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Q&A with Austin Davis Ruiz

The new LGBTQ+ Political Caucus president sets his sights on positive political change.

Austin Davis Ruiz (Photo by Josh & Dana Fernandez)

What is the mission and purpose of The Caucus?
Founded in 1975, the mission of the Houston LGBTQ+ Political Caucus is to eliminate prejudice, violence, and injustice against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people through education, activism, and political advocacy. What that looks like in practice is screening, endorsing, and getting out the vote for pro-equality candidates that will support the LGBTQ+ community, as well as other marginalized communities. We are one of the most respected political organizations in Houston, and while our primary focus is Houston and Harris County, we also do advocacy work statewide.

Tell me about your experience with The Caucus prior to being elected president.
I first became a member of the organization on June 23, 2019, at the suggestion of my best friend, Stephen Miranda. I was looking to get involved in the LGBTQ+ community and to fill my time with some volunteer work, so I signed up in June and attended my first meeting in July. Being that it was ahead of a major endorsement meeting for municipal races, I remember the meeting being contentious—as Caucus meetings tend to be. I eventually joined the leadership team in December of that year, later became the communications director, and officially joined the board to finish an unexpired term in September 2020. I ran for my first full term in January 2021, and continued to be the communications director alongside my board role.

“The most significant part of the president’s role is that of a visionary.”
—Austin Davis Ruiz

What does your role as president entail?
Being president of The Caucus is no small undertaking. Every president has the usual responsibilities such as being the official representative of the org, liaising with elected officials, fundraising, chairing membership meetings, etc. However, I think the most significant part of the role is that of a visionary—to decide what the organization aims to accomplish in a given year. Each president has their own vision of what they want to do when they’re elected to office, and ultimately it’s up to the president to ensure that vision is accomplished by the time they leave.

You’re the first Hispanic male and one of the youngest people ever elected as Caucus president. What does that mean to you, and do you feel added pressure to succeed?
Oh, of course that’s added pressure! Being the first male Latino president, and one of the youngest, definitely adds another layer of scrutiny to an already highly scrutinized position. But it’s also an extreme honor and privilege, especially when representation for young people of color in politics is relatively low. This position has previously been held by powerhouses in Houston’s LGBTQ+ community, and the significance of that is not lost on me.

What are you most looking forward to in your new position?
Making a significant impact for our community. I’m a born-and-raised Houstonian, and I absolutely love my city. I can’t think of a better way to express that love than to make positive political change that will impact all Houstonians.

You also work at the Montrose Center. What is your role and day-to-day like?
I’m celebrating three years as communications and marketing manager at the Montrose Center, and I oversee things like graphic design, social media, our website, public relations, video production—everything in the communications and marketing world! My day-to-day can be pretty different, depending on the time of the year, but I regularly spend time running our socials and taking media requests. You can often see me on TV talking about LGBTQ+ issues and stories on behalf of the Center!

Why is working and volunteering
for LGBTQ+ organizations so important to you?
It’s what makes me feel fulfilled. I jokingly tell friends that I get paid to be a “full-time gay,” but I really can’t think of anything better than getting to work with my
community, for my community. It’s the best feeling in the world knowing I’m making a difference for other LGBTQ+ Houstonians.

Outside of work and The Caucus, what are some of your hobbies?
I really love the performing arts—dance, theater, musicals, the symphony—and try to catch shows when I’m able. I don’t get to do it often, but I enjoy traveling, I love concerts and music festivals, I’m a pretty avid spinner (indoor cycling), and I’m always down for trying a new restaurant.

What are some of your favorite spots around town?
Siphon (coffee), El Bolillo (Mexican sweet bread), Chilosos (breakfast tacos), Himalaya Restaurant (Indian food), Piggy’s (weekend brunch), and RYDE Houston (spin).

Anything else you’d like to share?
Beyoncé’s Renaissance is a masterpiece, and I can’t wait for the next two albums!

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Zach McKenzie

Zachary McKenzie is a marketing professional and freelance writer in Houston, TX. He received his bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin in 2014 and has lived in Houston since. Zachary is a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters and enjoys spending his free time with friends, exploring the richness and diversity of Houston.
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