Luigi Ferrer was born in 1958 in Ponce, Puerto Rico. During his childhood, he bounced between Puerto Rico and Columbia, South Carolina, then attended the University of Miami. In 1985, Luigi was working on a Ph.D. in oceanography when he was diagnosed with HIV. Believing he had only a few months to live, he decided to dedicate his remaining time to battling the AIDS epidemic’s onslaught on the gay community. More than 30 years later, he’s still battling.

Luigi’s first post was executive director of Miami’s second-largest AIDS service organization, Body Positive. He later worked for several national HIV-specialized pharmacies, was president of Florida AIDS Action (now the AIDS Institute), and served on the boards of the AIDS Action Council and the National Association of People With AIDS. In 1996, Luigi was credited with playing a pivotal role in the first reauthorization of the landmark Ryan White CARE Act. Over the next five years, funding for the CARE Act’s drug assistance program increased from $52 million to $528 million.

The other major strand of Luigi’s life and work has been continually affirming his identity as a bisexual man, looking for ways to amplify the bisexual community’s voice, and striving to make sure that bisexuals’ needs and concerns are treated with respect. He was one of six founding board members of BiNet USA, and served as national coordinator for three years. He also helped found the South Florida Bisexual Network, and co-facilitated its bisexual support group for six years. In 1998, as part of a decades-long effort to counteract media portrayals of bisexual men as “the ultimate pariahs” of the AIDS epidemic, Luigi helped organize the National Institute on Bisexuality HIV/AIDS Summit, hosted by BiNet USA.

Over the years, Luigi has also found a way to reclaim and reshape the religious faith he grew up with. Today, he speaks with a prophetic voice about the need for queer people to speak up as people of faith, and to fight for a vision of faith that embraces difference and diversity, instead of demonizing it.

Luigi currently serves as health services outreach manager at Pridelines, Miami’s LGBTQ community center, doing daily battle with Miami-Dade County’s skyrocketing HIV rate, the highest in America. Because of his intense workload, Luigi asked if we could interview him on a Sunday morning at Pridelines. We were more than honored to oblige him. 
Kate Kunath: [00:00:00] Thought so. You're ready?
ManSee Kong: Yeah.
Kate Kunath: Okay. The air is off. Are your phones off, ringers off?
Luigi Ferrer: Oh, let me turn mine off.
ManSee Kong: I heard ...
Luigi Ferrer: No.
Kate Kunath: Let me start a little early in like ...
Luigi Ferrer: Okay.
Kate Kunath: ... family origin, the place where you grew up, and what your family was like.
Luigi Ferrer: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kate Kunath: A snapshot of your childhood.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:00:30] Okay. I was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Both of my parents are Puerto Rican. My dad was an orthopedic surgeon and my mom was a stay-at-home mom/office manager. I would say I'm the product of the South Carolina public school system and of a very Machista Latino culture. In my early years,
Luigi Ferrer: [00:01:00] we moved to Columbia, South Carolina so my dad could do his internship in orthopedics, and so we spent five years in South Carolina and New Orleans, and then went back to Puerto Rico. I was brought up on the Mayflower and the pilgrims and then I, all of a sudden, in eighth grade go to Puerto Rico where I didn't speak the language, although I understood it.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:01:30] I felt like I didn't quite share the same prejudices of my cohort in high school and junior high.
Kate Kunath: Just to let you know, because I can't tell if you're wondering, but your eye line should be [crosstalk] ...
Luigi Ferrer: Okay.
Kate Kunath: ... stick with me. Just ignore the camera.
Luigi Ferrer: Okay.
Kate Kunath: I can't tell if you're looking into it. That's good. Okay.
Luigi Ferrer: Okay.
Kate Kunath: [00:02:00] All right. I'm going to back you up and have you tell me your name and spell your name for me. Then did you tell me where you were born?
Luigi Ferrer: Ponce, Puerto Rico. I can say it again just so you have two takes. And if you want me to repeat any of it, just say, "Okay, say that again," and I'll repeat it. I'm Luigi Ferrer. I'm from Miami. I was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:02:30] It's L-U-I-G-I, F as in Frank, E-R-R-E-R.
Kate Kunath: Will you tell me the year you were born?
Luigi Ferrer: I was born in 1958 in Ponce, Puerto Rico.
Kate Kunath: How long did you live there before you moved?
Luigi Ferrer: I did kindergarten and had not quite started first grade when we moved to Columbia, South Carolina.
Kate Kunath: [00:03:00] Do you have like a recollection of that culture shock? Did it feel like one?
Luigi Ferrer: Not really. Going to the United States I didn't feel much of a culture shock. I do remember doing kindergarten at a nun's convent in San Germain, Puerto Rico, and later on I would ... watching The Flying Nun, I would fantasize about
Luigi Ferrer: [00:03:30] how I had been part of the convent life and all that sort of stuff. Those are some of my earliest memories of life in Puerto Rico. But then in Columbia, South Carolina, at Belvedere Elementary, I was brought up as any other little American kid. It was a shock to me when I was dating here in Miami in my teens
Luigi Ferrer: [00:04:00] and this young lady said, "One of the reasons I like you is because you're a foreigner." So that was my first experience in being othered, and also being sort of sexualized or fetishized for being Latino.
Kate Kunath: Interesting. When did you start to discover your sexuality?
Luigi Ferrer: [00:04:30] I think it was pretty early on. I just didn't understand what was going on. Like, I remember getting all excited with some of my male cousins and feeling like I admired them. I remember in high school having these terrible crushes on some of the guys, but again I thought, I want to be like him. I want to be his friend. I didn't put two and two together because that was never explained to me as a possibility.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:05:00] So, I had girlfriends in high school. Most of my friends were girls. Then I had all the oddballs, misfit guys, we would hang out together, and we did all sorts of crazy stuff. I was president of the ecology club at my high school, and we did ... the big thing back them was to get recycling as a ... paper recycling as a municipal project and we got that done.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:05:30] I also helped organize with the Explorer Scouts a trip to Mona Island, which is a nature conservancy of the government of Puerto Rico. It's a beautiful place that has just incredible historic and natural wild place value.
Kate Kunath: [00:06:00] When did you guys move back to Puerto Rico through this time-
Luigi Ferrer: We moved back to Puerto Rico in 1969, which in Puerto Rico is a very interesting time because the statehood party had just won its first elections. A cousin of ours was a senator. So the family was involved in politics and there were always fights or arguments in the family because so and so supported this party, and so and so thought that candidate was better.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:06:30] So I remember a lot of that. It was always the question of statehood or commonwealth, which were the only two viable options in Puerto Rico. We are still having those discussions today.
Kate Kunath: In 1969, you were how old?
Luigi Ferrer: I was probably nine, ten, somewhere around there.
Kate Kunath: Okay. You were in Puerto Rico until ... Like, what age did you leave Puerto Rico?
Luigi Ferrer: [00:07:00] I left Puerto Rico again around age eighteen. I was here for a while, and then I went back and came back permanently at age twenty-six.
Kate Kunath: Okay. Your coming of age basically was happening in Puerto Rico.
Luigi Ferrer: Yeah, definitely.
Kate Kunath: Can you talk about that or give me some of what those milestones were for you?
Kate Kunath: [00:07:30] Do you associate those with sexuality or ...
Luigi Ferrer: Yeah. I was a real late bloomer, to be sure. I led a very protected childhood that was safe and, for the most part, nurturing.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:08:00] Going through puberty in Puerto Rico was very confusing. I knew I felt like an outsider. Nowadays, I question myself, did I feel like an outsider because of all the cultural issues, or did I feel like an outsider because I was queer? Not knowing what to do with my feelings towards other guys, although I didn't really put two and two together back then. It wasn't 'till I was here in Miami, and on my own,
Luigi Ferrer: [00:08:30] and that I started working with the South Florida Bisexual Network that I really started to understand my sexuality. So I spent really all through my teens ... I became sexually active at eighteen. I only had a couple of relationships. I was actually infected with HIV by my first boyfriend many, many years ago in 1979 before we knew anything about HIV or AIDS or GRID
Luigi Ferrer: [00:09:00] or any of that had hit the papers. So being here in Miami, I came to finish my PhD in oceanography at UM. I was three years into that project when I was diagnosed with HIV formally. At that time, you were diagnosed and you died within six months, so I was like, I've got this scholarship to go study at the Emperor's Marine Lab in Japan,
Luigi Ferrer: [00:09:30] but I don't want to be in a country where I don't understand the language and where I don't know what my medical care is going to be like if I'm going to be dealing with this disease. So at that point, I had already been working at the Body Positive Resource Center here in Miami as a volunteer. Body Positive was Miami's second AIDS service organization.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:10:00] And because of my expertise in grant writing and grants management, I was offered the position of Executive Director. So I left my oceanography program and became Executive Director at the Body Positive Resource Center. Really in those early days here in Miami, just like anywhere else during the early days of the epidemic, communities were coming together. Our lesbian sisters were amazing, and the support they provided gay and bisexual men.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:10:30] We just had an ... Sorry. Those were really hard times. But I made it a point to learn about the disease as much as I could. We were all making it up along the way.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:11:00] The doctors didn't really know what to tell us. We didn't know how the virus ... if it was a virus, how the disease was transmitted, if it was all poppers. There were a lot of theories about how behavior caused this disease. We knew it was an immune deficiency. So when the virus was finally discovered and we began to understand how HIV and AIDS worked,
Luigi Ferrer: [00:11:30] it was a real relief and gave us a lot of hope although there were still no medications. At that time, we were doing a lot of palliative care, watching our friends die, coming together as a family to help each other in those difficult times. So when I left Body Positive, there were several attempts at creating a community center in Miami.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:12:00] There were like three or four different attempts and they failed. Ever since Body Positive, I've been wanting to find that sort of community spirit here in Miami. That's why I'm so thankful that today I'm here at Pridelines, because it really does have that feel that Body Positive did. Were still coming together to support each other and to figure things out together.
