Former Weber State University student Lee Castillo, who graduated over two decades ago, is currently running for Congress in Utah’s First Congressional District.

Lee Castillo has dealt with countless obstacles in his life, and has been fortunate to overcome several of them in order to represent his state.

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Lee Castillo Art By Sam Van Orman Photo credit: Samantha Van Orman

Castillo attended WSU over two decades ago and came out as openly gay during his tenure as a Wildcat. He admitted it was a difficult fact to admit.

“There was a lot of self-hate,” Castillo said. “I think my dad may have known I was gay before I did. I grew up internalizing a whole bunch of these negative thoughts about who I was.”

Castillo took a break from school and spent time alone at his home in Salt Lake City in fear of judgment.

“There was such a huge stigma about gay people, especially back then,” Castillo said. “There are still a lot of barriers, don’t get me wrong, but back then it was really hard for me.”

Castillo was eventually able to overcome his fears, something he attributed to his self-realization process.

“I was tired of hiding who I was and believing the lie that God doesn’t love me because I’m gay,” Castillo said. “I am a Christian and a firm believer that God loves me for who I am.”

After coming to acceptance, the pain began to alleviate for Castillo.

“It took a long time for me to realize the harm that I was doing to myself and then to start loving myself,” Castillo said.

Castillo eventually returned to school at Salt Lake Community College, before graduating from the University of Utah. He is currently opposing Republican Rob Bishop in the Congressional District.

Castillo, who is Hispanic, said his decision to become politically involved was influenced by his displeasure with current president Donald Trump.

“I felt disgusted with the evil rhetoric that is being spewed by our president,” Castillo said. “You turn on the TV and see that he is degrading women, degrading transgender, Hispanics, Muslims. He has divided America and is preaching hate.”

Because of this Castillo decided he wanted to take a stand against Trump.

“I felt a calling,” Castillo said. “I would pray about it because I never imagined I would be running for Congress but I felt prompted to do it. I kept trying to shake that feeling off.”

Once he began running Castillo initially felt his prior fears return, but was able to quickly overcome them.

“I had to have faith and believe God is going to take me through it,” Castillo said. “I’ve come a long way and God loved me the whole way.”

Castillo worked at the Center for Multicultural Excellence when he was a Weber State student. Current staff member Monica Rodriguez feels a sense of pride that one of their former employees is taking on a major task in the state.

“I think it’s great he took that approach,” Rodriguez said. “It’s what the Weber State staff is looking for, that all these minorities represent us at some point after obtaining their education.”

Rodriguez added she believes Castillo’s political presence can further put the Center for Multicultural Excellence on the map.

If elected to Congress, Castillo said one of his main goals would be to decrease student loans.

“I would love to see that burden not be passed on to generation after generation,” Castillo said. “I want to make school affordable.”

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