Openly gay candidate runs for chair of Denton County Democratic Party

John McClelland serves on water board, founded chapters of Drinking Liberally and Stonewall Democrats

mcclelland.john

IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED | John McClelland lost races for Dallas City Council and Texas House before winning a seat on the local water board. Now he’s running for Denton County Democratic Party chair.

DANIEL VILLARREAL  |  Contributing Writer
editor@dallasvoice.com

DENTON — When he got elected to the district board of the Denton County Fresh Water Supply in March 2010, John McClelland says he became the first openly gay elected official in the county’s history.

This year he’s running for chair of the county’s Democratic Party with the hopes of finally turning Denton — and possibly the whole Lone Star State — blue.

And it all started with a drink.

When President George W. Bush got re-elected in 2004, McClelland consoled himself with the thought that things in the U.S. couldn’t really get much worse. Then in 2005, they did.

The state’s voters passed Proposition 2, an amendment banning both same-sex marriage and civil unions in the Texas Constitution.

McClelland had identified as a Republican during his college days, but gradually came to feel like he couldn’t be gay in the GOP.

He spent time making phone calls, marching on the Capitol and organizing voters against Prop 2. But in the end it still passed with 76 percent of the vote. And by the time it was all over, all McClelland wanted was a drink.

He’d read about Drinking Liberally, a group of New York progressives dedicated to discussing politics over drinks, so he decided to start his own

Addison chapter. He placed an ad on Craigslist and seven people showed up, mostly wondering why he’d even bothered organizing a progressive meeting in such a conservative state.

“Most of the people just wanted a place to sit down, talk and air their grievances, kinda like

Festivus [the made-up holiday celebrated on TV’s Seinfeld], just without the pole and the wrestling match,” he said.

But as the meet-ups continued, McClelland felt he couldn’t just sit around without doing something to make the world a better place. So in 2007, he decided to run against Ron Natinsky for the Dallas City Council District 12 seat.

Natinsky got 4,452 votes. McClelland got 979.

Undeterred, he decided to run against Republican incumbent Myra Crownover in the 2008 race for Texas House District 64.

Crownover received 40,758 votes and McClelland only received 28,195. But considering that Crownover had raised $216,471 for her campaign and McClelland had only raised $28,134, McClelland considered it a worthwhile achievement.

“Being an openly gay, Democrat in a red district in Denton County, that’s pretty good.”

Though he admits that having Barack Obama at the top of the ticket certainly helped, McClelland feels that voters didn’t care that he was a Democrat or gay; they just wanted new leadership and knew that McClelland was qualified.

Though he kept hanging out with the Drinking Liberally crowd, after Obama got elected in 2008, their national outlook became more optimistic.

Instead of complaining about Bush all the time, they complained about the Republicans controlling the state Legislature.

Likewise, McClelland himself had changed. Not only had he run two local races, he had also founded the Stonewall Democrats of Denton County, the national gay political organization’s fifth chapter in North Texas.

“It’s important for LGBT people to have that sort of thing, to be around one another and educate the people that you’re dealing with in the grand scheme of the big tent,” McClelland says. “There are a lot of people who don’t even know what Stonewall means. A lot of people think it refers to Stonewall Jackson, the war general, instead of Stonewall bar.”

He continued acting as his Stonewall chapter’s president after he got elected to the district board of the Denton County Fresh Water Supply in March 2010. But after three years in the office, he has stepped down and refocused his efforts on becoming Denton County Democratic Party chair.

Typically, a county Democratic Party chair supports Democratic campaigns by working closely with candidates, conducting primary elections and helping precinct chairs get out the vote.

But McClelland thinks that the Denton County Democratic Party can do a lot more to help make this happen. As chair, he would train precinct chairs on how to use voter databases to contact voters and host events, fundraise through local donors who normally give to the Democratic

National Committee but not to their local party (“the money doesn’t trickle down,” he says) and prepare future candidates and party organizers through a county program called “Project Farm Team.”

Right now he has 2,000 hangers sitting on his floor just waiting to grace the doors of potential voters.