Kate Kunath: [00:12:30] What was it like for you to be at Body Positive and know that you could be next?
Luigi Ferrer: That was really difficult to see several of my friends pass away. I always felt like, "Gee, I could be next." Thankfully, there was always something new when I was getting sick that I could try.
Kate Kunath: [00:13:00] Do that one more time, just because the [crosstalk] ...
Luigi Ferrer: Yeah. You're good. I was lucky in the fact that there was always something new when I was getting sick or when something stopped working. But I spent 12 years of my life as if I only had another two years to live.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:13:30] So I had no long-term plans. I didn't realize how much of a toll that took and the impact that it's had on my finances and my retirement, which is nonexistent, but at age 39, realizing I was going to turn 40 pretty soon and that I had no plans for retirement,
Luigi Ferrer: [00:14:00] that I had no savings, I decided to buy a home with a 30-year mortgage. I realized I wasn't going to go anywhere. So it was a real shift in my attitude, wanting to, for the first time, make long-term plans and settle down, and figure out what I was going to do in my old age.
Kate Kunath: What do you attribute your survival to? Like how do you ...
Luigi Ferrer: [00:14:30] Yeah.
Kate Kunath: Because the diagnosis that early on was a death sentence, really.
Luigi Ferrer: Yeah. People would die within three to six months of diagnosis. I think it was perhaps because I was infected early on with sort of a wild strain of a virus before it had seen any medications,
Luigi Ferrer: [00:15:00] that perhaps helped. I was on AZT monotherapy, which was horrible. At that point, I knew I was going to die, because we were getting 1,600 milligrams of AZT. Nowadays if they use AZT in a combination, it's more like 100 milligrams. So we were getting just a huge amount of medication. I would take my medications and go lie down,
Luigi Ferrer: [00:15:30] because I knew within five minutes, that punch to the stomach was coming. I would roll in bed for about 20 minutes, and then it would pass. At that point, I was spending two to three days in bed ... three to four days in bed just to be able to function marginally during the other three to four days, but I did remain employed during that whole time. That helped me because I had very good insurance, so when my T cells finally dropped down to zero
Luigi Ferrer: [00:16:00] and I talked to my doctor and said, "So I've been taking this medication that makes me feel horrible to keep my T cells up. Now I have zero T cells. What does that mean?" He says, "I don't know. Your guess is as good as mine." "Could I stop taking this medication?" He said, "Sure. You want to stop taking the medication? Stop." So I spent about three years with zero T cells, but my friend, again learning from friends
Luigi Ferrer: [00:16:30] and mentors that went before me, my friend, Jean Suarez, had been doing very well on intravenous immunoglobulin, and I had great health insurance at that point, so I was able to get IVIG every two weeks. It costs about $1,200 a dose. Essentially, I would get an immune system in a bottle every two weeks. That, I believe, is what really kept me alive.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:17:00] When my insurance would no longer cover IVIG, protease inhibitors had just come on the market. And we all know that protease inhibitors was the great change in the HIV epidemic, and that allowed people like me to live long, productive lives. So I started taking a protease inhibitor, and within a month, all of a sudden I had 20 T cells,
Luigi Ferrer: [00:17:30] which was remarkable because we didn't really know at that point that the immune system could be reconstituted. Nowadays, I have almost 800 T cells, which is almost normal.
Kate Kunath: Wow. That's amazing.
Luigi Ferrer: Yeah. It must've been Sybil, the little T cell that was left.
Kate Kunath: [crosstalk].
Luigi Ferrer: Yeah, I could.
Kate Kunath: Wow. That's amazing. Yeah.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:18:00] I want to say that I feel my story with emigrating or coming to the United States and as a queer Latino and being infected with HIV almost immediately because I came to Miami at age 18, and by age 21, I was already HIV positive, that is a story that still repeats itself today.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:18:30] One of the issues that we're having here in Miami-Dade County today is the fact that our teenagers in high school that live in the jurisdiction of the country that has, and has had for the past six years, the highest HIV rate in the country, the highest number of new HIV infections in the country don't get any sex education in school. That is unconscionable. That is one of the factors that the mayor's Getting 2 Zero Task Force
Luigi Ferrer: [00:19:00] identified as a contributing factor to the high rates of HIV in Miami, and the school board has said nothing to address this issue although we've asked repeatedly.
Kate Kunath: Wow. It's probably two things, including culture and the kind of secrecy or ...
Luigi Ferrer: Yeah, the sexual silence that we won't talk about it. Then,
Luigi Ferrer: [00:19:30] all the Machista culture. When youth don't have the information they need to make good, informed decisions, they can't make them. It's not to say that if they had the information they needed to make good decisions, they would make the right decisions. But if they don't have the information, they just can't make those decisions. So I think this is a critical issue that we need to solve still.
Kate Kunath: [00:20:00] In your case, you didn't know about that consequence?
Luigi Ferrer: I didn't know I could fall in love with a man. It was all very confusing figuring it out, although there were moments of clarity in the whole thing. My first real relationship
Luigi Ferrer: [00:20:30] was with a young man my age, Juan, who was very self-actualized. He knew he was a gay man in a Machista culture, and that there were limits to that, and he accepted the baggage that came with it. He was brave and got me over my homophobia like that. It was really,
Luigi Ferrer: [00:21:00] really a beautiful relationship, but we were 21 and it lasted for three years, so that was like an eternity ago.
Kate Kunath: Was he the one who infected you?
Luigi Ferrer: No. That was my previous boyfriend who was from Fort Lauderdale, David Bellin. He died in 1985, just as I was diagnosed, like a month after I was diagnosed.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:21:30] So it was especially scary having carried David at ... who was almost six feet tall, weighing under a hundred pounds. It was just really devastating to see how he had wasted away, how he had no strength.
Kate Kunath: Then the next boyfriend, how you said he helped you get over your homophobia.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:22:00] Yeah.
Kate Kunath: What was the key to that?
Luigi Ferrer: I really don't know. He was just somebody that was very self-actualized. He had read. He was an illegitimate child, so he grew up with his aunt. His aunt was like his mom.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:22:30] His mom had moved to New York to get away from the whole scandal in Puerto Rico, but I think because of his own difficult family situation, he was very self secure in who he was and had read and really understood who he was, and he helped me reach that level of understanding.
Kate Kunath: It was the relationship between you two wasn't it that ... it wasn't certain things that you guys would go and did together?
Luigi Ferrer: [00:23:00] I was in oceanography school. I lived in my grandmother's old house, an old sugar cane plantation house on top of the hill. Juan was managing his family's general merchandise store in Villalba, one of the little towns in the mountains north of Ponce, Puerto Rico.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:23:30] He would work Monday through Thursday. Then on Friday, hed come spend the weekend with me. So I would often take Fridays off and we'd spend the day together and then we'd spend the weekend together with some of our lesbian friends from the oceanography school and we'd spend a lot of time in La Parguera, which is a beautiful fisherman's village on the southwest coast of Puerto Rico.
Kate Kunath: [00:24:00] Cool. So it was part the relationship and part being around ...
Luigi Ferrer: Other friends, really a peer group. That's one of the things that I've learned. In response to ... Let me start over again. We often hear that gay,
Luigi Ferrer: [00:24:30] lesbian, bisexuals, transgender folks, across the board, if you look at their finances, they're poor, that there are a lot of poor people in our LGBT community. What I've learned is that in response to that, we often come together to create things that are greater than we can muster individually. I am a Radical Faerie. I love my Tennessee community. We call it Social Sequeerity.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:25:00] It's queers coming together for other queers, supporting each other, building things like this beautiful community center. It's the same community spirit that we saw in the early days of the AIDS epidemic. It's the magic that the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have. It's really learning how to create a family of choice that can support you, and that you can be part of the magic that supports others.
Kate Kunath: [00:25:30] That was important to you because you felt like an outsider [inaudible]
Luigi Ferrer: I felt like an outsider as a teenager. Again, I think part of it was cultural. Part of it was definitely because I was queer. I don't know if I didn't share the misogyny that my high school classmates showed, or even the machismo
Luigi Ferrer: [00:26:00] that was part of that, because I had been brought up in South Carolina or because I was queer, and I just instinctively didn't believe in all those things. I think also my Catholic upbringing that taught me right from wrong was very important. Nowadays, I'm a Unitarian, a Unitarian Universalist, and a Radical Faerie.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:26:30] I love Neopagan religions. I consider myself a pagan as well. I love Starhawk's work. She's been a friend and a mentor.
Kate Kunath: Cool. I'm going to get to religion a little bit later. I do want to go back to coming out. You had the support of ...
