‘There’s still something to fight for’

Posted on 02 Apr 2009 at 7:47pm
By John Wright News Editor

New chapter of Young Stonewall aims to attract next generation of LGBT political activists


The officers of Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats are, from left, Vice President Matt Burckhalter, President Travis Gasper, Secretary Jennifer Allen and Treasurer Pennington Ingley. PAUL TRAN/Special to Dallas Voice

Most people their age have never fallen victim to a hate crime, never been fired from a job for being gay, and never even known anyone who’s died from AIDS.

But according to 26-year-old Matt Burckhalter, the notoriously apathetic cohort known as Generation Y is finally beginning to realize that despite all the progress, LGBT people are anything but equal.

"We’re not going to get pulled out of the bars and beaten, but at the same time we’re still second-class citizens," Burckhalter said. "There’s still something to fight for."

On the heels of Proposition 8 in California and President Barack Obama’s inspiring victory, Burckhalter said this awakening among his peers is one of the driving forces behind a newly relaunched chapter of Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats.

The main goal of the chapter, a wing of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas for people under 40, is to provide an entry point for those who are new to politics.

The chapter was formed by Burckhalter and several others who met recently while volunteering at the Legacy Founders Cottage, a hospice for people with AIDS in Dallas. And Burckhalter said he intends to maintain the chapter’s focus on community service.

Burckhalter, who serves as vice president of the chapter, is an Oklahoma native who moved to Dallas from Chicago in February after getting laid off from his job. The chapter’s president is Travis Gasper, a 23-year-old from Colorado who moved to Dallas in December to attend graduate school.

After a few late nights putting together the chapter’s bylaws, they narrowly met a deadline for applying to become an official caucus of the Texas Young Democrats. Then, on March 29, Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats held its first general meeting, which drew more than 50 people.

Paul Tran, 29, a board member for National Stonewall Democrats from Dallas, said he helped start the original chapter of Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats in 2005. But Tran said the chapter stopped meeting last year after its leaders moved on to other things.

"I really have a lot of confidence in this new bunch," said Tran, who will serve as political director for the new chapter. "We have such a generational gap there between those who started off with the movement versus those who are much younger. Basically, we need to be able to have organizations like this to be able to continue our movement."

Erin Moore, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, said she’s hoping the new chapter will help boost membership in its parent organization. Those under 40 who join the new chapter receive a discounted rate and automatically become members of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, which is already one of the largest Democratic groups in the county.

"We can always use new blood, and we’re always looking for our successors," Moore said. "I think people are excited and wanting to get involved, and we need to provide as many on-ramps to that as we can."

For more information on Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats, e-mail dallasstonewallyd@gmail.com or visit the group’s Facebook page.

Voter registration drive
Dallas Young Stonewall Democrats, along with Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, will be registering voters from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, April 4-5, near Cedar Springs Road and Throckmorton Street. The deadline for registering to vote in May 9 municipal elections is Thursday, April 9. For more on city council races in Dallas and Collin County, see Page 6.

E-mail wright@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 3, 2009.

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