“I want to get Democrats elected, that’s the main reason I’m doing this, that’s the goal,” McClelland said. “Without Denton or Collin county, it’s gonna be a pretty tough spot getting a Democrat elected, like a governor or a U.S. Senator. Getting Denton County to turn blue is one of the keys to getting the entire state to turn blue.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 10, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

“Head Figure Head” more about journalism than about Gov. Rick Perry’s sex life

Head Figure Head, the new e-book from Glen Maxey, details the author’s arduous and frustrating six-month effort to investigate rumors of Gov. Rick Perry’s gay sex life. Maxey served as executive director of the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas (now Equality Texas) during Perry’s tenure as a state representative, later serving for 12 years as a state representative, spanning Perry’s time as agricultural commissioner, lieutenant governor and governor. Of all the people who’ve attempted to look into the rumors of Perry’s trysts with men, Maxey is perhaps best positioned to get to the truth, and takes great pains to ensure we are aware of that fact.

The book is the narrative of Maxey’s research, assisted by a journalist from a national media outlet. Like almost every character in the book other than Maxey and Perry himself, “the Journalist” is referred to only as a pseudonym. Maxey and the Journalist begin their search for proof in June 2011 as rumors of Perry’s impending presidential bid are widely circulating. Immediately the pair find that almost every gay man in Austin has a friend who has a friend who claims to have slept with Perry. For the next three months they track those leads and come excruciatingly close to breaking the story.

—  admin

What’s Brewing: Ind. lawmaker who hired male prostitute won’t resign; gays blamed for quake

Indiana State Rep. Phillip Hinkle

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Republican Indiana State Rep. Phillip Hinkle, accused of hiring an 18-year-old male prostitute on Craigslist, is refusing calls for his resignation. Hinkle admits to hiring the teen for something but insists he isn’t gay and says he doesn’t know for what. Read the full story from the Indianapolis Star.

2. It was just a matter of time, although we were hoping it would be Red Oak’s Cindy Jacobs so we’d have a good strong local angle. But New York City’s Rabbi Yehuda Levin beat Jacobs to the punch in blaming Tuesday’s earthquake on the gays. Watch video of Levin’s comments below. Here’s a partial transcript via Joe.My.God.: “One of the reasons that God brings earthquakes to the world is because of the transgression of homosexuality. The Talmud states, ‘You have shaken your male member in a place where it doesn’t belong. I too, will shake the earth.’”

3. Two recent studies indicate that bisexual man are, in fact, sexually aroused by both men and women, The New York Times reports. “It’s great that they’ve come out with affirmation that bisexuality exists,” said one bisexual activist. “Having said that, they’re proving what we in the community already know. It’s insulting. I think it’s unfortunate that anyone doubts an individual who says, ‘This is what I am and who I am.’”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: San Antonio to offer DP benefits; Indiana Republican in gay Craigslist scandal

Indiana State Rep. Phillip Hinkle

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Frontrunners Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann were among the candidates who came out strongly against same-sex marriage during a televised GOP presidential debate Thursday night in Ames, Iowa. Meanwhile, Jon Huntsman defended his support for civil unions, and the virulently anti-gay Rick Santorum actually appeared to express concern for gay people in Iran. Watch a video compilation of the candidates’ remarks on same-sex marriage from ThinkProgress below.

2. The city of San Antonio plans to begin offering benefits to the unmarried domestic partners of employees, both gay and straight, according to the Express-News. San Antonio, the second-most-populous city in the state, would become the fifth to offer DP benefits, joining Austin, Dallas, El Paso and Fort Worth. “For the city as an employer, it means we can be more competitive for great talent,” Mayor Julian Castro said. “For the San Antonio community, it means there are no second-class citizens. We’re a cosmopolitan city and we value everyone in our community.”

3. An anti-gay Republican state representative from Indiana is accused of hiring a male prostitute from Craigslist’s M4M section.The Indianapolis Star reports that State Rep. Phillip Hinkle offered the 18-year-old $80 for sex, plus tips. Hinkle picked up the teen and drove him to his hotel room. But when the teen found out Hinkle was a lawmaker, he got cold feet and called his sister to come get him. Joe.My.God. reports that Hinkle is a right-winger who opposes same-sex marriage and once forced the state to offer an “In God We Trust” license plate.