Luigi Ferrer: Yeah. I didn't really come out until I was back here in Miami.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:27:00] I was at Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, which is the University of Miami Marine Lab out on Virginia Key. I had started to realize ... there was a little ad in the back of the New Times, our city paper here, that said, "Bisexual Support Group," had a phone number and had a time and a date.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:27:30] I looked at that ad for months. It wasn't until my girlfriend at the time said, "Hey, you want to go to this meeting?" that I said, "Okay, let's call." We called and we found out, and we still ... it still took us about a month to show up at the meeting. But when we did, we found a group of other young people that were also questioning their sexuality, and wanted to learn more. I think one of the people that was really pivotal in my life
Luigi Ferrer: [00:28:00] at that moment was Dr. Marilyn Volker, our local sexologist. Marilyn is still doing the work today, almost 30 years later. Now we're colleagues and we do presentations together. She was the first one in my experience to really explain sort of the elements of human sexuality, and how gender identity and gender norms
Luigi Ferrer: [00:28:30] and gender attraction come together to form somebody's sexual orientation, gender identity, how they interact, and how you could be trans and straight, or you could be straight and still have sex with men, or be a lesbian and have sex with men.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:29:00] So it was really a time of discovery. Very soon after arriving, Julie and I were sort of the leaders of the group and led the group and facilitated support group meetings. Then another Julie joined the group. The joke was Luigi and the two Julies at that time, but we were not an item. It was just Julie and I and then ...
Luigi Ferrer: [00:29:30] So I think just having, again, a peer group that you can talk to, that you can bounce ideas off of, that you can socialize with. We know that all of that contributes to good mental health outcomes. We know it keeps young people safe. It prevents suicide and depression
Luigi Ferrer: [00:30:00] when young people have somebody that they can talk to, whether it be a peer or a family member. That's crucial in all of our lives. Even approaching sixty, as I am now, we need to have people in our lives that we can talk to and open up to.
Kate Kunath: You had this girlfriend, Julie?
Luigi Ferrer: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kate Kunath: [00:30:30] You were questioning, or you were ... you knew you were bi since you'd already have relationships with men.
Luigi Ferrer: Yes.
Kate Kunath: Okay.
Luigi Ferrer: At that point, I already knew that I was bisexual. Actually, it was David, my first boyfriend, who introduced me to the Metropolitan Community Church where he was an elder, who introduced me to the writings of Gordon Merrick and The Lord Won't Mind,
Luigi Ferrer: [00:31:00] and all those fabulous books. That's really how I realized my sexuality, was reading Gordon Merrick, reading Blue Book magazine, and realizing this is where the juices really start flowing for me. Funny, I was working for Boy Scouts of America in the Florida Keys. I was twenty-one and the Boy Scout District Executive for the Florida Keys.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:31:30] Funny, those connections.
Kate Kunath: How did they feel about your sexuality? or did they find out that you [crosstalk] ...
Luigi Ferrer: Well, they didn't know. They didn't know about my sexuality. I was just discovering it myself. Half of my District Committee were gay men. I mean, at that point in the late '70s,
Luigi Ferrer: [00:32:00] Key West was sort of owned by the Navy and the gay community. They sort of shared the island. I went to my first gay bar in Key West, talking about milestones that we all go through: going to that first gay bar.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:32:30] It was really a process of self-discovery before I ever acted on it. Then, I went back to school, and you're in a different environment, and you're in a different culture, so it's not as easy. Then, Juan showed up. So then I had ... he had lot of ...
Luigi Ferrer: [00:33:00] a network of friends again. We would have dinner at each other's houses once a week. We would get together and prim before we went to the disco. It was a lot of fun. Back then, as it's ... I guess it's even worse in Puerto Rico nowadays, but it was common for people across town not to have water or not to have electricity.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:33:30] So whenever something happened on our side of town, we'd go to our friend's house and shower and hang out over there, and they'd do the same when it was ... So it was a very close-knit community of friends. We all sort of flew under the radar, right, because there was no out community in Puerto Rico at that time.
Kate Kunath: Okay. Interesting. So not having a gay community gave you some cover to just continue hiding and [crosstalk] ...
Luigi Ferrer: [00:34:00] Yeah. I mean, you couldn't be out. The people that were out were very brave drag queens that were cleaning houses, because that's the only employment they could find, or turning tricks at town square where they'd be constantly ostracized and they'd get picked up,
Luigi Ferrer: [00:34:30] taken out to the sugarcane fields for quick sex, and then they'd dump them there, and they'd have to walk back into town. It was not a good life. So those were the images of out queer people that I knew growing up.
Kate Kunath: Is it safe to say that the reason why you came back to Miami in part has to do with sexuality?
Luigi Ferrer: [00:35:00] Definitely. Just realistically, the standard of living was better. Things were cleaner. Your utilities could be counted on. Streets weren't full of potholes. There was law and order. That's the things that still attract immigrants today. I really understand why people want to come to this country.
Kate Kunath: [00:35:30] Since I said that instead of you saying it, maybe you could find a way to describe your feelings around wanting to come to Miami at that age?
Luigi Ferrer: One of my first trips to Miami was with my father. We came to the boat show. He wanted to get some parts and some equipment for our boat,
Luigi Ferrer: [00:36:00] and he brought me along with him. I convinced him at the time to take me. I was very involved in Scouting in Puerto Rico at that time. I convinced him to take me by the Boy Scout Council office here in Miami. There, I met a group of young people and they invited me. I was President of the Explorer Presidents Association in Puerto Rico,
Luigi Ferrer: [00:36:30] and there was going to be a conference in Washington, DC several months later, so they invited me to come, and I flew from Puerto Rico to Miami and took the train from Miami to Washington, DC with the Miami gang. So I felt like I wanted to come back because I had friends here. It was the first U.S. city that I really got to know on my own and on my own terms.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:37:00] So, of course, when I had the option of going to school somewhere, I looked at University of Miami. Didn't hurt that it was one of the top three oceanography programs in the country. I got a scholarship, and so the transition to Miami was sort of easy. I had already been here working for a year when I worked for the Boy Scouts previously.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:37:30] I sort of had a sense of the place. The climate was similar, but not as stiflingly hot as Puerto Rico could be sometimes. So there were a lot of reasons why I wanted to come here. Part of it was also the fact that I had been brought up on the stars and stripes and mom and apple pie.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:38:00] I almost understood the culture here better, although I did high school in Puerto Rico, which really gave me a feel for Puerto Rican culture. By the time that I left Puerto Rico after high school, I was fully bilingual and bicultural.
Kate Kunath: Did you feel like you had to leave Puerto Rico?
Luigi Ferrer: [00:38:30] No. It was more new opportunities, not knowing exactly what I would do on the island, being offered opportunities here to do things that interest me. But I did feel a lot freer in terms of not feeling the pressure of that Machista culture, that sort of virulent homophobia and misogyny that machismo can imprint on a society.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:39:00] So I did feel a relief from that, that sense of oppression, really, and just wanted to be freer and experience freedoms. After my stint in Key West, I knew more or less how to find gay bars up here if I wanted to go to a gay bar. Although I didn't have any friends at the time,
Luigi Ferrer: [00:39:30] I could figure out a way of making inroads. Now all that changed when I was diagnosed with HIV because at that point, I was only going to live for another two years, right? So why not dedicate myself to learn more about the community I was a part of, to learn more about my sexuality, to learn about this disease that I had, and maybe I'd be able to survive a few more years, right? I never expected to hit 40.
Kate Kunath: [00:40:00] What is the bottom of the ocean, that thing that you say about the bottom of the ocean? Does that mean anything?
Luigi Ferrer: Yeah. As a young person, I was very involved in environmental issues. That was my passion in the '70s. We did some of the first experiments with solar stuff. I helped organize an ecology seminar every year for nine years
Luigi Ferrer: [00:40:30] as a scout in high school and early years of college in Puerto Rico. So I was really passionate about the planet. I understood even back then that population growth was a risk, that we couldn't continue polluting our oceans the way we are.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:41:00] So it was almost something, having spent my teen years spending weekends on the beach, snorkeling, sailing, in and out of the water all the time, it was almost a natural for me to become a marine biologist. I think it was like the default value set up there somewhere during my teen years. So I became an oceanographer. I was studying coral reef biology, looking at nutrient recycling in the reef.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:41:30] And three things sort of combined at the same time. I was diagnosed with HIV. My wife at the time left me for my best friend, who was very close and sort of part of the family. That hurt like crazy. And my father died, all within three months. So at that point, my life sort of went into a tailspin. At the same time, I was already involved as a volunteer at The Body Positive Resource Center.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:42:00] And the opportunity presented itself to take that position. What the hell? I was only going to live for another two years. What was I going to do with a PhD in oceanography? I wouldn't have time to start a career, so I made the jump and I worked as the Executive Director of the Body Positive Resource Center for a year.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:42:30] Then, I went to work for one of the first HIV pharmacies, American Preferred Prescriptions. Then I did HIV pharmacy for about 12 years, and then came back to the not-for-profit work at Union Positiva in Little Havana. Then, I went to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health in Boston for five years, and then came back to take the position as Executive Director here at Pridelines,
Luigi Ferrer: [00:43:00] and have been working myself down the organizational ladder, really mentoring and helping others assume leadership positions, and happy with the progress we've made.
Kate Kunath: You mentioned that you had a wife.
Luigi Ferrer: Yes.
