Q&A: Gabby Rivera ’04
Writer and LGBTQ Youth Advocate
Briefly describe your career (what you do, where you do it, why you do it).
I’m currently a youth programs manager for a national non-profit LGBTQ organization in NYC. I get to create curriculum utilized in high school GSAs and talk to LGBTQ youth about their experiences and what they need from adult allies. I am humbled to attend conferences with young people where they put on workshops regarding LGBTQ history, restricted access to bathrooms, and the best ways to advocate with or for LGBTQ youth in schools while they are vulnerable and powerful as hell. We work together to get their stories told in media outlets everywhere, and their voices shape the policies we work hard to advocate for.
And in my spare time, I write things. I write all the things and I wrote this book, Juliet Takes a Breath, and I think I’ve finally done something that has changed my life.
I do these things because it is my duty and because it’s beautiful.
What has been your biggest professional accomplishment?
See above. Um nah, switching careers at the end of my twenties was huge. I went from working the tv/film industry to working as a teaching artist in the Bronx. I was a film/video instructor at an arts organization, and it was so fresh. Like I felt like I was actually connecting to my borough for the first time ever and using everything I’ve learned about making movies for good solid reasons instead of some rich white man’s studio bottom line.
Helping young Black and brown youth, my people, my Bronx people, create their own media was probably one of the top moments of my professional life.
Fighting for my life and for the ability to be free in my body and in my spirit are the biggest accomplishments. I know that sounds hippy as hell but it’s true. I’m queer, brown, and thick bodied and I’ve been expected to make myself small so that I can be more palatable to others, to those in the mainstream. I have had to rally for every square inch of breathing room I make use of. I’ve dealt with racism in the workplace and in my relationships. I’ve been broke as hell and stuck in cycles of abuse and bs. Like, I’ve been living hard at times, you know? So now, now that I’m a little more steady and a lot more free, I can breathe easy.
How did Goucher prepare you for your career?
Goucher was the first place I felt totally comfortable being weird, smart and vibrant. Goucher saw my wings and complimented their beauty and depth. The most compassionate professors I’ve ever encountered offered me grace and compassion. They encouraged me to learn and indulge in my creativity. Professor Kelly Brown-Douglas altered the course of my life by igniting a fire in me for the Divine and encouraging me to always speak my truths.
I wouldn’t be who I am today without Goucher. And without the love and support from my Goucher family, I may not be here, writing this, and feeling so good.
What is your most vivid Goucher memory?
Um, it has to do with GIG but I don’t think I’m allowed to tell that story here. If you see me out on the street and want to know my GIG story, just come up and ask me about the windmill.
But I can definitely say that graduation during the start of cicada season was an unforgettable moment. Like literally I graduated the day all the cocoons hatched, like a cicada landed on my three year old cousin’s face.
How do you stay connected to the college?
I stay connected to Goucher through the people and through their stories in the Quarterly. But also, my time at Goucher is always humming deep in my chest and in my heart. I know those grounds. I know the loop and I know about the time a deer ran with me while running the loop and I’d never seen a deer in real life before so I started screaming. Like, I know about Pearlstone and Jean Fisk’s archery class, like yo, I’m Goucher all day. It’s nerdy and perfect, and it never leaves me.
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