—  John Wright

The lost art of cruising

‘Electro-tricks’ may be quicker and easier, but half the fun of the hook-up was working at it

Hardy Haberman | Flagging Left

I don’t get out much — at least to the bars. First of all I don’t drink anymore, and second, I am not really looking to hook up with anyone since I am in a very nice relationship.

I do, however, occasionally meet friends out for the evening or for a special event.

When I do go out, it is most often to our local leather bar, the Dallas Eagle, and I often indulge in a little people watching. I like to watch the crowd, the way people interact with one another, the ebb and flow of what was once a favorite past time of gay men: cruising.

What surprised me was the lack of that particular gay art going on.

First, let me say this is not a reflection on the Eagle; it’s a fine, first-class leather bar. What I noticed is something I have seen in other cities as well, and it bothers me a bit.

Now for those who might not know, cruising is a delicate dance men used to perform when looking for a partner, playmate or just trick du jour. It usually began with some long, slow looks, occasional subtle signals like a nod, the touch of the brim of a cap, a purposeful second glance or even just a slight change in body language.

If two people read the signals, and actually respond, it might proceed to sending over a drink — or a more direct approach. Often before actually making contact, you would ask a few friends if they knew the man in question, and for the leather scene that would also entail asking if anyone knew more intimate details: Was he a safe player? What was he into?

Of course, we also had the hanky code. It was a more direct and cut to the chase way to let folks know what you were seeking.

I won’t go into the details here, but the basics were: Hanky in the left pocket meant you were a top, and hanky in the right pocket meant you were a bottom.

Still, even with outward signs, there was an art to the whole endeavor. If done correctly, it had an element of seduction in it and all the sexual energy that went with it.

Sadly, I don’t see much of that going on anymore.

What I do see is guys checking their smart phones. Looking a little closer, I see them using Grindr, checking Recon and texting.

That’s when I realized what happened to cruising: It has gone the way of the dodo.

What was once a face-to-face encounter that actually took some time and energy is now a fast, down-and-dirty, “check a few profiles and text enough contacts until you pull a winning number” routine.

The whole cruising experience has become an electronic booty call with no mystery, no romance and no effort.

Oh yes, it is much more efficient. You can select from the variety of “neck-down pictures” and body statistics, like you were choosing a download on Amazon.

Find Mr. Right or at least Mr. Right Enough for Now, text a few lines, set a time and bingo! Insta-trick!

All very high tech and painless. No face-to-face rejections, no appallingly awkward moments. Just on-line chat and, essentially, “booking.”

It would seem to me that applications like Grindr and sites like Recon and CraigsList have replaced the whole cruising experience, and though it might be much more efficient, it really changes to atmosphere in the bars.

The heady sexual tension that used to permeate gay bars has given way to guys and gals on their smart phones texting or cruising — the web. One bar in Florida even has a screen where patrons can text directly to the screen, sort of a visual “shout out” for all to see.

Inevitably, the whole electro-trick phenomenon has spawned something totally unexpected. My partner commented on the subject of this column and suggested there should be an Angie’s List for Grindr.

I was surprised this morning when, while researching this piece, I found something very much like that.

Douchebagsofgrindr.com may just be a parody, but if not it offers some insight into the whole process. Personally, I find it kind of crass, but then I find the whole “electro-trick-speed-dating-booty-call” app thing crass.

It makes me long for the days of actually having to spend a little time to pursue and attract and seduce someone you were interested in. Try that now and I suspect you’d just get accused of being a stalker.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.Blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Screen Review: Men in bleccch!

ANGELS IN AMERICA | An adjuster (John Slattery, left) tries to keep a politician (Matt Damon) on course with his fate in this silly but never quite ridiculously fun time-waster.

‘Adjustment Bureau’ portrays God as bureaucrat. That’s its best quality

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

At the risk of being accused of picking nits, the first thing among the many that bothers me about The Adjustment Bureau is that a key plot point involves a former congressman and current Wall Street big-wig traveling through New York City by bus. Now, in a movie that deals with angels, fate and magic doors, the details of transportation may seem miniscule, but that’s the problem: If you want me to buy the big stuff, you have to convince me in the details. There’s a reason monkeys pick nits out of their fur: They are annoying.