Kate Kunath: I don't know how I missed that.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:43:30] Let me start with my sort of spiel. We used to do this at the South Florida Bisexual Network support group meetings sometimes. We'd have people give you their relationship history, so that we would know where people were coming from. Although I had girlfriends through high school, my first serious, emotional, sexual relationship with anybody was with Juan.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:44:00] We were both 21 at the time. He was the best friend and pool-shooting buddy of my former girlfriend's girlfriend. So Graciela and Juan were really close. Denise and I had dated. Denise dropped me all of a sudden. I didn't know why. Years later, I realized it was because she started dating Graciela.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:44:30] And when we got back together, because Graciela and Juan were such close friends, Juan and I became close friends. He had seen me at the theater one night with somebody he knew and he had asked him. He thought I was cute, and then they engineered something so that we'd both met at a disco in San Juan. So Juan was my first relationship. After about three years, one day we sort of looked at each other and said, "We're not in love anymore. I
Luigi Ferrer: [00:45:00] t's time to break up." So we broke up. We broke up. Then, that weekend, I met this young American girl called Amilda. She was part of the expat community in Puerto Rico. She had been born in Puerto Rico to American parents. She was a blonde, blue-eyed beauty.
Kate Kunath: [00:45:30] Blue eyes [crosstalk] ...
Luigi Ferrer: Yeah. It was just love at first sight. She felt the same way. On our second date, I told her I was gay, because I didn't want to confuse things, although I had been calling myself bi all that time. We dated for three years in Puerto Rico. Then, it was time for me to transition to do
Luigi Ferrer: [00:46:00] my oceanography program here at UM. So her parents said, "Well, if you get married, we'll help you guys move and all that stuff." So we got married. We spent another three years together, just bliss here in Miami. Then she had really wanted to have children and I didn't.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:46:30] I guess that was the real issue that sort of ended up ... and the fact that I kept on bringing my coworker and friend over every night, and we'd all three of us hang out. So while I was away on cruise, they went to Key West and had an affair and then she decided that she wanted to be with him.
Kate Kunath: Wait. She had an affair with the coworker that you were bringing [crosstalk] ...
Luigi Ferrer: [00:47:00] Yeah, my best friend, our best friend really, somebody who had become like a brother and part of the family. Again, he was like six foot two, blonde, blue-eyed. So that was a very difficult break up. And my father passed away, and I was diagnosed. I had been diagnosed with HIV a couple of months before that.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:47:30] So it all came together at the same time. So that relationship ended and then I was really without a partner for a little bit and then I met Julie, who was in oceanography school with me. She was from Idaho and just, again, one of these people that was very self-aware.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:48:00] She went home and to a class reunion up in the Seattle area. It just so happened that there was a national bisexual conference happening, and she went to it, and she came back just bubbling, telling me about everything. We had already been involved with the group here, but that's what really sort of kick-started my activism and my involvement in national organizing.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:48:30] She came back just exuberant about all the people she had met, and the great network of people. So a few months later, we went to another ... or actually about a year later, we went to the first official BiNet USA meeting where we adopted the name BiNet USA up in Minneapolis. And a lot of the meeting was spent discussing
Luigi Ferrer: [00:49:00] what the structure of the new national organization should look like. We decided on having six National Coordinators that would be like an executive board. We wanted to have gender parity and 50% people of color. So after three days of discussion in Minneapolis, I ended up being one of the six National Coordinators for BiNet USA,
Luigi Ferrer: [00:49:30] and then spent the next three years really interacting with folks like Lani Ka'ahumanu, Loraine Hutchins, Deb Kolodny, Michael Beer, and a bunch of other national bisexual leaders. This was in the early '90s. So our movement got started a little bit later. It preceded.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:50:00] I mean, there was stuff happening in the '80s, obviously, but that's really when I feel like I started doing the bulk of my national organizing. Then after a few years of doing that, and while I was doing that, I was also at the beginning of that period where I had zero T cells, so I was in and out of bed a lot.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:50:30] After that period, and I guess once I had started on protease inhibitors, I was offered the opportunity to do some HIV organizing on the national level. I was invited to be one of the reviewers for the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) supplemental grant applications. I did that for three years and really learned a lot about the national funding process,
Luigi Ferrer: [00:51:00] and then was asked to take a consulting job helping cities in Puerto Rico write their supplemental grant applications. So I did that for about three years while holding a position at APP, which again got bought out and bought out and bought out. I ended up working for CVS ProCare at the time. It was a year where I had four different business cards,
Luigi Ferrer: [00:51:30] because our pharmacy would get bought by somebody else and our program would get bought by somebody else. But I really enjoyed the consulting work I did in Puerto Rico. I felt that I was not just a grant writer, but sort of a cultural translator from Puerto Rican local politics, municipal whatevers, to American federal government legalese,
Luigi Ferrer: [00:52:00] and being able to tell people, "No, you can't do that, or you have to do the process this way, and ..." Like they say in Puerto Rico, haciendo de tripas coraznes, taking guts and tying them together until you have a heart that can work.
Kate Kunath: Was there organizing around HIV?
Luigi Ferrer: [00:52:30] Yeah. I did both trainings for local HIV planning councils and worked directly with government, helping them write, and really writing for them the supplemental grant applications. I have to say, I doubled their money the first year. So I think I did pretty well and got increases after that every year, so I'm really happy. The one year I was a reviewer,
Luigi Ferrer: [00:53:00] there was a very ... This is what sort of precipitated my work as a consultant. One of the applications from Puerto Rico was so bad that they were not going to fund it, and I had to stand up as a person living with HIV and say, "85% of their budget goes directly to pay for medications. I don't care how bad their application is, you cannot give them zero dollars. You need to at least fund the medication program."
Luigi Ferrer: [00:53:30] And several other people spoke out after that and we were able to save the funding for the city that year. Then one of the HRSA folks, I guess, saw my concern and the passion and being that I was Puerto Rican and knew the culture, she asked me if I would consider working as a consultant for the city of Caguas first, and then the city of Ponce where there was two years that I wrote the grant applications for both cities.
Kate Kunath: [00:54:00] When you transitioned from BiNet or bisexual activism to HIV activism, was that kind of switching one for the other? Did you feel like HIV had kind of become a priority?
Luigi Ferrer: I always felt like I was drafted into doing HIV work because it was my community. It was my life.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:54:30] So I never really shunned away from it. I feel like HIV hasn't been all bad in my life, that it has provided me professional opportunities that I may not have had if I wasn't HIV positive, but it's not work that I necessarily want to do. I do it because it's important and I enjoy it and I'm pretty good at it, I think.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:55:00] But I remember distinctly when I was in Boston feeling like I've done HIV for almost fifteen, maybe eighteen years now. I want to do something different. And that was one of the things that brought me to Pridelines. I want do something that's more fun and positive. Let me help queer kids. Let me be involved in that program.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:55:30] So I came here wanting to get away from HIV work, getting a relief from it. As it turns out, its our biggest program right now at the community center, and it represents almost 60% of our income, are HIV services and programs. I've been running them. Thankfully we've just hired somebody new to take over that department,
Luigi Ferrer: [00:56:00] but you sort of get sucked back in, and that's okay. It's good work. I still get to work with youth. This year, we have an initiative at eight college campuses to try to address the lack of sex education in our community. So we're making sure that each first-year student this year is offered an HIV/STI test, is made aware of the high HIV/STI rates in Miami
Luigi Ferrer: [00:56:30] and the risks that they ... there are real risks they face here, and that if they've never had the opportunity to participate in comprehensive sex education, that they be invited to at least one workshop. So we're working with all the other agencies in town, all the other HIV testing sites in town, because Pridelines does not have the people power to be able to staff eight different college campuses for a week,
Luigi Ferrer: [00:57:00] and do the workshops and do the testing. So we're really reaching out to all of our partner organizations to organize that effort for orientation week this year.
Kate Kunath: It's astounding that the transmission rate is what it is in 2018.
Luigi Ferrer: Definitely.
Kate Kunath: I keep jumping around here but ...
Luigi Ferrer: It's okay.
Kate Kunath: [00:57:30] ... we'll talk about something, and then when we get somewhere, we want to get back to it. But I want to talk about this stigma of being bisexual, and if that has played a part of-
Luigi Ferrer: I'll tell you a cute story. Yeah.
Kate Kunath: Or did it ever even ...
Luigi Ferrer: Yeah.
Kate Kunath: Like when did it occur to you that there was a stigma?
Luigi Ferrer: Well, I think very early on, when I was working with the bisexual network,
Luigi Ferrer: [00:58:00] I got several indications. Going to a pride committee meeting and saying that we were from the South Florida Bisexual Network, and almost got laughed out of the room. Thankfully, a few months later, we returned and we were met with a very different reception.
Luigi Ferrer: [00:58:30] There was somebody on the board now that knew us and really wanted us to participate in the parade and really opened doors. But I think the most vivid or stark memory or incidence of biphobia that I've faced was meeting someone
Luigi Ferrer: [00:59:00] through the personals in the paper back then, because we didn't have online dating yet, and being out on a first date. We went to a nice Thai restaurant, took our shoes off and sat down at a little table. We had just ordered and we're talking. And I said that I was bisexual, because it wasn't anything
Luigi Ferrer: [00:59:30] that I was embarrassed about. This guy just got up and left. He didn't say a word. He just got up and left. So I finished the meal, paid. And as I'm walking out, the waitress says, "Are these your shoes?" He was in such a panic and in such a hurry to get out of there that he had left his shoes.
Kate Kunath: Wow. [crosstalk].
Luigi Ferrer: Yeah.
Kate Kunath: [crosstalk] jumped out of his shoes.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:00:00] But we've always faced, as a community, I think ... We've always felt the discrimination from both the straight community and the gay and lesbian community, right? There's always been mistrust. We're often identified as allies in the struggle, rather than part and parcel of the struggle.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:00:30] When Julie and I were dating, we'd show up at a meeting, like that pride committee meeting, and people would look at us like, "What are you guys doing here?" So it's something that's definitely palpable.
