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Miguel A. Ceballos-Ruiz grew up in Colorado, and watched as the city changed. His current neighborhood of Montbello became unaffordable, and his family, like many others he knew, lost their business and home.

Instead of getting discouraged by this, Ceballos-Ruiz was energized to do more for his community and make a difference for local people. He identifies as queer and is Latinx, and believes that all folks have a home in Denver, but need to respect the needs of the marginalized and make our community affordable to all.

We spoke to Ceballos-Ruiz about his race for City Council District 8, his fight for the community, and the change he’d like to see if he takes office.

What drove you to want to run for city council?
There is a massive wave of displacement in Denver. There used to be Mexican families and celebrations in a lot of these local neighborhoods, but that changed. Latino people can’t afford to live here anymore. It’s not that we don’t want to live in these neighborhoods; it’s that we can’t afford it. And why is that? Why is it that we have less resources? To me, as someone who has been left behind by this rising tide, I realize that people who move here already have a job lined up, already have a place to live, and we just can’t compete with that. A lot of us who are working class, we were just wondering if this is as good as it gets. This economy is not working for us.

What struggles have you faced as a gay man running for office in Denver?
I was on the Brother Jeff Show; he’s a major media correspondent in the local African American community. There was a comment on social media afterword on an ad for my appearance on the show that myself and another person who was featured, who is also gay, was only supporting me because we are both gay, minimizing all the work I have done on the social justice front in my community. But, I felt what he was really saying in a very subtle way was, “Miguel is gay; don’t vote for him.”

That took me back to a really dark time in my history, because to me, that comment was making my sexuality a factor, whereas I feel like it shouldn’t be a factor. Like any other queer person, it’s a huge part of who I am. But the goal in politics is to vote for someone based on their ideas, their credentials, their values, rather than for their sexuality. I haven’t been running away from the fact that I’m gay at all, but that shouldn’t be a major factor.

That comment took me back to high school and growing up in a mostly black and Latino neighborhood in the 90s and early 2000s. Back then, people weren’t out; all of us were closeted. I remember in middle school when someone did come out, people even threatened violence and tried to fight him.

We’ve come a long way since then. But in reality, I think a lot of it is is superficial acceptance. And so, as an LGBT candidate, first of all, you have to figure out how to overcome that. But there’s also another dynamic in play. When we look at most of the people who have been elected as LGBT candidates, they have resources; they have money.

And so, being a working-class LGBT candidate is what I’ve been finding more challenging, those two intersections together. It’s difficult to raise money unless you’re surrounded by people who have money, so it’s kind of like a snowball effect. 

If you do get elected, what do you plan to do to support the queer community and other marginalized groups?
In my community in Montbello, we don’t have a walk-in clinic. So access to health for the LGBTQ community is still difficult to access. There are food deserts, and then there are also health deserts. Denver Health has a clinic here, but they don’t have one provider who can provide a PrEP prescription. 

I’m currently on PrEP, and I have to travel all the way downtown to the Denver Health clinic and take the day off of work in order to get my prescription refilled. So, once every three months, I have to miss a whole day of income, because I’m taking care and being trying to be proactive about my health.

I’ve been pushing Denver Health on on getting at least one provider for PrEP in Montbello. I would love to even have a program like The Drop at Planned Parenthood in Montbello. The black and Latino gay population is the number-one for new HIV diagnosis, so that’s what we need to be focusing on.  There are a lot of LGBTQ people who are working-class, and they need this kind of care. 

I also want to work to make housing and the standard of living more affordable. This economy is not working for millennials, either. We have to rent out our rooms. Our couches are hotels and our cars are taxis. We need to start realizing that we are getting screwed

I believe that 40 hours of work a week should be enough for someone to live off of. We really need to stop thinking that if we don’t have money, it’s our fault. No, it’s the system that exploits our labor. That’s really what we need to be concentrating on, is how do we make Denver a more equitable city? And so, that’s why I’m also in favor of increasing the minimum wage in Denver to a living wage. If we have a living wage, and we have rent control, and strong programs to help people, we will be much better off. 

Visit Miguel’s campaign website to learn more about his policies. Photos courtesy of Miguel Ceballos-Ruiz.