So is, ultimately, The Adjustment Bureau. As a movie, it’s neither fish nor fowl: Does it want to be a chick flick, about how a romance between an ambitious politician (Matt Damon) and a free-spirited dancer (Emily Blunt) can overcome fate itself? Or is it a sci-fi action film with Matrix-like ambitions to reveal the One Big Secret: That what we think of as free will is actually an intense heavenly bureaucracy of angels wearing fedoras and God as a CEO who meddles in individual lives?

The script, based on a Phillip K. Dick story, is too gadabout for its own good. There are echoes of Men in Black, but not the humor. (The joke of MiB is that the agents look like clichés of spies; apparently, the best angels can do to disguise themselves in 2011 America is dress like 1950s G-Men, or extras who wondered off the set of Mad Men.)

This is a poor man’s Inception, and even though it makes marginally more sense, its style and its premises just don’t fly. Damon’s character wants to find Blunt’s but can’t — how could he possibly track her down? What, he’s never heard of Missed Connections on Craigslist? How about he goes on TV and mentions it — he is a damn national hero, after all. (If I worried about every profile on Grindr that fell off my radar, I’d never get any work done.) It’s also been done before, better, as the “City on the Edge of Forever” episode of the original Star Trek. Harlan Ellison should consider legal action.

Maybe if there was any romantic chemistry between Blunt and Damon it could work (there isn’t; a passionate kiss near the end looks like a painful prostate exam for both of them; Blunt seems far sexier when she’s dancing with the men of the Cedar Lake Ballet company, which gets the best P.R. since E.T. ate Reece’s Pieces). Or maybe we’d care if the climax didn’t hinge on weird rules, like Heaven having worse security safeguards than Los Alamos, water making angels ineffectual (on a planet covered three-fourths in oceans) and a sleepy operative allowing destiny to go off course. I’m not exaggerating at all. Perhaps if I were, it might actually entertain you, instead of drain you. If this is the destiny of movies, I say we all go off the map.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Craigslist congressman sought trans women; Maryland marriage bill in jeopardy

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Republican Congressman Chris Lee, who abruptly resigned Feb. 9 after Gawker published his shirtless Craigslist photos, wasn’t only looking for cisgender women with whom to have adulterous sex. Gawker now reports that Lee had also posted an ad (above) seeking “passable” transsexual or cross-dressing women, which could explain why he resigned so quickly. It could also seriously complicate Lee’s efforts to smooth things over with his wife.

2. A marriage equality bill that passed the Maryland Senate last week is suddenly in jeopardy in the House, where it was once thought to be assured of passage. The Washington Blade reports that the bill is short of the 71 votes it needs, with at least one former co-sponsor having caved under enormous pressure from the religious right.

3. The King’s Speech was the big winner Sunday night at the Oscars, taking home five awards including best picture, best director and best actor. For a complete list of results from the 83rd annual Academy Awards, go here.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Craigslist congressman quits; iPhone confession app includes anti-gay query

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. New York GOP Congressman Christopher Lee resigned late Wednesday after Gawker reported that he sent a shirtless photo (above right) to a woman who’d placed an ad in the “Women Seeking Men” section of Craigslist. Lee, who is married and 46, told the woman in a series of e-mails that he was a 39-year-old divorced lobbyist. According to the Associated Press, Lee had cultivated a family values voting record since being elected to the House in 2008. With so many sexually repressed conservatives in Congress these days, we look forward to an abundance of stories like this one over the next few years, and we can only hope some involve lawmakers from Texas.

2. A new iPhone app that allows users to make Catholic confessions is under fire from LGBT advocates for asking, “Have I been guilty of any homosexual activity?” The app, “Confession: A Roman Catholic App,” is currently ranked No. 22 in sales worldwide. (INSERT PEDOPHILE PRIESTS JOKE HERE.)