Kate Kunath: What were a few, some touchstones that activated you guys in BiNet, like before you came together to form the national committees, was there something going on? Because you were saying that it happened later.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:01:00] The meeting that I said that Julie had gone to in Seattle was the meeting of the North American Bisexual ... it had another letter in there, network or association. Unfortunately, the North American Bisexual,
Luigi Ferrer: [01:01:30] it's almost NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association), so they didn't want to have an acronym that was so close to it. So that had happened the year before. And in '85, there had been a march on Washington, I believe, or something like that. So there were some bisexual organizing for that, but it wasn't really until the '93 march
Luigi Ferrer: [01:02:00] that BiNet USA put on a national conference in Washington to coincide with the march, and that then there were ten regions organized. So there were regional conferences in the ... There was an annual BiNet USA conference for about ten years. We had the national conference on bisexuality and HIV. The CDC was involved.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:02:30] We had a bi-health conference one year out in San Diego. So there were a lot of national things for bisexuals that don't exist anymore.
Kate Kunath: That don't exist anymore?
Luigi Ferrer: No.
Kate Kunath: Why?
Luigi Ferrer: There is an annual bisexual conference that the Bisexual Organizing Project in Minneapolis puts on, that's the BECAUSE Conference. It's been going on for over twenty-five years.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:03:00] There's an international bisexual conference that now that Fritz Klein has passed, it hasn't been happening. He was one of the big international organizers for that conference, so that's not really happening anymore. I think that with a greater acceptance of gay, lesbian, queer folks in general in our culture, that there ...
Luigi Ferrer: [01:03:30] I don't know if bisexual people are more comfortable passing, but there seems to be less of a desire to meet as a bisexual community, although every time that we organize something for the bi community here, we get great attendance.
Kate Kunath: I guess that is, in some ways, a good thing, right?
Luigi Ferrer: Yeah.
Kate Kunath: [01:04:00] You were mentioning that [inaudible] and this place, but I also wanted to see if you were in Miami during those Anita Bryant years, like in '77 or '76.
Luigi Ferrer: I was in Miami all of '79 but I was really down in the Keys most of that time. I really hadn't come out yet. That was the year that I sort of realized for myself what was going on.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:04:30] I wasn't really aware of everything that was happening. It wasn't 'till I started working with the bisexual network about ten years later that I realized all the history that had happened here. It was very interesting because several of my friends in the bisexual network
Luigi Ferrer: [01:05:00] had been those teenagers that I talked about that had been shunned by the gay political organizations because they couldn't be part of the movement. So those teenagers, again thanks to Dr. Marilyn Volker who asked if we could have meeting space at Miami-Dade College Wolfson campus,
Luigi Ferrer: [01:05:30] started the South Florida Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Youth Group. Those were the kids that had been shunned and that could not be part of the whole Anita Bryant ... or anti-Anita Bryant movement. So they had been wanting like Alexei Guren,
Luigi Ferrer: [01:06:00] who's one of the founders of the youth group, and was also involved in the bisexual network. It was actually two bi boys and a gay boy who founded Pridelines, who went up to Marilyn Voelker and asked her, "Where is there a place for gay and bisexual youth to meet? Our community seems to be the bookstores,
Luigi Ferrer: [01:06:30] the bathhouses, the bars, and the gay beaches, and none of those are really safe for youth. Where do we go as youth?" So that was the impetus for organizing what later became Pridelines. After about 10 years of meeting as a youth group at Wolfson campus, they decided that they wanted to leave something for posterity. They incorporated.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:07:00] They, soon after, changed their name to Pridelines Youth Services, because they were contemplating adding transgender to the name, but they were, "Well, what comes next? We don't know. Let's change our name to something that we don't have to change every three to five years." And at that time, Pridelines was
Luigi Ferrer: [01:07:30] the name of a very successful newsletter. They had over 400 people on that newsletter that would be mailed out quarterly. So they adopted the name of the newsletter as the name of the organization. Soon after that, we moved into our first youth drop-in center thanks to Temple Israel that gave us a space we could use.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:08:00] Now thirty-five years later, we're in this beautiful 9,000 square foot art gallery and community center space.
Kate Kunath: Wow. It's been around for a long time.
Luigi Ferrer: Yeah. We were the little organization that could. There were several times when the organization was struggling and almost went under, but for the past fifteen years, we've been on really solid ground,
Luigi Ferrer: [01:08:30] really putting the things in place, the programs in place that allow us to have a beautiful center like this.
Kate Kunath: That's great. So important. This is a very giant question.
Luigi Ferrer: Okay. I'll take it bit by bit then.
Kate Kunath: Can we take a bathroom break? Do you need a coffee break?
Luigi Ferrer: [01:09:00] I mean, I could get some water just to get my ...
Kate Kunath: Wet your whistle.
Luigi Ferrer: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kate Kunath: Let's take five.
Luigi Ferrer: Okay.
Kate Kunath: Okay. I needed those. Let me ask you this [inaudible] question and then ask you about those folks. Okay. You had mentioned that for you,
Kate Kunath: [01:09:30] there's a silver lining to HIV is that it's a great community. It's given you some opportunities. I wonder what you think in terms of the community as a whole. What are some of the impacts, both positive and negative, that HIV has had to the LGBTQ community, and a little bit [inaudible].
Luigi Ferrer: Yeah. I think HIV has been integral to the development of the LGBT community.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:10:00] I think a lot of the organizing around the early days of the epidemic, Act Up, was crucial in bringing folks together, and bringing allies to the table as well. I don't think we'd be as far along in our political development as a movement if we hadn't had HIV.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:10:30] It continues to challenge us and bring new folks to the table, looking at, for example, PrEP availability for trans men and trans women has been a challenge, and it's again part of the frontier that we're exploring nowadays. That sort of consciousness about different groups within our community I think was accelerated by HIV as well.
Kate Kunath: [01:11:00] Do you think though that it has ... it sort of had a prism effect where HIV has impacted different communities of color and different communities along racial and class lines and divided immigrants perhaps, also, or left some [crosstalk] ...
Luigi Ferrer: I think that for a while, there was a real sense that HIV was sucking the air out of all the other political organizing,
Luigi Ferrer: [01:11:30] but I think that the movement towards marriage equality was sort of the second thing that really helped us coalesce as a community and as a political movement. The fact that we had many people around the country working on different issues, the fact that we were having LGBT health conferences
Luigi Ferrer: [01:12:00] and talking about HIV and wellness and taking a holistic approach as who we were as queer folks, as HIV-positive folks, and being aware that sometimes in order for people to address their HIV, or their disease, there were other things that they needed, housing, acceptance in the community.
Kate Kunath: [01:12:30] Yeah. Part of the epidemic is the fact that there isn't acceptance, and there hasn't been acceptance. Then, in order to deal with it, then you still need to ... in order to achieve acceptance. But in some ways, the movement, how it became so much about marriage
Kate Kunath: [01:13:00] that we often forget as a community that there are still populations like here where ... in Brooklyn, in places where communities of color are still having these issues. Do you see the cultural issues that keep that kind of culture secrecy going, but also it's just, in terms of access to health care, access to politics.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:13:30] HIV has always been associated with poverty, and with disenfranchised populations. I think it's almost shone a spotlight on some of our poor queer community, is the fact that one out of every two African-American men in Miami are expected to be HIV-positive.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:14:00] One out of every two queer men in Miami are expected to be HIV-positive by age fifty. That's crazy. So the impact of other issues that we have yet to address, like institutionalized racism, the lack of opportunities, unemployment,
Luigi Ferrer: [01:14:30] immigration issues, they really get in the way of doing some of the HIV prevention work that we need to do.
Kate Kunath: Let's talk about Lani ...
Luigi Ferrer: Ka'ahumanu.
Kate Kunath: Okay. Let's talk more about her.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:15:00] Lani Ka'ahumanu and Loraine Hutchins were two of the three women on the sextet, the six national coordinators. When I first met them up in Minneapolis, they had just published sort of the second book on bisexuality, and the first one to really reach national acclaim.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:15:30] It was called Bi Any Other Name: Bisexual People Speak Out. It was the stories of different bisexual people, a compendium of stories of bisexual people, sort of telling their life experience as some out bisexual people, some closeted bisexual people, but just their understanding of their sexuality. For bi folks, it was the first time that they could read about
Luigi Ferrer: [01:16:00] their life experience or people that had similar attractions, and how they figured it out, or how they've put their lives together to live a good, successful career life, or have a wonderful home life. So it was a great resource for the community and a real sort of rallying cry and organizing.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:16:30] Being mentored by Lani and Loraine in the early days of my activism was fantastic, and really all the leadership of BiNet USA because they were incredible activists involved in doing that work.
Kate Kunath: What was the work? What was the bulk of that organization?
Luigi Ferrer: [01:17:00] A lot of the work back then was creating some visibility around bisexuality, making sure that we were represented in pride marches, in parades, and on the organizing committee for the march on Washington, really allying ourselves and integrating ourselves into the broader LGBT movement.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:17:30] There hadn't been any organized, specific bisexual movement until then. So it was a time of a lot of promise. I felt, and I still feel that I can travel anywhere in the country and I have a bisexual leader that I could stay with, somebody that will open their doors to me and welcome me and show me around town and help me figure things out.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:18:00] That was an incredible sense of community. And knowing that I could make that available for other people and that I could connect them with the broader movement was really the driving force behind the work that we did with the South Florida Bisexual Network. The support group meetings that we had were ... We'd get twenty-five, thirty-five people every Friday night,
Luigi Ferrer: [01:18:30] and we'd meet at the support group meeting. We'd chat for two hours, and some people would go out to dinners, some people would go out to the bars, some people would just come up and hook up and take off somewhere else, but it was always the place to be Friday night. We'd have professional speakers. We'd have silly little games that we made up ourselves, trying to explain our sexuality.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:19:00] We had the ice cream paradigm of bisexuality. It goes something like if being straight is vanilla and being gay or lesbian is chocolate, is bisexuality chocolate swirl, or is it strawberry? Is it something totally different? And of course, the answer is it's rocky road. It's always a rocky road.
Kate Kunath: [01:19:30] Do you find that there's as much variance in the bisexual community as there is in, let's say, the whole rainbow, or do you feel like you all really have something in common?
Luigi Ferrer: I was once speaking with ...
Luigi Ferrer: [01:20:00] Oh god. What's his name? I was once speaking with ... Oh god. I'm trying to remember his name. It was the guy that created the ... Michael Page. I was speaking with Michael Page. He was the creator of the bisexual flag. He had a website called The Bi Caf_ that was very popular. It was a bisexual dating site at the time.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:20:30] We were talking about, "So what do you think the problem is? We can't seem to get bi people organized. We can't seem to ..." and he looked to me and says, "It's clear, bisexual people have nothing in common with each other except that they feel attraction towards both genders, maybe more than two genders, maybe ... but other than that, we live different lives.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:21:00] We come from different socioeconomic strata. We do different jobs. It's hard to organize a community like that." So I think that still plagues us today. I think that bisexuals are perhaps more vocal or more honest about their sexual fluidity, although thank goodness
Luigi Ferrer: [01:21:30] that sexual fluidity is being recognized and more talked about now than ever before, but it's true. We often get people that are in their sixties and are married and are coming ... their partner knows that they're coming to the bisexual meetings, but they have very little in common with a couple
Luigi Ferrer: [01:22:00] that are beginning to explore their sexuality and they're in their mid-twenties. The difference in life experience, the difference in the degree of comfort with being out and visible can sometimes be really challenging. But I don't think there's any more variability within the bisexual community than there is in the rest of the LGBT community.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:22:30] I do think that perhaps bisexuals are more aware, and bisexual folks are more aware and more comfortable with transgender individuals, and sort of understand or are more amenable to somebody who's questioning their gender than other populations.
Kate Kunath: Someone is opening that gate? Do you [crosstalk].
Luigi Ferrer: That's okay. If it's opening, it's because somebody has a key.
Kate Kunath: [01:23:00] Okay.
Luigi Ferrer: Might be my boss.
Kate Kunath: I mean, I know this would be against some like bisexual rule that which says like you don't really have to ... you don't have to choose or identify as something in a monolithic amway,
Kate Kunath: [01:23:30] but I wonder if as time goes on, as you change as a person, if you're in relationships that are ... that lasts any longer, if you think like, "Well, maybe I am straight, or maybe I am gay now." Like, did you ever think that way, or [crosstalk] permanent identification?
Luigi Ferrer: Yeah. So my first sexual and emotional relationship was with a guy. I felt comfortable identifying as gay, but I'd ... We're going to have noise. Let me ...
Kate Kunath: [01:24:00] Okay.
Speaker 4: Who we shooting?
Luigi Ferrer: Hey.
Speaker 4: Hey.
Luigi Ferrer: But ...
Kate Kunath: I guess the question was about like [inaudible].
Luigi Ferrer: Yeah, like feeling that you're now gay or whatnot. My first sexual and emotional relationship was with a young man.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:24:30] I always felt comfortable identifying as gay. I just didn't feel that that was all of who I was. And even when I was with Juan, I told him that I was bisexual. But I think as I've gotten older and life has progressed and things,
Luigi Ferrer: [01:25:00] I really have created a life inside a gay bubble. I work for a queer organization. I am very out about who I am. So I think it's probably more difficult to identify as bisexual than it is to identify as gay. But I do realize that as time goes by, perhaps my attractions towards men are dominant,
[01:25:30] and that's okay. I don't really ... Every now and then, I will see a woman and she'll really turn my head. I'm like, "Oh, yeah. Still bisexual," you know? But the truth of the matter is that I think opportunities for sexual, emotional relationships with women are more difficult for me now.
Kate Kunath: [01:26:00] Because of the proximity to ... because of the bubble not because of the [crosstalk] ...
Luigi Ferrer: Yeah, because of the bubble, because of the way I identify, where before I was in an environment that was predominantly heterosexual and I would interact with people that would just assume I'm heterosexual. That doesn't happen as much anymore. People know I'm queer. I'm visibly queer, I think.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:26:30] I spend most of my time with the Faeries when I'm off and in a queer environment, so there aren't, I think, the opportunities that used to present themselves just from everyday life.
Kate Kunath: You have mentioned that these days, kids these days are much more fluid
Kate Kunath: [01:27:00] in their expression. I wonder if you feel heartened by that.
Luigi Ferrer: I do, although I also realize that for a lot of people, and this might be some of the area of discomfort that the gay and lesbian community feels with bisexual, but I do realize that although there are many of us for
Luigi Ferrer: [01:27:30] whom bisexuality is a sort of permanent condition, and that's where we are, for some people, it is a transitory phase. I think because some people have experienced that, identifying as bi for a while because that's where they felt they were comfortable, and finally ending up identifying as gay or lesbian, that is where some of the suspicion might come from or the, "Oh yeah, just wait a few years. You'll figure it out"
Luigi Ferrer: [01:28:00] type of attitude, but I really have to caution that just because that's your lived experience, doesn't mean you can generalize to all bisexual people. When I was coming out, I think one of the reasons I identified as gay early on, and that was my transitional phase, is because all the bisexuals I knew were people that were obviously queer, and they were just hiding it, and I didn't want to be associated with that.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:28:30] It wasn't until I met out, loud, and proud bisexual people that I felt comfortable identifying as bisexual.
Kate Kunath: To me, when I listen to bisexual people speak about what it means to them and what it is, it does seem ... it's as much of a state of mind as it is a felt sexuality,
Kate Kunath: [01:29:00] in my view, because it's kind of about what your mind will allow you to include in these sexualities, so it's like two people with ... basically, if there was a map to sexuality, two people with the same map, one could identify as gay, one could identify as bisexual. Just based on the way that ... with the way that they think. I think that's really interesting about bisexuality.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:29:30] I don't know what to say to that.
Kate Kunath: Thats not a question.
Luigi Ferrer: But, yeah.
Kate Kunath: [crosstalk].
Luigi Ferrer: But it's true. I mean, I agree.
Kate Kunath: Yeah. Okay. Well, just hanging that one up there. Let's talk about the church,
Kate Kunath: [01:30:00] because you had said you're raised Catholic and now you're [crosstalk] church. How has that evolved?
Luigi Ferrer: Okay. I'm going to embarrass myself again. I was raised Catholic. I was always the kid that asked too many questions during Sunday school. I just ... You shouldn't question it. You should believe in it, because we tell you just wasn't good enough for me. Then I went to a Catholic high school.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:30:30] Then, I discovered masturbation, and that was a sin. I just couldn't believe that that could be a sin. Then, I was also a biology major. I was like, "So there are seventeen species of little tree frogs that only exist in Puerto Rico, and Noah somehow found two of each of those that even scientists can't tell the male from female apart and got them on that ark
Luigi Ferrer: [01:31:00] and they lived for 40 days without eating little bugs." It just didn't make any sense to me, some of the stories from the Bible. So I began to question that and just really became a rabid atheist, to the point that my father at one point said at a family gathering, "Look, you can believe whatever you want, but you don't have to be on a soapbox about it," right? That's when I realized,
Luigi Ferrer: [01:31:30] "Maybe I'm going a little too far." It wasn't actually until Julie pointed it out many years later that I realized that maybe there was a spiritual part of me that I was ignoring or that I wasn't really paying any attention to. And at the same time, we realized
Luigi Ferrer: [01:32:00] that the Unitarian Universalist Congregation was only about 10 blocks away from our house, and we started visiting the Unitarian Universalist Congregation. It was a welcoming place. We said we were bisexual and they were like, "Cool. What else is interesting about you?" It was very accepting. We found some young people that were just fun to hang out with.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:32:30] The minister at the time was somebody that would read from the Bible, or Calvin and Hobbes. His sermons were always inspiring and made me question assumptions that I was making. I felt like I was being educated every Sunday. I really liked being in a group of people, with a group of people
Luigi Ferrer: [01:33:00] that really were able to question things and had an appreciation for science, and for doing good in the world, and that were involved in their community. So I really felt a home, and the fact that my queerness was not an issue, and that we would say, "Hey, do you guys want to go to the gay pride parade?" And everybody would say, "Yes, let's go" made a big difference.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:33:30] We felt supported. We felt safe. Unitarian Universalism is by no means a queer church, but queer people are really embraced and valued for the contributions they can make to the community. That is important to me. I like the idea that there is no creed. You don't have to believe anything specific. You can be a Jew. You can be a Christian. You can be Muslim. You could be pagan,
Luigi Ferrer: [01:34:00] an atheist, a witch, and you're still part of the community. It's a relationship religion. It's how we treat each other, the work we do here in the world, the paradise that we try to create here on earth that really matters. Because of that, I could bring my Radical Faerie-ness or my pagan beliefs and found other people in the church
Luigi Ferrer: [01:34:30] to invite Starhawk to come talk about paganism and ritual, and do a drumming workshop with us for a weekend. So I found it freeing and a supportive place. It also reminded me, and it brings me back to something that I've always felt about Miami. Miami sometimes feels like a backwater, like we're out here in the sticks,
Luigi Ferrer: [01:35:00] that nothing ever happens here, that ... but it is a place where if you have an idea, if there is something that you need that you're not getting, you can go out and create it, and that you can find other people to help you create it. Is that ...
