5 questions with Phil Johnson
Phillip Johnson, a native of Dallas, has devoted most of the latter part of his life being active in the gay community at the nationwide level. He has participated in gay pride parades from Dallas to Los Angeles, and will make an appearance at this year’s Gay Games in Chicago. He is most famous in the Dallas gay community for starting a collection of gay media materials, which can be found at the Phil Johnson Historic Archives & Research Library inside the John Thomas Gay & Lesbian Community Center.
Since when have you been OUT?
Back in my day, coming out meant coming out to yourself, whereas today coming out means coming out to your parents or friends. I knew at the age of four that I was different, but it wasn’t until I was seventeen that I came out to myself, when I accepted who I really was.
What inspired you to start collecting the archives?f
When I was in the army I read an article in the San Francisco Examiner that used the word “homosexual”. That was the first time I had ever read that word in print. My history was becoming public. So I decided to start a collection of anything gay like books, magazines, newspaper clippings and photos. That was in 1946.
What contributions to the gay community have you made that people might not know about?
I started the first gay newspaper in Dallas, Our Community. It came out in 1971 and lasted through 11 issues. I also founded the first gay organization in Texas called Circle of Friends. That idea came to me when I hosted a get-together in my home on January 1, 1965, four years before the Stonewall Riots.
What has been your greatest accomplishment?
Starting the archives. I started with one newspaper clipping and now there’s everything from posters to magazines, videos to books and newspapers. My reason for living is to further the gay movement. When I was young I believed that I was the only one in the world. Hopefully, my starting the collection can help younger people to not feel that way.
How does it feel to have a library named after you?
When John Thomas told me he was going to name the library after me I told him no. The archives are there because people have donated a lot to the library. I wasn’t the only one to help. When he insisted, I simply said O.K.
Soundout is a weekly column featuring people whose jobs and interests have an impact on the daily lives of members of the GLBT community. It features those who often go unnoticed by the press and community. If you’d like to recommend someone to cover in this column, contact staff writer Colin Munoz at firstname.lastname@example.org.