3. On the local front, there will be no 7-11 at Oak Lawn Avenue and Gillespie Street, after a property owner withdrew the proposal in response to concerns from angry Oak Lawn residents. The property two blocks southwest of the Cedar Springs strip previously was home to Tony’s Wine Warehouse but has been vacant for the last two years. Nearby residents and businesses were concerned about the crime and late-night traffic a 7-11 would bring. Among other things, the compromise reached Wednesday ensures that most crime will continue to occur near the Valero on Cedar Springs instead.

—  John Wright

Craigslist ad of the day: Looking at CPAC

Via Joe.My.God:

—  John Wright

The month of living romantically

Kevin Richberg turned his quest for a mate into a countrywide husband search

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

RIDE ’EM COWBOY (HUNTER)  |  Richberg allowed himself the full Texas experience — going horseback riding on a date.
RIDE ’EM COWBOY (HUNTER) | Richberg allowed himself the full Texas experience — going horseback riding on a date.

Kevin Richberg is looking for a man. And he’s giving himself a month — and most of America — to find him.

Richberg started his project — 30 Dates, 30 Days, 30 Cities — with a simple premise: Meet a month’s worth of men online, set up dates with one in each of 30 cities, and hit the road. For the month of October, he’s been driving around, starting from his home base of New York City and proceeding south, then west, then north, west again and back to the northeast. And each night, a new man in every port.

Initially the experiment may sound easy — a road trip with a date a day — until you realize it is unrelenting. Traveling and getting ready for a date and making a first impression 30 times in a row. But Richberg says it really was easy.

Earlier this year, “I spent 30 days going from city to city in India, sightseeing but not dating. That [experience] makes this seem like a birthday party,” he says.

The experience hasn’t been what he expected — it’s been much better.

“I went into this with the expectation that unintended consequences — glitches, unforeseen weather or being stood up — would be a part of this. Or that I might have completely misread who I had chosen to go out with and one of the dates would be a monumental disaster. It’s been the opposite of all those things.”

For the first half of the trip, he had near-perfect weather and “met the most amazing people with whom I have gotten along famously. There’s no one I didn’t laugh with or wouldn’t stay in touch with.”

He set a lot of ground rules: He wanted every date planned before he began the trip, using a variety of sites, from Manhunt.net to Gay.com and Craigslist, to find applicants (He didn’t allow photographs or ages to keep the selection process as fair as possible.) Throughout the summer, 1,000 people filled out “proposals” detailing the date they had planned. Then in September, he weeded through them to begin his quest for Mr. Right.

“I asked people in different cities if they would be my date in that particular city,” he says. Some said no for logistic reasons, such as being out of town the day he’d be in their city. At least one other has an even better excuse.

“My [planned] date in Salt Lake City told me right after he sent in the application, he met someone and now they’re getting married,” he says. He found replacement dates each time. (He had only one post-trip cancellation, in Chicago, just days before the project ended.)

Richberg spent two days in Texas a few weeks ago — Houston, then Fort Worth — with interesting results.

“In Houston, I went horseback riding and to the aquarium but the man I dated was very shy. He very politely tried to eat barbecue while I’m stuffing my face,” he says. North Texas was more complicated: His date had three kids and his babysitter cancelled. Richberg ended up going to the State Fair (“which was awesome!”) with the man he had originally asked out; then all three of them, plus the kids, went to a family-friendly restaurant together.

That wasn’t the only “threesome.”

“I did several dates outside my comfort zone,” he says. “I went out with a couple; I went out with an HIV-positive man in Montana, I went out with someone who’s blind, again in Montana — Montana’s got some great gays-with-a-twist.”

Richberg insists it isn’t just a gimmick: He really is on the prowl for a boyfriend.

“I got out of a relationship I was intense about in December 2009,” he says. “When I conceived this in March, it was being newly single and thinking about finding ‘the one’ — I’m 32 years old and wanna have a family. I thought, if I don’t take some radical chances… .”
So he left room for the possibility of actual romance?

“Absolutely. One thing I keyed in on [in the application process] was the feeling that the person [applying] was taking this seriously, the same way I was. Hopefully I will meet someone I will like and we’ll be friends. If all goes really well, we’ll hang out and see if this goes anywhere.”

So how will it all end?

“On Halloween there’s a twist,” he says. “You have to wait to find out what.”

To follow his romantic escapades, visit 30Dates30Days30Cities.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas