News Briefs: LGBTQ legal professionals mobilize to 'Legalize Drag'

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Wednesday April 26, 2023
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Drag artists Juicy Liu, left, and Pop Rox will host the "Legalize Drag" fundraiser at Oasis. Photos: Courtesy Liu, Rox
Drag artists Juicy Liu, left, and Pop Rox will host the "Legalize Drag" fundraiser at Oasis. Photos: Courtesy Liu, Rox

Legal professionals in the LGBTQI+ community will take the stage at Oasis Saturday, April 29, for "Legalize Drag," a fundraiser for grassroots organizations in Tennessee. The state recently passed a law banning adult-oriented performances that are harmful to minors from taking place on public property and in the presence of those under 18 years of age.

The law also deems "male and female impersonators" adult cabaret performers. The law was supposed to go into effect April 1 but a federal judge has temporarily blocked it, saying it was likely "vague and overly broad" in its restrictions of speech, as Reuters reported.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee (R) also signed legislation banning gender-affirming care for trans youth, as the B.A.R. previously reported.

Given those developments, as well as the over 400 other anti-LGBTQ bills facing legislative action across the country, local drag performers and legal professionals Michael Trung Nguyen and Ari Jones decided to organize and host the fundraiser, a news release stated.

Jones, who identifies as nonbinary, performs in drag as Pop Rox. The release stated that they saw the need to raise funds and showcase legal professionals that also perform in drag as a way to fight back against the legislation. Jones is a director at Berkeley-based Oasis Legal Services, which works with queer asylees and other immigrant survivors of trauma, the release stated.

"The criminalization of drag presents a unique hardship for queer legal professionals and others who have to pass background checks and prove a certain moral standard in order to be licensed," Jones stated. "The idea that I could lose my law license if I lived in another state simply because I dress a certain way or lip synch to a song is a clear violation of the First Amendment to our Constitution."

The show will also be livestreamed and is believed to be the first of its kind in the country, the release stated.

Nguyen, a patent attorney at Patent Law Works who performs in drag as Juicy Liu, is one of the people helping select San Francisco's first drag laureate and is an appointed member of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission's LGBTQI+ Advisory Committee. Mayor London Breed is expected to announce the city's inaugural drag laureate soon.

"Legal professionals that perform in drag have a unique vantage point on this centuries-old art form" Nguyen stated. "We also have a special responsibility to advocate for and advance the values of drag by using levity and parody to add our unique commentary on the state of American society."

Performers will include DJ Another Bard, Justin Back, Anna Turney, Dextra Denovo, Mx. Toffuti, 69 Degrees, and Bobbee Trans Mooremon. The release stated that attendees and viewers will hear from San Francisco State University associate professor Clare Sears, Ph.D., who teaches sociology and sexuality studies; queer Oakland City Councilmember Janani Ramachandran, and gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). Local pageant winners Miss San Francisco Monroe Lace and Miss Oakland Rhiannon Jones, who both identify as LGBTQ, will also be on hand.

Legalize Drag takes place from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. at Oasis, 298 11th Street in San Francisco. Folks in drag get in free, but organizers request a minimum $20 donation for all attendees. Trans, intersex, and gender-nonconforming community members will not be turned away for inability to pay. For more information and to register, click here.

Funds are being raised for Inclusion Tennessee, the Tennessee Equality Project, and Protect Trans Health TN.

Holi Color Fest returns to SF

Local South Asian community organizations and other nonprofits will come together for the San Francisco Holi Color Fest Saturday, April 29, from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Crossing at East Cut, 250 Main Street, near Salesforce Tower.

The event includes color powders, food trucks, full bar, LED dancers, and much more.

A news release noted that Holi color festivals mark the arrival of spring and the triumph of good over evil.

IDEATE SF, the East Cut Community Benefit District, and Together SF are the nonprofit organizers of the festival. They are joined by Asha SF, the Bhartiya Mandal Foundation, the South Asian Bar Association of Northern California, and Parivar Bay Area, a trans-led LGBTQIA organization.

Last year's inaugural event was a big success, organizers stated. "We anticipate even more participants and even more energy this year," stated Andrew Robinson, executive director of the East Cut CBD.

General admission tickets are $16.50 for adults; and $9.50 for kids 13 and under. For tickets and more information, click here.

Bill Hirsh will step down from the AIDS Legal Referral Panel at the end of 2023. Photo: Courtesy ALRP  

Longtime ALRP director Hirsh to depart
Bill Hirsh, a gay man who's the longtime executive director at the AIDS Legal Referral Panel, announced last week that he would be stepping down at the end of the year.

"I have been incredibly privileged to have served the community in this role for almost 24 years and I could not be prouder of the work our organization has done to improve the health of people living with HIV/AIDS by addressing their legal issues," Hirsh wrote in an email announcement April 19.

ALRP has utilized staff attorneys and lawyers who donate their time (called panel attorneys) to represent people living with HIV/AIDS as they've dealt with discrimination, eviction, loss of benefits, and other issues. It was founded in 1983, and has handled over 85,000 legal matters for its clients over the last 40 years, its website stated.

Hirsh said that he is confident the agency will "thrive under new leadership and renewed energy."

"The organization is in a solid financial position with talented staff and volunteers, and an engaged board of directors," he stated. "I look forward to working with our board to ensure as smooth a transition as possible."

For more information about ALRP, go to

Leather district marks 5 years
The San Francisco Leather & LGBTQ Cultural District will celebrate its fifth anniversary Saturday, May 6, from 6 to 10 p.m. at Folsom Street Foundry, 1425 Folsom Street.

According to the district's newsletter Audacious Anniversary 5 will feature entertainment, food, demos, and fun. Emcees will be Lance Holman and Alotta Boutté. There will be performances by Boutté, Ryan Patrick Walsh, John Weber with Kippy Marks, and Om Nom Nom Nonbinary Burlesque. There will be ambient suspension bondage by Twister Windows.

Attendees will be able to "strut their smut" (aka hottest fetish gear) in the second annual Brazen Runway.

Demonstrations will be performed by The Exiles, House of Kush, Service Pups of San Francisco, and BLUF SF.

Tasty treats will be provided by Mama Bear's Kitchen.

The event is free. For more information, go to

Pets Lifeline to hold benefit
Pets Lifeline, a nonprofit that works to improve the lives of cats and dogs in need throughout the Sonoma Valley, will hold its "Tailwags and Handbags" luncheon fundraiser Friday, May 5, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Buena Vista Winery, 18000 Old Winery Road, in Sonoma.

According to a news release, the outdoor gourmet lunch will feature Buena Vista wines and catering by The Girl & The Fig Restaurant. A silent auction will offer designer, vintage, unique, and one-of-a-kind handbags and a limited supply of fashion-forward jewelry, with all proceeds going to Pets Lifeline.

Pets Lifeline offers shelter and medical care for stray and abandoned dogs and cats, finds forever homes for homeless pets, and reunites owners with lost pets. It also offers low-cost spay and neuter and animal wellness services.

Tickets start at $95. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

CA launches anti-hate campaign
On Wednesday, May 4, the California Civil Rights Department will launch California vs Hate, the first-ever statewide program to address and report hate across the state. This program is also the first of its kind anywhere in the U.S., according to a statement from organizers.

This program adapts a unique approach and structure — it's a community-first approach that will utilize a vast network of community-based organizations to address hate throughout the state, as working with culturally competent organizations within specific communities has proved to increase reporting and improve services for victims of hate. This statewide program is based on the This text will be the linkLA vs Hate> program that launched in Los Angeles County in 2020 following a surge of hate, with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community being increasingly targeted during the COVID pandemic.

With this system, California residents can anonymously and confidentially report hate in 15 languages using the hotline or online form, accessing in-language support in over 200 languages, and be connected to professionals trained in culturally-competent communication and trauma-informed practices, according to the statement. The care coordinator can help connect victims with the resources including legal, financial, mental health, and mediation services. The website, will launch April 26, featuring an online hub of resources and community art interventions that address hate.

This program is a direct response to the rise in hate crimes in California, which jumped almost 33% from 2020 to 2021, and are currently at their highest reported level since 2021, the release stated.

The California Civil Rights Department will host a news conference May 4 at 11 a.m. on the state Capitol steps in Sacramento. Speakers include Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency Secretary Lourdes Castro Ramírez, California Civil Rights Department Director Kevin Kish, as well as speakers from the TransLatin@ Coalition.

To RSVP for the news conference, click here.

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