By Nicole Murray Ramirez
The prestigious San Diego History Center in Balboa Park will commemorate and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn riots with an exhibit of nine of San Diego’s LGBT community’s legendary drag queens from June 15-Sept. 8.
Drag queens are acknowledged as playing a major role in the 13-day riots at the infamous gay bar in New York City, later made a historic national landmark by President Barack Obama. Infamous New York drag queens Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson are now LGBT icons because of their involvement in the Stonewall riots with books and documentary films made about their legendary lives.
Rivera, a Puerto Rican, and Johnson, an African-American, were especially proud that they were drag queens of color and “street queens.” I first met Rivera in New York in the late 1970s and the last time we talked was in 1994 when I was elected national co-chair of the Stonewall 25 Celebration in New York City. Our very own Susan Jester was a national executive director of the global celebration. Sylvia started later in her life on some pre-operative transsexual treatment, mostly hormones and embraced both the drag and transsexual communities.
The drag queen community indeed played a historic role in the building of not only the LGBT civil rights movement but in building LGBT communities across the country with countless benefits and fundraisers through drag shows in bars across the land. In San Diego in the 1960s and ’70s, drag queen shows in gay bars helped provide the “seed money” for almost all of our LGBT organizations — from our San Diego LGBT Community Center to San Diego Pride.
A majority of these drag shows were produced by the Imperial Court de San Diego and its 47 emperors and empresses. The Imperial Court de San Diego will be co-sponsoring this historic exhibit of drag queens, which will include personal items, outfits, wigs, biographies and more of all eight of the local drag queens under the supervision of world acclaimed scholar, historian and the author of 12 books, Dr. Lillian Faderman. Our city’s popular first lady of San Diego, Katherine Stuart Faulconer, has agreed to be the honorary chair of this historic exhibit.
And the eight San Diego legendary drag queens are: Chad Michaels, Babette Schwartz, Norma, Fraceska, Nicole, Paris Sukomi Max, Lala Too, Tootie and Glitz Glam. San Diego is also the proud birthplace of the No. 1 legendary drag queen of the world, RuPaul, who will be spotlighted in the exhibit.
— Nicole Murray Ramirez has been writing a column since 1973. He has been a Latino/gay activist for almost half a century and has advised and served the last seven mayors of San Diego. Named the ‘Honorary Mayor of Hillcrest’ by a city proclamation, he has received many media awards including from the prestigious San Diego Press Club. Reach Nicole at Nicolemrsd1@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @Nmrsd2.
[Editor’s Note: The opinions written in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the staff and/or publisher of Gay San Diego and/or its parent company, San Diego Community News Network (SDCNN). The newspaper and its staff should be held harmless of liability or damages.]