Posted by: Catherine Lugg | August 20, 2013

Jose Sarria has passed

One of the giants of the queer rights movement died yesterday, Jose Sarria. Sarria was the first openly gay candidate to run for public office in either the US or Canada, doing so in 1961, when he ran for Supervisor for the City of San Francisco. This was at a time where being “openly homosexual” risked being thrown in jail and/or the looney bin. Sarria, a bar tender at the gay bar, “The Black Cat,” was sick and tired of the bar raids and the unrelenting police harassment of queers. So, he decided to do something, which was to run for public office as an openly gay man–an extraordinarily brave act. While he lost by a landslide (it was 1961, after all), he helped jam the closet door open for other would be queer activists and politicians.

Sarria was legendary for his activism–which was campy and totally “in your face.” As a bar tender, when closing time came, he would invite the patrons of the Black Cat to stand up and sing “God Save Us, Nelly Queens. Below is a video of him singing this in 2010.

The more conservative members of the queer communities are probably having kittens and puppies, but the reason we have strong and vibrant queer communities in 2013 are thanks to the heroic leadership of the “Nelly Queens” and the “Bull Dykes” of the mid 20th century.

Rest in peace, brother.

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