Q&A with Lt. Juliette Arroyo, Out and Proud Member of FDNY

Lieutenant Juliette Arroyo is a true New Yorker.

Though her family is originally from Puerto Rico, Arroyo grew up in the South Bronx. In this tough neighborhood, Arroyo’s mom worked to create a safe life for her. After September 11, Arroyo found herself troubled by the amount of loss the City had suffered. She heard stories about the impact the attack had on the Fire Department and wanted to do something, something big, to help her city and her neighbors.

“Nothing is bigger than the FDNY,” she says. “So here I am: Lieutenant, Executive Officer to the Chief of EMS.”

Today, she lives with her girlfriend in College Point, Queens. We recently chatted with Lieutenant Arroyo to discuss life as an out and proud LGBTQ+ member of the FDNY, her anticipation of WorldPride next summer and her life in NYC today.

Photo: Jen Davis

What was your experience coming out to your colleagues at FDNY? Juliette Arroyo: The good thing about my personal experience is that I was already out to family and friends. So being my true self and open about my lifestyle at work was really effortless. I’ve always been comfortable telling people that I’m gay. If my sexuality makes someone else uncomfortable, I believe it says more about them than it does about me.

What advice do you have for young, queer women of color aspiring to be a part of the FDNY? JA: The FDNY is an incredible institution. Join us! This current administration has promoted more women to top administrative positions than in the entire history of the New York City Fire Department. Right now we have the FDNY’s first female two-star chief, an openly gay two-star female chief who heads up our EMS Academy and our first openly gay female chaplain.

Lately, there’s been a focus on increasing women and minorities in the FDNY. How do you feel women and minorities are currently represented in your field and how would you like to see it evolve? JA: In November 2017, Tonya Boyd became the first black female deputy chief in the FDNY’s 150-year history. That’s an empowering message to send to minority girls everywhere—that someone who looks just like them is being recognized and rewarded for their accomplishments and hard work. These days, the department is overflowing with strong, intelligent, capable women.

Last year, Brooke Guinan, NYC’s first transgender firefighter, was named one of the Grand Marshals for the Pride March. What does it mean to see your profession and your city embracing the LGBTQ+ community? JA: I’m not surprised by the support Brooke has received from the FDNY. The goal of the FDNY is to treat everyone with dignity and respect and, of course, that philosophy applies to our LGBTQ+ members, and that makes me feel very proud.

What are some of your favorite places in NYC? JA: I was born during the Stonewall riots in 1969, so it’s no wonder that I just love The Stonewall Inn. It’s a great place! Henrietta Hudson is another one of my all-time favorites.

In addition to being a lieutenant, you’ve also competed in female figure modeling. How did you discover a passion for that? JA: A friend of mine competed, and I had never seen anything like it. I was curious about the training required, the diet and the lifestyle. I thought to myself, I can do that! Then she dared me to do it. I had a great coach who happened to be a retired FDNY paramedic. He trained me, taught me how to eat right and pushed me beyond my limits. I worked hard for it and came in first place at my first figure competition.

You represented NYC in Madrid during WorldPride 2017. What are you looking forward to the most for WorldPride 2019 in New York City next summer? JA: I’m really excited about the opening ceremony. I can’t wait for New Yorkers to experience gay pride at a magnitude that they could never have imagined. This is big and, having experienced it in Madrid, I know that New Yorkers will absolutely love it.

Any tips for anyone coming to WorldPride in NYC? JA: Coming to NYC for the first time can be intimidating. But New Yorkers are the greatest people you’ll ever meet and, when you throw LGBTQ+ New Yorkers into the mix, you can be absolutely sure you’re in for the time of your life. New York City is preparing for this event and all of our city agencies are working tirelessly to make WorldPride a safe and memorable experience. It’s going to be amazing!