Welcome to the 16th installment of our 2019 Pride Month Series! Every day for the month of June, we will be highlighting a different member of the LGBTQ+ community, including fictional characters, celebrities, and activists alike — the positive voices within the LGBTQ+ community and in mainstream media. Check out the rest of our series here.
In 1994, my 15-year-old self (don’t do that math…) was obsessed with My So Called Life. Ricky Vasquez had my heart from the first episode, and Wilson Cruz portrayed his struggles and triumphs much the way he appears to live his life: unapologetically and with so much heart. Twenty five years have passed since Ricky danced into my heart to the tune of “What is Love” by Haddaway, so I’ll admit to having lost touch with the many projects Cruz has been part of over those years. But when he joined the cast of Star Trek: Discovery in 2017 as Dr. Hugh Culber, my admiration was reborn.
What I didn’t know and have grown to appreciate even more than Cruz’s awesome acting chops, is what an activist he is for the LGBTQ+ community. In 2012, he began working with GLAAD as a Strategic Giving Officer, helping to fund the organization’s work to build support for LGBTQ+ equality in media. This came after he had been awarded the GLAAD Media Award in 1995 for his role on My So Called Life.
Between those two events, Cruz had been an outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ+ and Latino/Hispanic communities, and he continues to be for all minorities. Though no longer a formal employee of GLAAD, he still supports initiatives by the organization where needed. According to a Hispanic Network article, his current goals include “supporting all minorities and advocating for LGBTQ+ youth.”
In a 2017 interview with The Los Angeles Blade, Cruz talked about his own coming out experience and how in 1993, after coming out to his family, he was homeless at the age of 20 — just a year before My So Called Life premiered.
My Puerto Rican family had to overcome a lot of that machismo Latino men have. My dad had the hardest struggle with me being gay. But he had no choice. My brother is gay, too. Today my family is amazing.
His current support of GLSEN shows his commitment to the protection of LGBTQ+ youth in a society that far too often finds them homeless and abandoned at an early age. And it’s not many that find their way as quickly as Cruz did. He serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the organization whose mission it is to “create safe and affirming schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”
It is through this organization that policy change is affected, and our educational systems can begin to be more inclusive of all children and teens. It is through this kind of work that long-term change can take hold, which will provide the security that LGTBQ+ youth needs.
Cruz has spoken as well about the importance of minorities supporting each other in an effort to protect and progress equality. It is in that respect that he supports Puerto Rico and its rebuilding after the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Cruz’s Puerto Rican heritage and his deeply elt humanity drive that desire, but it’s clear that his respect for all minorities and the injustices that they face drives his advocacy.
In a society that focuses so much on famous personalities in the media, it is refreshing to find someone who is truly dedicated to making the world safer for his community and all minority groups. When talking about the emerging generation of LGBTQ+ artists and activists, he takes an opportunity to focus the attention on the current state of our world for those in the LGBTQ+ community (while plugging his role on Discovery – I see you, sir!).
They will lead us to the world we imagine on ‘Star Trek: Discovery,’ in which your gender and who you love is less important than what you have to offer to solve our problems and actually make the world a more inclusive place.
Thank you, Wilson, for all you do and for being an example to all of us who either are part of or want to ally with the LGBTQ+ community.