Kate Kunath: [inaudible] other people.
Luigi Ferrer: Yeah, I can say that again. Hey, Trey.
Loke: [01:35:30] It's Loke. I'm still waiting for Trey. [crosstalk].
Luigi Ferrer: All right. Where did I leave off on that? Do you know where it went "Eee."
Kate Kunath: [crosstalk] other people.
Luigi Ferrer: Huh?
Kate Kunath: You could say, "And you can find other people that [crosstalk] ..."
Luigi Ferrer: Okay. And you can find other people to join you and help create what you want to find here.
Kate Kunath: [01:36:00] That's cool. It's kind of like the Los Angeles of the East Coast, right?
Luigi Ferrer: Yeah.
Kate Kunath: Yeah. I could spend more time in spirituality. Let me just ask you this last question. How then has, since you've been able to find a church community, and like attack your [crosstalk] ...
Luigi Ferrer: They wanted me to be president last year. I can't be president of the congregation. I'm doing too many other things.
Kate Kunath: [01:36:30] How has being able to exercise that muscle, that spiritual muscle, how has that changed the quality of your life?
Luigi Ferrer: Having a place where I can go every week and feel that I'm in communion with other like-minded people is really a stabilizing force in my life.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:37:00] It gives me calm. I know that whatever problem I have, I can bring it to my church community, and at least I'll receive understanding. At most, they'll solve it for me. I can't tell you how many times my church community has come through for me, whether it's in fundraising for the SMART Ride, or wanting to create a space for pagan folks here in Miami.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:37:30] The church has been a great source of support for myself. It gives my life regularity and that once a week check-in does wonders for my mental health. It's part of my self-care going to church every Sunday and seeing people that I've known for twenty, twenty-five years and
Luigi Ferrer: [01:38:00] mourning the deaths of the many of them that have passed. In many ways, the members of my congregation and I are very similar. A lot of them are in their seventies and eighties and have lost most of their friends. I really related to them because I had lost most of my friends over the span of a couple of years in my mid thirties. Everybody was ...
Luigi Ferrer: [01:38:30] mid-twenties to late thirties, I lost over fifty some of my friends. So I could understand how some of our church members that have lost their entire peer group feel.
Kate Kunath: Yeah. That's a very moving church.
Luigi Ferrer: Yeah.
Kate Kunath: And they probably ... I mean, they probably connect to you in a special way because of that, too.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:39:00] Yeah. And I've talked about my HIV status. I've talked about my queerness. I've talked about Radical Faerie spirituality. And it's always been welcomed and embraced. I feel like I've also paid my dues. I've cooked enough lunches at church and I've served on the board several times. I was just asked to consider becoming president of the congregation,
Luigi Ferrer: [01:39:30] and I declined. I'm doing too many other things right now.
Kate Kunath: That brings up another thing which ... on we're [crosstalk] ...
Luigi Ferrer: I wanted to say one more thing about religion.
Kate Kunath: Yeah.
Luigi Ferrer: I often find that LGBT people abandon the moral high ground, and that we don't speak out as people of faith. I think that's a critical mistake, especially when we're facing the religious right,
Luigi Ferrer: [01:40:00] and the bigotry and the assumption that everybody has to believe in the same thing. It's really important that we have allies and that we can speak up as people of faith, and that we have queer ministers that can speak to the issues of social justice and immigration and all of the important issues that we face today.
Kate Kunath: [01:40:30] Absolutely. A friend of mine is a minister, queer minister [inaudible] church.
Luigi Ferrer: Oh, cool.
Kate Kunath: I want to talk about queer space. I mean, we're in a queer space. So, there's that angle, but I also want to know or to hear you tie in Pulse to
Kate Kunath: [01:41:00] that conversation, because we have these spaces that we create that are safe spaces and then that could be ... Pulse could be sort of construed as like a place where [inaudible] and that duality. But let's first talk about the importance of queer space.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:41:30] Okay. I think I gave you some of that earlier, but I'll try and maybe repeat some of it.
Kate Kunath: And you can start by just saying, "Queer space is important to our ..." somehow incorporating the question to your answer.
Luigi Ferrer: I think queer space is important, because it provides us a place to come together and learn from each other and find resources
Luigi Ferrer: [01:42:00] and support each other. We opened our new Pridelines Community Center two weeks before the Pulse nightclub shooting. It was so wonderful, as difficult as those days were, but it was so wonderful to have a brand-new welcoming space to meet at a time like that, a place where we could mourn,
Luigi Ferrer: [01:42:30] where we could seek grief counseling, where we could come together as people of faith and worship together, where we could support each other, and just have a place of our own to be in. I am so thankful that we were here,
Luigi Ferrer: [01:43:00] and that we could welcome people into the new space after the Pulse nightclub shooting. Since then, we've had to look long and hard at, are we a target? What measures should we take to protect our clients and the visitors and our staff? This building only has two exits, so what's an active shooter plan look like?
Luigi Ferrer: [01:43:30] It's sad that we've had to have those discussions, but I'm really glad that we've been able to have that discussion with our police department that's very supportive, that all the employees and volunteers are screened, and that we have that awareness around safety. It's something that we've also done at our church. After the shootings at the Tennessee Unitarian Universalist Congregation, we took a long hard look. Are we a target once again here in Miami?
Kate Kunath: [01:44:00] What was the mood like here [inaudible]?
Luigi Ferrer: A lot of tears, a lot of hugs, a determination that we would survive and come out stronger,
Luigi Ferrer: [01:44:30] just an incredible show of unity. We had the executive directors of most of the LGBT organizations in town, nearly twenty of them here to speak to the crowd. We had a listening circle, so that people could express their anger and their griefs and brainstorm about what sort of things they'd like to see happen, whether it was the Pink Pistols, or the people that were anti-gun
Luigi Ferrer: [01:45:00] and wanted to get organized in that area. It was really a comprehensive response. We had a little bit of everything. We tried to meet the needs as best as we could. And it reminded me a lot of the early days of the HIV epidemic, because again, we were coming together to console each other, to hold each other, to try and figure things out.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:45:30] A lot of people were very frightened and didn't know what this meant. A lot of people had friends that were at the club that night and knew people that had been at the club that evening. Miami and Orlando aren't that far away, so it was ... really hit very close to home for us as a community.
Kate Kunath: [01:46:00] I wanted to ask you about the Bisexuality Visibility Day and your round table [crosstalk] what that was like.
Luigi Ferrer: That was amazing.
Kate Kunath: [crosstalk] a start of a different day we're living in.
Luigi Ferrer: Yeah, now. The Obama administration really made great strides not just to understand and meet with the power brokers in the gay and lesbian community, but also to reach out to the transgender community,
Luigi Ferrer: [01:46:30] and have the transgender community come in on their own to speak to federal policy makers and federal agency administrators, and they did the same thing for the bisexual community. Actually, I think they did the first bisexual one before they did the transgender one, but there were five meetings in Washington at the White House where the bisexual community was invited to come in.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:47:00] And the first one which I participated in ... I only went to three of the five. The first one was really an exchange of ideas and of data and ... with federal policymakers and agency administrators. It was a two-way dialogue. We had this fabulous PowerPoint that I think is still available,
Luigi Ferrer: [01:47:30] but we talked about the Williams Institute study that showed all these terrible healthcare disparities that show that bisexual people are doing worse on a whole host of measures than the heterosexual community and the gay and lesbian community that were essentially scraping the bottom of the barrel right there with the transgender community in terms of healthcare outcomes, in terms of domestic violence, in terms of discrimination in employment.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:48:00] So we had all these different federal departments that we would present the data from the Williams Institute and talk about some of the disparities, and then they would respond in terms of what programs they had that might already be addressing the issue, who we should be talking to to address those disparities, what next steps might be over the next few years,
Luigi Ferrer: [01:48:30] and presenting data back to us that wasn't in the Williams Institute study, for example the domestic violence data that came out of the Violence Against Women Act research that showed that bisexual people, whether male or female, experience domestic violence at a much higher level than gay or lesbian folks or heterosexual folks.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:49:00] So the Department of Labor showed statistics that showed that bisexual people are often sexualized in their places of employment, and that that interferes with promotions because they're not taken as seriously once they're sexualized. So a lot of people have fear about coming out at work, especially as bisexual. If they come out as gay or lesbian folks,
Luigi Ferrer: [01:49:30] usually not a problem. You come out as bisexual and then there are all these other assumptions that happen. So it was really interesting to be there with folks in the federal government that really cared about the community, that were hearing us for the first time, and that there was follow-up for five years. I also attended the very last one, which was more of a celebration
Luigi Ferrer: [01:50:00] of the progress we had made over those five years than a real heavy-duty policy briefing. We knew that it might be the last time that we had these. We weren't sure if Hillary had won, we had hoped they would continue, but we weren't sure.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:50:30] Then, all of the people that were in place that made all these meetings possible disappeared when Donald Trump was sworn in, so it's a very different atmosphere now. I'll have to see what the midterms bring.
