God saved that nelly queen
for official street honorific
Jose Saria cast in history as first openly gay
to ever seek elective office
San Francisco elected officials rise to attention as a block of
16th Street is renamed Jose Sarria Court. Sarria performed in
drag for half a century, always closing The Black Cat saloon with
solemn rendition of 'God Save Us Nelly Queens.' San Francisco
Treasurer Jose Cisneros, left, with Police Chief Heather Fong,
and Supervisor Bevan Duty.
Photo(s) by Bill Wilson
May 26, 2006
San Francisco immortalized her black dress and pearls former
barkeep Jose Saria who became the first candidate for elective
office when female impersonation was illegal.
And the band played mighty, from ranks of the San Francisco Lesbian
and Gay Men Freedom Band, as City officialdom came to salute.
It then became official - the block between Pond and Prosper
Streets on the Castro's 16th Street transfigured to Jose Sarria
Court, under legislation authored by Supervisor Bevan Dufty.
The Castro District's openly gay Supervisor Bevan Dufty stands
with Jose Sarria.
Jose Sarria, a veteran of World War II, began performing opera
arias in drag in the late 1940s at the Black Cat bar on Montgomery
Street, Dufty's office reported.
"He became a huge part not only of Gay entertainment in
the City, but of the growing Gay civil rights movement.
"In 1961 Sarria entered the race for San Francisco Supervisor,
becoming the first ever openly Gay person to run for public office.
The 5,600 votes Sarria received were an early sign that the gay
community could become a powerful political bloc.
"In 1965, when embattled San Francisco Gay bar operators
formed the Tavern Guild, Sarria was named Queen of the Tavern
Guild Ball. Sarria then renamed himself Empress Jose I, Widow
of Emperor Norton, referencing the colorful San Francisco miner
and rice baron who proclaimed himself Emperor of the United States
and Canada, Protector of Mexico. With the Tavern Guild, Sarria
continued to build a system of Emperors and Empresses, becoming
the International Court System.
The International Court System has grown over 30 years and now
includes over 67 chapters in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
The International Court System annually contributes tens of thousands
of dollars to local, state, and national charitable causes."