Jose Gutierrez, a Reynosa, Mexico, native, moved to the U.S. (Austin, Texas) in the early ’80s with his first boyfriend. He got involved with HIV and AIDS work early on in the epidemic after losing several friends. It eventually became his life’s work. After several years in Atlanta, he moved to Washington in 1993. He spent five years at Whitman-Walker before programming cuts led him to La Clinica Del Pueblo, a local Latino HIV organization where he’s a medical case manager.
Gutierrez founded the Latino GLBT History Project in 2000. “I believe sometimes our names are erased from history by the gay community in general,” he says. “We are a passionate community and a community with lots of needs, barriers and limitations.”
An outgrowth of the Project is Latino Pride, now in its fourth year and slated for June 11 at 6 p.m. at the Charles Sumner School (1201 17th Street, N.W.). Everyone is invited and there’s no admission charge. Gutierrez, who’s also active in the local leather scene and will be on a Leather Pride panel this year, admits all the sub-Pride groups can get a bit overwhelming.
“Sometimes I do think maybe we should just all work together to provide one strong voice,” he says. “I think it would be very productive to celebrate all together, but some of us need to celebrate our identities, the culture and the language and everything.”
Gutierrez, 47, is single and lives in Dupont Circle. He enjoys history, leather, activism, movies and poetry in his free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I have been out since I was 20 and the hardest person to tell was my mother.
Who’s your gay hero?
Sylvia Rivera. She made important contributions in the struggle of Stonewall and in our LGBT movement. I met Sylvia Rivera in 1994 and she explained to me about her participation in Stonewall.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
The bar Escandalo, a Latino LGBT bar in the early ’90s that was located on P Street. Escandalo supported our community in many ways.
What’s your dream gay wedding?
A Mexican wedding with mariachis, Mexican food and, of course, margaritas.
What non-gay issue are you most passionate about?
What historical outcome would you change?
The AIDS epidemic.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
When I won the title of International Leatherboy 2002.
On what do you insist?
Honesty, forgiveness, peace and love.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
Fourth D.C. Latino Pride, Friday June 11 at 6 p.m. in the Charles Sumner school. www.LatinoGLBTHistory.org
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Love Yourself and Love Others”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Nothing. I’m happy the way that I am.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I believe in God and I believe that God made us with love. Forgiveness is the pure thing.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
History is very important for our community. We need to collect and preserve our history and teach our new generations about the multiple contributions of our sisters and brothers. Let’s work together for a better world.
What you walk across hot coals for?
What gay stereotype annoys you most?
The negative stereotypes that mass media or people who work in the media sometimes use to describe our community.
What’s your favorite gay movie?
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Having people on Facebook as friends, but in reality we don’t know them and have never met.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
A ticket for a concert of my favorite singer Chavela Vargas. She’s an icon in the LGBTQ movement in Mexico and Latin America. She is a representation of Mexican lesbians for generations.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
About Latino LGBTQ history.
I moved to Washington from Atlanta 17 years ago and I have been very active with the AIDS epidemic, organizing the Latino LGBTQ community and advocating at the local and national level. In 2000 I founded the Latino GLBT History Project to preserve the history of the DC Latino LGBTQ community for futures generations. Washington, D.C. is an international and diverse city with important opportunities for all.