Gay, high heel wearing veteran elected mayor in Texas

Jonathan Kaupanger
June 12, 2018 - 2:27 pm

Photo by Bruno Ralphy Lozano

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His high heels are between three and four inches tall.  They’re patriotic heels with an Americana theme.  They are your basic, bedazzled-flag high heels made to fit a male veteran’s foot.

Google Mayor Bruno “Ralphy” Lozano of Del Rio, Texas and a good chunk of the headlines you’ll find mention that Mayor Lozano wore heels in his city’s last Veteran’s Day parade.  The headlines also tell you that Lozano is the youngest mayor elected in his town’s history, he’s a flight attendant, gay and a veteran.   

Lozano was one of 52 LGBTQ candidates who ran for office this year in Texas.   “I just advocated this is who I am,” says Lozano.  “I didn’t use the LGBT flag in my campaign.  I don’t have that kind of community.  We don’t have a gayborhood.  A part of me is gay.  A part of me is a human being who cares for the community.”

Del Rio is a relatively small border town in south Texas that’s been around in some form since the 17th century.  It’s also home to Laughlin Air Force Base and could be why Lozano chose the Air Force when he decided to serve his country.

“The military has helped me a lot,” says Lozano.  “I understand structure.  I understand the chain of command.  I understand job duties.” As he talks about the military, each period can be heard in his voice giving the words a deliberate and important tone.  He continues, “Job function.  Being part of a team.  Insuring the group has good moral.  Knowing you can get through the difficult times together, the awesome times together.  The military taught me about structure and got me out of my comfort zone.  The military teaches you to contribute to society.”

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The Mayor’s military life started in 2004 when he joined the Air Force on a 15 month special needs contract.  “My recruiter and I had a conversation about ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” he says laughing.  “I said ‘I just wanna ask you a question, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is just what you do, they don’t ask, I don’t tell, right?’”

DADT is why Lozano was able to join the military, but it’s also why he didn’t stay in.  “It’s an awkward position to be in when you’re in security forces, you’re abiding by the policy, but others are not,” he remembers.  On one occasion a friend of Lozano’s, who was very DADT while in uniform, brought his boyfriend onto the base.  It was Lozano who had to tell him he was busted.  “I just can’t do this,” he said to himself and that was it for his military career.

When thinking of Texas, the fact that Lozano is gay should have been an issue.  Until you learn about a very surprising fact of Texas politics: In small city elections in the state, elections are nonpartisan, “I don’t even think people during the primary – Democrats or Republicans - even knew who I was until I won,” he says.

Lozano was already known in his town from his efforts to clean up local waterways but for his run for mayor, his message was more about investment and infrastructure and getting the next generation involved.  And it worked.  At the end of the election, Lozano won with almost 62 percent of the vote. 

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Lozano says he had an understanding of government before the race.  But once elected, “It’s like an iceberg,” he says while swallowing an ominous chuckle. “You see the top and then it goes way deep.  There’s a process for everything!” 

This is where his military training  and experience as a flight attendant comes in handy.  “I use the training from the military and airlines and I’m patient.  There are certain pressing issues that I’ll address immediately.  Other things have to wait.”  Mayor Lozano then adds, “Its organized chaos.”

As for being gay, well that does bring a big advantage but not for Lozano, but for his town.  “Being a voice for a community is awesome,” says Mayor Lozano.  It’s graduation season and the Mayor is being asked to go speak at the different ceremonies.  “Do you know how empowering it is to have somebody who was taught to not treat anyone differently?  To treat everyone humanly.  That gives me tears and chills.  I’m honored to be their elected official.  I’m the mayor – a servant of the public.”

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For the future, well according to Lozano, politics is addictive.  “Realizing that you’re the guy who has the potential to make or break the city,” says the Mayor.  “And then continue moving forward.  If I make it, great and then I can do the district.  I can go to the Senate.  From there, who knows?”

Photo by Bruno Ralphy Lozano

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