Years before Will and Grace became a groundbreaking hit TV show and even before comedian Ellen DeGeneres came out, Ralphy Lozano was standing up for the LGBTQ community. In popular hangout spots, such as bars and restaurants, around his traditionalist town, the teen and his high school-aged friends gathered and refused to hide their true selves, essentially disrupting the status quo. Now, the 35-year-old Air Force veteran has made history by becoming the first openly gay candidate elected to public office in the South Texas town of Del Rio. The proud first-time candidate received 62 percent of the vote and dethroned incumbent Robert Garza, who served as mayor for four years.
Lozano ran on a platform for change and unification for all in Del Rio. For him, this meant focusing on the issues and values that connects his constituents. “I don’t believe I’m going to get too far if I start going under one identity. I have to think about unifying the city,” Lozano tells me.
He didn’t receive campaign donations from any LGBTQ groups, and he didn’t necessarily seek their support. As a matter or fact, Lozano is about $5,000 in debt after his successful grassroots campaign. But his queerness is an important aspect of his identity. Last year, Lozano marched as part of Del Rio’s Veterans Parade in heels, which garnered national headlines – something that caught him by surprise. He didn’t view his choice as a political statement, but rather something that is part of who he is.
“I’ve always thought that veterans’ parades recently have been so dreary, and I feel like we should be celebrating veterans,” he adds. “Some of us have experienced some really traumatic experiences in war zones and losing friends and suffering from PTSD, but we survived. We survived the worst that humanity has (to offer).”
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