Guest Opinion: SF drag artists should apply for inaugural laureate position

  • by Sister Roma
  • Wednesday February 1, 2023
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Sister Roma encourages San Francisco drag artists to apply for the inaugural drag laureate position. Photo: Sister Roma
Sister Roma encourages San Francisco drag artists to apply for the inaugural drag laureate position. Photo: Sister Roma

The art of drag has never been more celebrated and simultaneously more under attack than it is today. Emmy-snatching "RuPaul's Drag Race" is in its 15th season with franchises in countries around the world. HBO Max's "We're Here" is a hit, and Shangela stole the show on "Dancing with the Stars." Drag queens are selling out world tours and filling some of the world's most iconic theaters. From Fashion Week to music videos to local restaurants and bars — it's impossible to turn on your TV or go to brunch without seeing drag.

While our community and our allies celebrate the progress of drag proliferation, some people are pushing back — hard. Under the guise of "protecting children," Drag Queen Story Hour events from California to New York have been the target of armed protests from neo-Nazis, Proud Boys, and right-wing MAGA red-hat Christian extremists. Republican members in state legislatures from Arkansas to Texas have proposed bills that would classify drag performers as employees of an "adult-oriented business" similar to porn actors, massage parlors, and sex workers.

All of this is happening hot on the heels of proposed legislation introduced in 34 states that would make providing gender-affirming medical care to transgender minors a felony, and a federal "Don't Say Gay" bill that would forbid all teachings about sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools to kids under 10 years old. These blatant acts of homophobia and transphobia are designed to erase, marginalize and, in some cases, criminalize LGBTQIA+ people.

Let's be clear. Drag queens are not kidnapping children off the streets and reading to them against their will. Drag Queen Story Hour events have the blessing of the children's parent or legal guardian, most of whom also attend and love shouting, "The hips on the drag queen go swish, swish, swish!" as much as their kids. The fact that strangers armed with AR-15-style assault rifles and screaming obscenities at drag performers think they are protecting children is ludicrous. These monsters are terrorizing everyone, especially the children.

Arresting a teacher who reads a story about the loving relationship between two same-sex penguins to her third grade class is not only censorship, it's straight up fascism. Labeling drag artists or anyone who has the audacity to acknowledge the existence of queer and trans people to children as a "groomer" is dangerous and, quite frankly, laughable.

I grew up at a time when every song on the radio, every television show, every movie, and every book we read in school lauded and encouraged heteronormative opposite-sex attraction. Every bit of signaling I received from family, friends, teachers, and strangers on the street reinforced and rewarded clearly defined cis-male/female gender roles. I'm here to tell you, it doesn't work. No one can change who we are or who we love. Period.

In the face of these egregious assaults on queer and trans people, specifically drag artists, San Francisco has one thing to say: "Please welcome to the stage, San Francisco's first Drag Laureate!"

As leaders of the Free Queer World, now is the time for us to stand up and send a message that drag will not be criminalized or silenced. Drag kings, queens and everyone in-between have always been here. From the Compton's Cafeteria riots to the Cockettes, San Francisco has a rich and storied drag history. The Imperial Court and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence were born here. Today, we're excited by drag shows like "Reparations" at Oasis, which celebrates and elevates queer people of color like never before.

Not only do our drag artists provide endless entertainment, they raise a ton of money for those in need and, quite often, are the first ones to march, fight, protect and defend our civil rights. As an official spokesperson for the LGBTQIA+ community, San Francisco's first drag laureate should embody our diverse and inclusive drag culture. Through public appearances at events like San Francisco Pride and participating in, and producing, inclusive drag-centered events, our drag laureate will elevate our entire community on the national and international stage. As a member of the vetting committee, appointed by Mayor London Breed, I'm excited to find well-spoken, passionate candidates who respect and honor our history and represent the inclusive, diverse, and progressive drag culture of today.

If this sounds like you, applications for San Francisco's drag laureate are being accepted until Thursday, February 16, at 6 p.m. Drag laureate candidates must live in San Francisco and be at least 21 years of age. To see a complete list of the duties, compensation, and requirements to apply, please click here.

Sister Roma is a member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the well-known drag nun philanthropic organization, and a member of the vetting committee for the drag laureate position.

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