Remembering Jose Julio Sarria: 1st gay person to run for office

Remembering Jose Julio Sarria: 1st gay person to run for office

Remembering Jose Julio Sarria: 1st gay person to run for office.

Remembering Jose Julio Sarria: 1st gay person to run for office

A celebrated performer at the Black Cat in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood in the mid-1950s and early 1960s, José Julio Sarria was the first openly gay person in the United States to run for elected office when he joined the race for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1961. Sarria entered the race because city officials threatened to shut down all the gay bars.

Sarria lost the election, but garnered almost 6,000 votes, proving for the first time in American politics that the LGTBQ community had a voting bloc. He also earned a place in gay history.

Sarria died Aug. 19, 2014, from cancer in his Albuquerque home. He was 90.

In 1965, Sarria founded the Imperial Court system, the international network of drag organizations that raise funds for charity.

Filmmaker Dante Alencastre, who’s profiled trans-Latina activist Bamby Salcedo, is raising funds to make a documentary on Sarria, “Nelly Queen: The Life and Times of Jose Sarria.”

The film’s title comes from an expression Sarria used. Whenever law enforcement vice squads entered the Black Cat café to harass and entrap patrons, Sarria exposed them by forcing his closeted patrons to stand up and sing “God, Save Us Nelly Queens,” a takeoff on Britain’s national anthem, as the vice thugs marched out of the café.

 

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