Kate Kunath: That sounds hopeful.
Luigi Ferrer: I hope so.
Kate Kunath: [01:51:00] Nancy, do you have some questions before I finish up?
Nancy: I'm just curious. In the top of the interview, you mentioned the statistics for ... because the number of folks who do have HIVs here[crosstalk]
Luigi Ferrer: Yeah.
Nancy: I'm just wondering in terms of youth or even the center here if folks are organizing ...
Luigi Ferrer: [01:51:30] Yeah. I'm having a real hard time hearing you.
Nancy: Okay. I was just around that statistic and that issue, I was wondering [inaudible].
Luigi Ferrer: I mean, for me, it's old news, but Miami has had the highest rate of new HIV infections, and the largest proportion of the population living with HIV per hundred thousand for the past six years.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:52:00] We've been at the number one position. It's so disappointing after so many years in the struggle, so many years doing education here. I think there are several factors that contribute to that. The fact that we're an immigrant-majority city ...
Luigi Ferrer: [01:52:30] 57% of the people that live in Miami are foreign-born. That means they come from a different cultural context. They probably did not receive good sexual health education, neither do our kids in high school. The fact that we have no sex ed in our high schools. I mean what passes for sex ed in our high schools right now is abstinence-based, abstinence only,
Luigi Ferrer: [01:53:00] and extremely heteronormative, and our queer teens complain about it all the time.
ManSee Kong: [inaudible]. Sorry.
Luigi Ferrer: It was very disappointing, working on the Mayor's commission, the Getting 2 Zero commission, to see how the school board sort of weaseled out of any
Luigi Ferrer: [01:53:30] accountability for providing our teenagers the information they need to make good, informed decisions around their sexual health. I think parents don't realize the danger their kids are in. If they did, they'd be up in arms demanding comprehensive sex ed in our high schools. HIV prevention and using condoms isn't 100% effective, neither are seatbelts,
Luigi Ferrer: [01:54:00] but we still expect people to use them, right? I think that teaching young people, giving young people the information they need is critical. I know I didn't have that information when I was eighteen, when I was twenty, and that that's one of the reasons why I'm HIV-positive today. I do the work that I do because I don't want any other young people to have to live through
Luigi Ferrer: [01:54:30] what I lived through. It's very different today than it was before. We can now see a light at the end of the tunnel. There's a clear map to the end of the HIV epidemic. Having HIV testing, prevention and treatment working together, we can reach the end of the HIV epidemic. Everybody should be tested. Everybody should know their status. If you're HIV-negative,
Luigi Ferrer: [01:55:00] you need to learn how to protect yourself and stay HIV-negative, including our new biomedical interventions. That's PrEP or nPEP. I think if you're HIV-positive, you need to know that the new treatments have fewer side effects and can lead to a long, healthy life, and in addition, it brings benefit to our community, because people,
Luigi Ferrer: [01:55:30] HIV-positive people who are taking their medications regularly and achieve undetectable status we now know are also uninfectious and cannot transmit the infection. So that's critical to ending the HIV epidemic, is having everybody that's HIV-positive on treatment. Then finally, we need everybody to know about HIV and how it's transmitted, and that's the community mobilization piece
Luigi Ferrer: [01:56:00] that we're working on. That's why I'm so happy that we're working on this effort with FIU and University of Miami and four other campuses ... or five other campuses in Miami to really make an impact this year on educating incoming first-year students.
Kate Kunath: [01:56:30] Are you guys, would you say, one of the only organizing forces behind education, sex education? This has not been done [crosstalk] ...
Luigi Ferrer: No. It is an issue that I've been harping about for the past ... oh god, I don't know how long, but really intensively looking at how we're going to end the epidemic, how we can get to zero new infections here in Miami for the past three years.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:57:00] There's now a coalition coming together. The Miami Workers Center and the power center, the Power U Center, and a group that calls themselves The Fem Agenda have come together. They did a survey of high school students to evaluate sex ed knowledge and what youth are asking for in terms of sexual education. That has been analyzed by the University of Miami,
Luigi Ferrer: [01:57:30] and there's now a report out on it. We just had a press conference at a school board meeting, at the last school board meeting where youth spoke out. Then, it's really encouraging to see youth being involved in our remedial activism to correct the fact that we don't have good sex education. We're catching them as they come into college,
Luigi Ferrer: [01:58:00] as they're experiencing new freedoms. That's really our last opportunity to get to young people. If we don't do it then, I mean we can look at ... we can see it in the data. It's people eighteen to twenty-nine that, year after year, the number of cases increases, the proportion of cases increases in that population, and it's been that way almost a straight line for the past six years.
Kate Kunath: [01:58:30] You guys are doing a good work. We just got this four ... These are four questions that we ask to close it up. Okay. If you were going to give advice to someone coming out, what would that advice be?
Kate Kunath: [01:59:00] And incorporate that question into your answer as well.
Luigi Ferrer: If I were giving advice to someone who's just coming out today, I would say ... So people coming out today are of all ages.
Luigi Ferrer: [01:59:30] For young people, I would say find a GSA. Find a peer group. I think for older people I would say the same, find a peer group. Find a coming-out group in your community. I realize that in Miami for many years, there was not a coming-out group. It was the bisexual support group that played the role of that adult coming-out group.
Luigi Ferrer: [02:00:00] Again, we were adults in our twenties, mid twenties to thirties, right? But I would say, find a peer group. Learn as much as you can about the LGBT community. Learn about our history. Learn about those who have come before us, so that you can put our community and what you see in the papers now into context, so
Luigi Ferrer: [02:00:30] that you can understand how social justice and poverty issues and race issues and immigration are all tied together, and how we need to speak up as much about misogyny as we need to speak up about homophobia, or about AIDS stigma.
Kate Kunath: [02:01:00] Good answer. What's your hope for the future?
Luigi Ferrer: My hope for the future is to be able to retire. I think I've put in my thirty years of hard work.
Luigi Ferrer: [02:01:30] I would love to travel. I want to see Pridelines continue to reach bigger and better things. I am delighted that after twenty-five years of struggle, we now have a community center for Miami's LGBT community that's going to be here for the long haul. I am delighted.
Luigi Ferrer: [02:02:00] It really was a dream come true a year and a half ago when we opened our doors. I worked so hard and was involved in so many different efforts that didn't make it, but it's just good to be able to be here and be a part of all the great things that are happening at Pridelines.
Kate Kunath: Is it the only space of its kind here in Miami?
Luigi Ferrer: [02:02:30] It is. There was the ... or there is the LGBT Visitor's Center on Miami Beach that is run by the Miami-Dade County LGBT Chamber of Commerce. They, for a while, were doing some sort of community center-like programs there,
Luigi Ferrer: [02:03:00] but they've just asked us to take over the place and run the program part of it. So we're going to be Pridelines Miami Beach now. That's a new adventure as well.
Kate Kunath: Cool.
Luigi Ferrer: A second location. I don't know what just fell out of my shoe.
Kate Kunath: [02:03:30] Yeah. That was weird. The last question: Why is it important for you to tell your story?
Luigi Ferrer: It's important for me to tell my story because I feel like I'm part of a lost generation. My cohort of gay and bisexual men are mostly dead, decimated by the HIV epidemic.
Luigi Ferrer: [02:04:00] I don't know how I made it this far, how I managed to survive, but it beats the alternative. I'm glad that I'm here and that I'm still able to make a contribution. As I said, I look forward to be able to retire and continuing to make a contribution in other ways.
Luigi Ferrer: [02:04:30] I love the diversity of jobs and positions that I've had in my almost 30 years of working in the LGBT, HIV community. It's been an exciting ride.
Kate Kunath: [02:05:00] I wonder if this is ... I hope this isn't too sensitive of a question, but I do wonder if you have a survivor guilt sort of thing?
Luigi Ferrer: I don't think it's survivor's guilt as such, but I do feel a responsibility to make a contribution, to tell the stories of people that are no longer here with us.
Luigi Ferrer: [02:05:30] I had lots of people open doors for me, and I want to continue to do that for peers and young people, and for women and for people of color. I love being able to provide resources and introduce people and see them prosper and do important work in our community.
Kate Kunath: [02:06:00] Cool. Last but not least, what is the importance of a project like OUTWORDS? And when you answer, please use the word OUTWORDS.
Luigi Ferrer: Yeah.
Kate Kunath: It's a promo, a little promo.
Luigi Ferrer: Yeah. I think OUTWORDS is unique and important
Luigi Ferrer: [02:06:30] because it captures the life experience of people who have been in the movement for a long time, sometimes working long hours in anonymity. It will be a resource, and I'm sure a source of inspiration to younger people that can help explain why our movement is the way it is, can put things in context for them.
Luigi Ferrer: [02:07:00] I am pleased and honored that OUTWORDS chose to interview me.
Kate Kunath: Cool. Yay.
Luigi Ferrer: Yay.
Kate Kunath: Thank you so much.
Luigi Ferrer: You're welcome.
Kate Kunath: That was a good, long interview.
Luigi Ferrer: I hope you got what you need.
Kate Kunath: 1.5. Yeah, I've got so much stuff. I really appreciate your time.
Luigi Ferrer: [02:07:30] So you're seeing Ruth at what time?

Interviewed by: Kate Kunath
Camera: ManSee Kong
Date: March 25, 2018
Location: Pridelines, Miami, FL