Texas is already home to the only state legislator in the nation who identifies as pansexual: Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso.
Now, a 20-year-old student at the University of North Texas in Denton hopes to become perhaps the first genderqueer elected official in the U.S.
Daniel Moran, a junior political science major, is running as a Democrat in Texas House District 63, in southwestern Denton County. Moran, who’s also bisexual and an atheist, will face Republican incumbent Tan Parker next November.
Moran, who lives in Flower Mound, said he came out as bisexual in his sophomore year of high school, but it wasn’t until about a year ago that he discovered he was also genderqueer. According to the Oxford Dictionaries, genderqueer refers to someone who “does not subscribe to conventional gender distinctions but identifies with neither, both, or a combination of male and female genders.”
“I was the kid who was bullied for being effeminate in elementary and middle school and high school,” Moran told Lone Star Q on Wednesday. “I just found that the man label didn’t really fit me, that genderqueer or gender-fluid is something that better fit me — someone who does not adhere to most gender norms.”
Gonzalez, who’s seeking a second term representing her El Paso district, said she thinks it’s “amazing” for a House candidate in Texas to identify as genderqueer. Gonzalez said she hopes her decision to come out as pansexual means people will be “not as shocked” and “more open minded” regarding Moran’s campaign.
Gonzalez noted that she could have chosen to say she was bisexual, or LGBT, but she came out as pansexual because she values authenticity and diversity, and believes in challenging others to recognize the complexity of identity. According to Oxford, pansexual refers to someone who is “not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender, or gender identity.”
“The beauty of the LGBTQ community is that we work really hard to be as inclusive as possible of the diversity that exists,” Gonzalez said. “I found language that really speaks to the way I think about the world.”
Denis Dison, a spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which backs LGBT candidates nationwide, said the organization doesn’t currently track genderqueer candidates. However, Dison said the Victory Fund is working on a database that will allow it to do so.
Moran said he admires Gonzalez, as much because of her young age — she was 28 when she took office — as for coming out as pansexual. If elected, Moran will be 21 when he’s sworn in and the youngest legislator in Texas history.
Moran, a proud atheist, said his fiancee Shayrah Akers, who serves as his campaign manager, identifies as both genderqueer and pansexual.
“I’m sure it will be a talking point — I just hope that my sexual orientation [and gender identity] won’t be a focus point for my campaign,” Moran said. “I hope it opens minds to the gender-queer, the atheism, the bisexuality, and it doesn’t detract from my message of civil rights and environmental protection.”
Moran said his No. 1 issue is fracking — the natural gas drilling which he says was recently linked to higher rates of cancer in Denton County. But he said he also wants to be an advocate for LGBT equality.
“I work for a small business,” he said. “They have every right under Texas law to fire me solely for my sexual orientation. It’s one of those things that I know millions of other Americans and Texans deal with on a daily bass — the fear of, ‘Am I going to get fired today because of who I love?’”
And Moran is no stranger to discrimination: He said at the charter high school he attended in Lewisville, when he tried to form an LGBT student group, the administration responded by banning all non-academic clubs.
Moran said he realizes he’s facing an uphill battle in District 63. The last time Rep. Parker had a Democratic opponent, in 2008, he won with 73 percent of the vote. Parker, who has an anti-LGBT record, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Moran said he’s hoping to “ride the Wendy Davis wave” in 2014.
“Although people say Texas is Red State, at one point in time we were one of the bluest states in the country,” Moran said. “We were a Democratic state. We can be that once again.”