5 questions with John McClelland
John McClelland, 30, recently founded Stonewall Democrats of Denton County, which became the fifth chapter of the national gay political organization in North Texas. The Denton chapterï¿½s first meeting, on Aug. 12 in Lewisville, attracted 21 people. McClelland and his partner of six years live in Far North Dallas. For more information about the chapter, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 972-890-3834.
How did you get involved in local politics?
I started the Addison chapter of Drinking Liberally, a nonpartisan but progressive national social group, in 2005. I started it because I drink and Iï¿½m liberal, so it sounded like a good idea. Having once been a Republican, I wasnï¿½t sure I wanted to be in party politics, but I met others who kind of drew me in. I was elected precinct chairman for the Denton County Democratic Party. Then earlier this year I ran for the District 12 seat on the Dallas City Council, losing to Ron Natinsky.
You said you once were a Republican. Tell me about that.
I joined the Young Republicans while in college in North Carolina. I was never far to the right, then I came out a couple years later, so I was kind of on the fence. What really made me switch was when I moved to Texas in 2001 and had no job for five months, and I got a tax refund from President Bush that should have been $300 but was about $30. On top of being gay, I think Bush was the final straw in the puzzle. I donï¿½t think you can be gay and stay in the Republican Party.
What do you hope to accomplish with the Stonewall chapter?
I think one of the main things is that Democrats need some visibility in Denton County. Itï¿½s one of the most conservative counties around. But I think Stonewall having visibility will help at least in the southern part of the county, where itï¿½s becoming more liberal, and in the city of Denton, which traditionally has been somewhat liberal but seems to be having a problem with gay issues.
I assume you are referring to the recent anti-gay hate crime on Fry Street, which was followed by an arson at the cityï¿½s only gay bar.
Yes, they say they were unrelated, but I donï¿½t believe it. Itï¿½s 2007 and not 1960, and it seems like Denton is going backward when it should be going forward. Especially with the University of North Texas being there, you would think that something like that might not happen, but it still happens. PFLAG and other groups that existed in the past in Denton gone defunct, so thatï¿½s something Stonewall will work on ï¿½ trying to be the face of the gay community.
What keeps you motivated as an activist?
If youï¿½re not going to do it, no one else will, and then it sits there and festers and nothing happens. Just trying to get Democrats to run in Denton County is a motivator. If you donï¿½t have anyone on the ballot, no one is going to vote for you.
Soundout is a weekly column featuring people whose jobs and interests have an impact on the daily lives of members of the LGBT community. It features those who often go unnoticed by the press and community. If youï¿½d like to recommend someone to cover in this column, e-mail email@example.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 24, 2007