“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?
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!