroes are Victory Fund, EQCA, Honor PAC Stonewall Democrats and the Stonewall Young Democrats. I really feel that they are passionate about LGBT causes but also the fact that they don’t shy away from holding us LGBT leaders accountable.

What’s Los Angeles’ best nightspot, past or present?

I will always feel at home at Redline in Downtown LA. I feel Oliver Alpuche the owner has really opened up his spot for people of all colors and ages. He has the right attitude to survive in LA.

Describe your dream wedding.

Awww very simple on a remote island with close family and friends.

What non-LGBTQ issue are you most passionate about?

Access to higher education. It’s extremely important to advocate for members of our society to receive some type of education whether it’s formal or vocational – it really does even the playing field and improves quality of life.

What historical outcome would you change?

Obviously it’s the fact that the electoral college is outdated and needs to be revised.

What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?

Definitely my Madonna concerts and when I went to see Depeche Mode in Northern California.

On what do you insist?

I insist on people having genuine and meaningful discourse before judging anyone or anything. So many evil entities have used a divide and conquer devise or weapon in order to gain power and we have to understand that or else we will never ever overcome that evil

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

It was to encourage enrollment in the second year of community college for free!

If your life were a book, what would the title be?

“It can wait till tomorrow.” A big positive characteristic about myself is that I am passionate and I respond quickly and I am a hard worker but sometimes if you weigh a better and more calm solution, it will arise.

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?

I would not take part in it but I would not judge anyone who would.

What do you believe in beyond the physical world?

I believe that we release energy that is currently held in our bodies and serve another stage in our universal lives.

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

Unification! I find it perfectly understandable that we feel a lot of frustration but at the end of the day you cannot get anything done without unifying.

What would you walk across hot coals for?

Pizza.

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?

Probably that we are always single or free. I have always had to really be a big part of my family’s life and whether financial or emotionally I have always supported them.

What’s your favorite LGBTQ movie?

I don’t know if it’s LGBTQ but definitely think “Mean Girls” is the most hilarious movie ever.

What’s the most overrated social custom?

I get annoyed when we have to define people by their sexual identity or sexual orientation or even race. I kind of wish we just call each other “fabulous.”

What trophy or prize do you most covet?

I really treasure my university and graduate school diploma

What do you wish you’d known at 18?

I wish I’d known that I could take my time and make decisions about my career and not necessarily try to keep up with others. I wish I had known that I could have just studied abroad or perhaps done research on Mayan ruins.

Why Los Angeles?

Los Angeles is everything! I mean it figuratively but I also mean it literally because this is a town where you have a microcosm of the world. It’s a town literally where you can feel anonymous and with family at the same time. To me LA represents opportunity.

It’s a place where no matter where you come from you are a part of Los Angeles whether you have been here for an hour or would you have been here for generations.

I love the weather and the warmth because at the end of the day you always want to curl up to a warm and friendly sky.

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