GALA president joins board of Pride San Antonio as youngest director

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Liberal Arts sophomore Anthony Cantu president of GALA and newly elected member of board of directors for PRIDE San Antonio, Thursday in Loftin.  Photo by Javier Hernandez

Liberal Arts sophomore Anthony Cantu president of GALA and newly elected member of board of directors for PRIDE San Antonio, Thursday in Loftin. Photo by Javier Hernandez

Advocate teaches self-acceptance.

By Cynthia M. Herrera

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

Anthony Cantu, 23, president of the Gay Ally Lesbian Alliance at this college, has been elected as the youngest director on Pride San Antonio’s board and the first person to serve on the board while still in college.

The liberal arts sophomore came out to family and friends last year. He said he doesn’t know why he waited so long to tell them, but it was the best decision he could have made.

“I wouldn’t change for the world,” he said. “Even if there was a magic button to take me back, I wouldn’t press it.”

On Labor Day 2013, hours before his older brother boarded a plane for deployment to Afghanistan, Cantu decided it was time to tell him.

His brother was accepting, and so was his mom. He had carried his secret since middle school.

He said being elected a director of Pride is a humbling experience; he never expected recognition for his work with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

“I’m just helping whichever way is most useful,” he said. “I’m uncomfortable in the spotlight.”

Pride President Phillip Barcena said Cantu, who joined the board in October, is an ideal spokesperson for the LGBT community.

“He first came across as a representative for GALA and San Antonio College as a whole, and he really stepped up to make sure GALA and Pride are fully informed,” Barcena said.

Founded in 2004 and incorporated in 2011, Pride San Antonio was created to help the LGBT community. Pride was originally known as Gay Pride SA, but rebranded itself to associate with other organizations such as Austin Pride.

All seven board members — president, vice president, secretary, treasurer and three directors — are volunteers. Cantu replaced Bill Untiedt, who resigned because he was busy with organizations such as Mujeres Unidas, which provides education and support to those with HIV/AIDS and other health concerns, Barcena said.

Pride San Antonio’s board and beneficiaries elect new board members. Each director’s term lasts one year and ends in August.

Cantu’s work as a Pride director involves planning events such as the Carn-Evil, a Halloween block party, as well as volleyball and softball tournaments. He hopes to focus on creating a more diverse community with book clubs and sports.

Cantu has served as an advocate in the LGBT community, even before he came out himself. And despite an early stumbling block, he recommitted to education in his 20s.

Though he dropped out of O’Connor High School at 18, he enrolled three years later at San Antonio Technology Academy and graduated as valedictorian.

Cantu said he felt ashamed of attending high school at 21. However, if he had graduated with his class at O’Connor, he said he wouldn’t have gone to college then because he needed time for himself.

While at the academy, Cantu befriended a classmate who exhibited signs of depression because he had not told anyone he was gay. Their friendship grew, and Cantu says he inadvertently saved his classmate from committing suicide.

One day, Cantu sent him a “silly ‘what’s up?’” text that stopped his friend from cutting his wrist, and he thanked Cantu for being his only friend.

However, that act of kindness later worked against him. His friend’s parents found his diary in his room, discovered he was gay and blamed Cantu as an older influence who had impacted their 18-year-old son’s lifestyle. Cantu’s friend moved from San Antonio after the incident.

Cantu started at this college in the fall of 2012 as an education major but later opted to study social work.

He said he would like more options for social life, such as events for families in the LGBT community who have children.

Cantu wants to work more with Project H.O.T., a nonprofit organization created especially for men sexually involved with other men. The San Antonio-based organization uses education to stop the spread of HIV and provides free and fast testing.

In his spare time, Cantu enjoys reading biographies and autobiographies of celebrities such as basketball Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain. He also enjoys playing basketball, an activity from his high school days.

Cantu said he has a “pretty big support group” such as the office of student life and his friends outside campus.

Cantu said his lifestyle is “bouncing off the walls, happy, busy,” and he has a genuine passion for life for “the first time in a long time.”

To achieve that same happiness, young adults should always be themselves, he said.

“Who they are is important, regardless of what anyone says,” he said. “They shouldn’t change for anything.”

GALA meets 3-4 p.m. every Wednesday in the faculty lounge of Loftin Student Center.

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