Feeling like he never fit in while growing up, queer Latino leader Austin Davis Ruiz is claiming his cultural identity and paving the way for other LGBTQ Latinx folks to thrive. The 26-year-old marketing and communications professional, who grew up in Space City, works tirelessly to spread the message of two local advocacy organizations—the Montrose Center, and the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. He also supports his alma mater, Duke University, through their LGBTQ+ Network. (And don’t worry, he still finds time for a little non-work related fun!)
“When I started working at the Montrose Center, I would hear ‘I love what y’all do, but what exactly do y’all do?’” Ruiz recalls. “A big part of my job is to meet donors, volunteers, and potential clients, and to share our story. I give them an intimate and detailed look at what we’re doing. We do social-support programs for youth, seniors, the trans community, case management for people coming out of incarceration, condom distribution to people in the streets, and more. My favorite part is sharing our story with the community. I get to do all the media interviews, and I post on social media to share what our employees who have boots on the ground are doing. I love knowing I’ve made a positive impact on peoples’ lives.”
The confident and charismatic Ruiz also represents the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. “My titles with the Caucus are Board Trustee Position 1 and Communications Director,” he explains. “I was approached initially because they needed help with social media. It grew into me managing newsletters and press statements, and it continued to evolve. I [ended up] taking on a larger workload, but I’ve been so happy to do that. My work is driving membership growth and donations for the PAC so we can push our slate of pro-equality candidates.”
This Latino with a knack for communicating also knows how to let loose and enjoy life. “This past spring, I finally joined a gay kickball league. That was the first fun queer thing I’ve done besides going to the bars,” he says with a jolt of excitement. “I used to be skeptical of the masc/hetero sports culture, but I finally did it and I have a whole new group of friends. It’s so fun, and it’s about the camaraderie and meeting other members of the community you wouldn’t otherwise get to meet.”
Ruiz explains that his current work embodies the representation he sought as a child. “I see myself as something I never really saw when I was growing up. I’ve struggled with my identity as a Latinx person. My family didn’t teach me Spanish, but we lived in a very Latino community. I was going to church school with a lot of Latinos that spoke Spanish and saw me as a white kid. It was this weird dichotomy where I was too white for the Latino kids, but at school in River Oaks I was too Latino for the white kids. I never fit into either world perfectly, so I consider myself a representation of the Latinx people who don’t see themselves fitting into either realm, based on a host of factors,” he notes, adding that he’s known for having Selena’s music constantly playing in the background. “I’m happy to be a symbol of diversity within the Latinx spectrum. It makes me appreciate my culture even more.”
This article appears in the September 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.