Though David Perez is a few generations removed from the group that came to the U.S. — his great-grandparents on his father’s side immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico — he identifies strongly with his Latino roots and spends his career and volunteer hours working on community advocacy.
By day, he’s director of development at the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and last May he became president of the D.C.-based Latino GLBT History Project, which is planning an expanded edition of Latino Pride this year. Festivities kick off Sunday and run over four (non-consecutive) days. More details are on page 29 or at latinoglbthistory.org.
Perez, 28, says it’s important for Latino gays to have their own forum in which to gather.
“A lot of the issues are the same, but there are additional issues as well,” he says. “Some things like access to health care, immigration reform, there are some things that affect out community more so while we like to talk about the broad LGBT agenda too, there are Latino-specific issues that are different.”
Perez says last year’s event felt a bit hectic with serious discussion-type events and a dance party all crammed into one day. This year, organizers have spread things out and added elements, such as a church service on June 3.
“We’re really excited about it,” he says. “We’ve gotten a lot of feedback of people who have an interest in seeing Latino Pride grow.”
Perez grew up in Vista., Calif., near San Diego and went to a conservative Christian college near Los Angeles. He came to Washington in 2005 for an internship and went to graduate school at Georgetown University, then stayed. He joined LULAC in 2007. He and boyfriend Gary James have been together 11 months.
Perez lives in Dupont Circle and enjoys volunteering, recreational sports, watching TV and spending time with friends in his free time. (Blade photo by Michael Key)
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I came out in August of 2006 to my friends during my second year of graduate school in D.C. That was fairly simple with a lot of progressive friends. The next time I saw my parents was December 25, 2006 and I told my Mom, Dad, sister and brother because they are very close to me and I wanted to share my life with them. They have been great to me and have treated me no differently than before. The hardest folks to tell were my friends from my conservative evangelical university. However, my close circle of friends there were really great and we are still friends.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
There are so many influential folks in my life. One fellow gay Latino I look up to is Russell Roybal at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. He has been involved in LGBT advocacy for many years and I admire is commitment to intersectional community organization to ensure LGBT advocacy includes mobilizing communities around racial and social justice issues as well. I witnessed this first hand at Creating Change this year in Baltimore.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
Rumba Latina at Cobalt is my favorite monthly party. The promoter Johnny Vasquez is hosting a special Latino dance party to raise funds for Latino Pride at Cobalt this Sunday at 10 p.m. Please join us!
Describe your dream wedding.
For my dream wedding, my husband and I would be surrounded by all our friends and families. I am sure it would be a decent size as I would want to invite all my tías and tíos (aunts and uncles). Definitely at a beautiful Episcopal Church.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Latino civil rights in the US. I spend my day-job fundraising for community and advocacy programs for the League of United Latino American Citizens. This is my passion. Fixing our broken immigration reform is a must! It should be LGBT inclusive compressive immigration reform. It’s hard to say if it’s just an LGBT or Latino issue. We need to be building coalitions to work together and support each other’s work.
What historical outcome would you change?
The way history has been written. So many amazing LGBTQ Latinas and Latinos have been left out of the history books. For example, Sylvia Rivera, a Latina Transgender activist, was at the front lines of the Stonewall riots. Latino involvement in LGBT advocacy is not a new thing. We have always been there. The purpose of the Latino GLBT History Project is to collect and preserve those stories and educate the public about the significant contributions of LBGT Latinos to the movement and society in general.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Ricky Martin coming out. Though a long time coming, this is a very powerful statement for such a national and international figure to come out, especially for Latinos.
On what do you insist?
Doing your best to love your neighbor as yourself. It’s not always easy, but I feel we should treat all human beings with love and respect even if we disagree.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
DC Latino Pride… Four days of Celebration: May 20th Royal Coronation at Cobalt, May 30th Panel Discussion & Community Resource Fair Human Rights Campaign, June 3rd Ecumenical Service St. Thomas’ Parish & Thursday, June 7th Official Latino Pride Dance Party at Town Danceboutique. Join the fun! www.LatinoGLBTHistory.org
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“The Little Engine That Could.” I have so many mentors who have inspired me to achieve goals that I never even knew existed, like getting a graduate degree! I try to pass on the love and inspire others to dream big as well.
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Nada (nothing). I love being gay.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I believe in God who loves us all. I worship with my faith community regularly at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Parish Dupont Circle.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Build coalitions and work together. Commit yourself to diversity and inclusiveness. It might take a lot of work, but will be stronger partnerships for the long-term goals of the movement.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
My man, Gary
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
Assuming we always have to be the ones at the office to plan the party. Though I do love to plan parties.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“The Broken Hearts Club.” I love softball and it’s an overall great movie.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
On Facebook, adding everyone who requests to be your “friend” even if you don’t know them.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
I was really touched when the LULAC Youth gave me a medal after helping them paint murals in Latino neighborhoods of Chicago and north of Columbia Heights. It was totally unexpected and a project totally out of my normal duties. It was touching to see how much they enjoyed it.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
College is expensive. Save up early!
I first came to Washington, D.C. for an internship with my congressman. I loved politics and the West Wing. I came back for graduate school at Georgetown University. Stayed here working ever since. It is where I came out and is my current home.