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NOTE: I met Ari at the launch party of his company, Get Gay Travel, which is a luxury concierge and travel agency, owned and operated by the LGBTQ community. Check it out next time you’re planning a trip or a night on the town.
My name is Ari. I’m from New York and I was born and raised here.
About 15 years ago, I was traveling to Southern California for business and I was working with my Sales Manager and he was training me on how to be a better salesman. Although he worked for me, he was my mentor. We went into what was at the time a very good customer of ours and we were talking to the new owner of the business and I had never met him before face-to-face. So one of the things I was taught was, find something in his office to talk about, make it personal to them, takes them off guard, makes them more comfortable. So I saw a poster on the wall that had a picture of Wrigley Field with a couple of tickets, so we started talking about baseball. And although I’m a baseball fan, obviously there’s a lot more to my life but I shared with him that I had taken my nephew to his very first baseball game. I took him to Yankee Stadium, it was great, it was exciting. And I had said, “Yeah, I gave him a choice. He could either go to a Broadway show or go to a baseball game.” And he chose baseball. And the client, without even hesitating, turned to me and goes, “Well, at least you know he’s not gay.” And I paused and I said, “And what would be wrong with that?” And then I shut up, laughed it off and moved on with the sales meeting. And I walked out of there embarrassed for myself, my sales manager knew I was gay, but the customer obviously didn’t.
But um, we continued on and we were driving and we get to a light and I said, “You know, I’m never doing that again.” And he said, “What?” I said, “Well, I’m never going to be made to feel embarrassed or ashamed for who I am.” If he said something about me being Jewish, I would have picked myself up and walked out of that office and said, “Go to hell you bigoted piece of crap.” I don’t think he meant anything by it. I don’t think he meant to be derogatory but it certainly made me feel that way and by no means was I ever going to allow that to happen again. I’ll never again allow anybody to make me feel bad or ashamed of being gay. I don’t have to wear it on my shirt sleeve, but I’m not gonna walk away. And it was a really hard lesson for me to learn because it was something that was only to me. Nobody around me could have told me do it this way, don’t do it that way. And my Sales Manager said, “Do what makes you feel right and that’s all that matters. If you’re honest to yourself, you’re honest to the customer. And that’s what they care about.”