RJ has been a champion of numerous causes and social issues throughout his career in media. In addition to advocating for rights of Bi and LGBTQ people, women, and people of color, he’s also spoken at various schools and conferences about his work as an advocate and media professsional.
I Think, I Am: Identity in the Age of Social Media
How does social media shape how we see ourselves?
This is the question that R.J. poses in his guest lecture “I Think, I Am”, wherein he delves into his own personal history as a Millennial coming of age during the rise of social media. Answering this question requires not just looking at one person’s experience, though. It requires going back throughout history and seeing how our own identity has always been shaped by how we interact with our environment.
In “I Think, I Am”, R.J. deconstructs how many of the internet and social media’s quirks and behaviors have shaped the way that we view ourselves and each other. And in exploring our own individual minds react to this new landscape, we’re able to explain a host of phenomena that take place when human beings get together in a digital space. Aguiar is able to use these observation to bring new insights into all sorts of social media phenomena like trolling, Twitter’s “outrage culture”, the rise of intersectionality, what makes things “go viral”, and how these platforms have changed the way we create and consume content. This is a lecture about who we are, where we’ve been, and what this means for us moving forward as individuals and a global society.
“I Think, I Am” began as an alumni guest lecture at Aguiar’s alma mater, Florida State University. It was a co-production by the school’s PRIDE and Hispanic Latino Student Unions.
Everything changed in 2016…
We thought we were on the verge of making history, and we were. Except instead of electing the nation’s first woman president, the country “elected” (with 2 million FEWER votes) a former reality television personality turned racist demagogue. Like so many others, R.J. was shocked, horrified, and disgusted.
But rather that succumbing to cynicism or apathy, he decided to do something. Inspired by what he saw at The Women’s March in January of 2017, R.J. joined his great friend and mentor Brian Pendleton as one of the first members of the planning committee of the #ResistMarch. In addition to spearheading all official social media for the march and producing a plethora of promotional content, Aguiar and his fellow committee members attempted to put together a massive citywide protest march that would replace the city’s official Pride parade. Working hand in hand with numerous community and activist groups across Los Angeles, the committee sought to organize an event that united the city’s right tradition for resistance and protest with the true spirit and diversity of today’s resistance movement: led by many of the resistance’s most vulnerable members. R.J. also personally oversaw the designing and creation of tens of thousands of “#IResist” stickers for people to wear at the march.
On the morning of June 11th, 2017…
…the Hollywood Walk of Fame was absolutely flooded as over 100,000 people took to the streets to show their defiance of homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, misogyny, racism, and more. After hearing from guests such as LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, Cheyenne Jackson, and RuPaul, protestors took to the streets, beginning at the site of LA’s first ever Pride Parade and ending in the heart of West Hollywood. There, protestors continued to hear from other incredible speakers, including HRC President Chad Griffin, Bamby Salcedo, America Ferrera, Chris Rock, Margaret Cho, Representatives Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, and Maxine Waters.
The #ResistMarch was the largest of several other Pride month protest marches that took place that day across the country and the world. It trended internationally across multiple social platforms. It also ended up being the second largest LGBTQ+ march in history, as well as the second largest demonstration in Los Angeles history. It would eventually earn R.J. and his fellow committee members official certificates of appreciation from the City of Los Angeles.
Bi people have issues
It’s no secret that LGBTQ+ people face many incredible obstacles.
But not many people realize that the largest portion of this community continues to face disproportionate adversity even from within members of their own community. The “B” in LGBTQ, also known as “The Bi+ Community”, make up the single largest portion of the greater community. It’s also the most diverse in terms of racial, ethnic, and gender expression. Yet, despite this, they are the most underrepresented in terms of media, social programs, or services from LGBTQ+ organizations. And that’s just the beginning.
Despite being one of YouTube’s first openly high-profile Bi men, RJ was not really aware of that fact. In fact, he wasn’t involved in the Bi community or Bi activism at all. It wasn’t until he made a rant video that went viral a few years back that he found himself thrust into this tragically invisible community. But after seeing the response to this and other subsequent videos on the subject, he felt compelled to get to work addressing the numerous disparities facing him and the rest of his community.
It was then that Aguiar began working alongside groups like BiNet USA, AmBi, and the LA Bi Task Force to start advocating on behalf of Bi, Pan, Omnisexual, Polysexual, Fluid, and otherwise non-monosexual people. He’s spoken about the unique challenges facing Bi+ people at conferences like VidCon, Playlist Live, and San Diego ComicCon International. He’s also advocated for more inclusive policy to The City of West Hollywood and The White House. He has also made numerous other viral videos educating hundreds of thousands worldwide about the Bi+ community and the issues it faces.
Total Health is a human right
The way we talk about health is
Despite being something that we all need to live our best lives, it’s never been easy to talk about mental health or healthcare reform in a public forum. But as an issue that’s affected R.J. in many ways, it’s a cause that he’s used his platform to advocate for.
R.J. has used his platform to try and change the way we think and talk about mental health for years. He’s not only shared aspects of his own mental health journey dealing with PTSD, clinical depression and suicidal thoughts. And by sharing his own journey, he was worked to dispel the stigma that so many associate with those working on their mental health. He has also tried to create materials to help empower other people to take charge of their mental health journeys, and to not wait until it’s “too late” to see a professional.
R.J. has also worked with a number of different groups and organization to improve people’s access to quality healthcare. Even after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, many different marginalized groups are still underrepresented when it comes to enrolling health insurance, including young people, men, people of color, and LGBTQ+ people. R.J. has been on the front lines with policymakers to try and address many of those disparities, and strategize effective methods to reach members of those community with the resources and education that they need to take charge of their physical health as well as mental. As a result, he even served as inspiration for the Obama administration’s final open enrollment social media outreach strategy: #HealthyAdulting.
The thirst is real
Do you know how much water you use in a day?
If you live in a developed nation with in house plumbing fixtures, chances are that you use far more than you should. Between long showers, running water to do dishes and groom, and the numerous times you flush the toilet, the average American uses around 100 gallons of water per person per day. That’s a lot. Meanwhile, there are millions of people out there who are forced to make due with less than 1% of that.
What would you do if you could only use one gallon in a day?
That’s the concept of the #4Liters challenge, which is a campaign put on by the water nonprofit DIGDEEP. R.J. has worked closely with this campaign to raise awareness about this issue and raise money to help those in water poverty. The challenge is simple: try to go 24 hours using only 4 Liters (1 gallon) of water to do everything: cook, clean, bathe, everything. Not only does it help raise awareness, but it changes how you think about your water usage.
In addition to being one of the first influencers to take part in the #4Liters Challenge, R.J. has worked hand in hand with DIGDEEP to not only recruit other influencers and brands to join in with the campaign. He’s also gone with them to install in home water systems for Navajo families. Did you know that not only are there thousands living in water poverty here in the United States, but many are some of this country’s first citizens? R.J. shot and directed a documentary short detailing the entire experience, which became a cornerstone of the #4Liters campaign.