Martin Espinoza was lucky to have strong gay mentors early in his career.
Upon moving to Phoenix from his native Yuma, Ariz., in 2001 at age 18, he met Neil Giuliano, the former Tempe, Ariz., mayor and GLAAD director who’s now with an AIDS group in San Francisco. And Steve May, a former member of the Arizona House for whom Espinoza worked for several years.
He also met Chuck Wolfe from the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which led, eventually, to Espinoza moving to Washington in 2008 to join the Victory Fund staff where he works as director of events. He’s got his hands full these days planning the organization’s next big event — a brunch planned for March 20 at the Washington Hilton (victoryfund.org).
Espinoza, 28, is also the co-founder of Stonewall Kickball, a non-profit gay kickball league of 12 teams that plays spring and fall seasons on Sunday afternoons behind JR.’s. The group’s 300 players are about 85 percent LGBT and everyone’s welcome (stonewallkickball.com).
“It’s more fun than competitive,” he says. “It’s really back to the basics and fun. I think the main reason a lot of people like it is it’s a chance to meet other people in the community you’d never meet otherwise. You hang out at the bars on 17th Street and you kind of feel like you know everybody there is to know after a few years. But there are so many people who come out for kickball that you’ve never seen around before. I don’t even know all the captains and players. It’s great for friendship and networking.”
Espinoza grew up in Arizona and is from a family of carpenters and homebuilders. He picked a lot of it up, helping May sell houses during the height of the market several years ago. He now uses his skills to take on four or five renovation projects a year as a hobby. Naturally more inclined to jeans and T-shirts, Espinoza says he could imagine eventually doing renovation work full time.
Espinoza is single and lives at the Cairo in Dupont, which he says has “the best view of the city.”
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I came out to my mom when I was 18 when I decided to move to Phoenix. The hardest person to tell was my stepdad, my mom did it for me and next time I saw him he gave me two thumbs up.
Who’s your gay hero?
Neil Giuliano, he has always been there for me good or bad and been a true father figure. All his accomplishments have proven to me and so many others how great life can be, if you choose it to be.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
JR.’s Bar & Grill and Cobalt. I never leave 17th Street.
Describe your dream gay wedding.
I have many dream weddings but as me playing the part of Jennifer Lopez in “The Wedding Planner.”
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
What historical outcome would you change?
Harvey Milk’s death.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Watching the American Music Awards at home with Rihanna performing, “Oh, na na – what’s my name?” It has changed the way I’ve danced forever.
On what do you insist?
Just tell me what you want.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
“… Can U Host?”
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Do You Get Me?”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
I would send that science to Scott Herman — kidding — he’s my favorite straight ally. I would throw it right down the drain.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
Someone else is having just as much fun as me.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Imagine what we will accomplish in 20 more years.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
A one shot cure for addictions.
What gay stereotype annoys you most?
I should dress better.
What’s your favorite gay movie?
“Broken Hearts Club”
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Black tie dress code. Have you seen me without a jacket on?
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
Every time my mom smiled for the accomplishments that have occurred through my life.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
I had always loved visiting Washington for business but never imagined living here. I have always loved the warm desert in Arizona. I believe life happens for a reason and that is exactly what happened. My previous company was sold in 2008 and I had never applied for a job since turning 18. The whole world of options were out there between finishing school, returning to the finance world or doing something new. I had always known and supported the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and fortunately there was an opening on a Monday and I signed my D.C. apartment lease on Wednesday. Life since then … well, if only the trees on 17th Street could talk.