When Peter Cruz took the microphone as the very first speaker at Resist March, it was electric. Not just because the crowd had been waiting months to take to the streets, but because his upbeat attitude immediately charged the atmosphere.
Cruz, a first-generation Filipino-American, has devoted his life to community service, first in Orange County where he worked in HIV prevention services and advocacy. After he moved to Los Angeles he became deeply involved in community services for the Asian community and joined the Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team (APAIT).
Peter is now Associate Director at APAIT. In 2016, Peter and his colleagues at APAIT established and organized #NotOurPride, a coalition of LGBTQ groups and individuals who spoke out against proposed changes that were planned for that year’s LA Pride Festival by Christopher Street West (CSW).
As a result of #NotOurPride’s advocacy, the proposed changes were rescinded by CSW and approximately 17,000 LGBTQ individuals and allies were offered free admission to that year’s Friday night festivities.
Peter is gentle and soft spoken when you engage him one on one and has an intellectual curiosity that is apparent in the way he listens. You get the sense that he is miles ahead of you, patient but right there with you at the same time. That, perhaps, is what makes him a rising leader in Los Angeles’ wider LGBT community.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I have been out since the age of 16 (19 years). My coming out experience was a difficult one. Coming from a devout Catholic family, no one in my family that I told accepted me. They told me to keep my sexual orientation hidden so that the family can save face. Eventually, my mom forced me into reparative therapy, which was a very traumatic experience. Though my relationship with my mom is a lot better today, she was definitely the hardest person to tell.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
My hero would be anyone who doesn’t let society’s arbitrary standards dictate how they live their life, which is why I have so much love and respect for the trans community.
What’s Los Angeles’ best nightspot, past or present?
The place that my friends and I would always go to was GAMeBoi. This nightclub has become an institution in our community. I have a lot of fond memories of Friday nights at Rage with my friends, letting go after a long week of work.
Describe your dream wedding.
My dream wedding would consist of having my mom and dad present. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. I would just want both of them there to share that moment with me and my husband. I think that will be the moment where I know for sure that they love me and accept me for who I am.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
I have become very spiritual in the past year, and it has become my passion. Becoming a member of Inspire Spiritual Community in West Hollywood really helped me transcend all of the trauma and limiting beliefs that I held on to for 18 years as a result of reparative therapy.
What historical outcome would you change?
I was heartbroken when I heard the news that Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States. While his election resulted in a waking up moment for the LGBTQ and other marginalized communities that will benefit us in the long run, I was very distraught in the weeks after the election.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
I’m a big EDM fan, so going to EDC 2013 was a big moment for me. That was the first time that I went to EDC since it moved to Las Vegas and I was blown away at how big and extravagant it had become. Nothing compares to the energy of 100,000 people dancing and spreading love.
On what do you insist?
I insist that people be honest and to work with integrity.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
I posted about what an honor it was to kick off the Resist March with Karina Samala and Congressman Ted Lieu. I also shared my experience with reparative therapy and shared the great work that Rep. Lieu is doing in Congress to get the practice banned nationwide.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
I would remain exactly as I am. I would not trade being a member of the LGBTQ community for the world!
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I believe that we are energy. We are not bodies with a soul, we are souls with a body. Our souls are eternal. What happens to our souls after our time in this physical world is something that I believe no one has an answer to.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
To not let ego and personal agendas get in the way of reaching an ideal outcome.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
To help someone I love.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That there is something wrong with us and that we are sinners for choosing to live authentically.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“Prayers for Bobby.” That movie hit very close to home. I sobbed for hours after watching that movie. It was a cathartic moment.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Making small talk.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
I don’t really have one. I always let my work speak for itself. If I’m able to make an impact, great! If not, then it simply means I have more work to do.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
That my life was going to turn out just fine and that I didn’t have to worry as much.
Why Los Angeles?
The Resist March was a perfect representation of our city and community. The LA LGBTQ community is unique because of our size, diversity, and our willingness to leverage our skills, talents, and life experiences to help improve the lives of other. This community has embraced me, mentored me, and made me the person I am today. This is why I will always call LA home.