San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed today announced the creation of a new Drag Laureate program included in her proposed two-year budget. In the coming months, City agencies, including the Human Rights Commission, Library, Entertainment Commission, and Arts Commission, will create a working group made up of City staff and community members to establish the program’s design, with the goal of naming the first ever San Francisco Drag Laureate in the Fall of 2022.
The working group will develop the criteria and eligibility, as well as the requirements of the position during the selection process. To help support the chosen artist’s work and community engagement, the San Francisco Public Library will provide the chosen artist with a $35,000 yearly stipend, which was included in Mayor Breed’s proposed budget.
“San Francisco’s commitment to inclusivity and the arts are the foundation for who we are as a city,” said Mayor Breed. “Drag artists have helped pave the way for LGBTQ rights and representation across our city, and we must invest in programs that continue their legacies and create opportunities for the next generation of drag performers to thrive. I want to thank the drag community, Human Rights Commission, and Public Library for their work, and I look forward to crowning San Francisco’s first ever Drag Laureate this Fall.”
The idea for a drag laureate program stemmed from San Francisco’s LGBTQ+ Cultural Heritage Strategy, a community-driven effort to honor the legacy, nurture the well-being, promote economic opportunity, and ensure the longevity of San Francisco’s LGBTQ+ community. Then Supervisor Scott Wiener sponsored the ordinance to create the LGBTQ+ Cultural Heritage Task Force. The taskforce identified the needs and concerns of the LGBTQ+ community, articulated critical goals to address these needs, and presented a set of recommended actions to be undertaken by the City and local organizations.
“The new drag laureate program is a fantastic way to celebrate and support San Francisco’s vibrant and beautiful drag community. Our drag performers are part of the heart and soul of our city. This new partnership with the San Francisco Public Library is a wonderful way to kick off Pride Month,” said Senator Scott Wiener.
“Drag is central to San Francisco’s rich history of self-expression, counterculture, and queer activism,” said Supervisor Matt Dorsey. “Though drag is a now celebrated mainstream art form, we can’t lose sight of our iconic queens who for decades contributed so much to our city’s cultural vibrancy even when it was unsafe to do so. Today, we’re committing to uplifting our next generation of drag queens, ensuring they continue to live and work in the City they call home, and inspiring others to live authentically and proudly.”
Among the suggestions included in the report, it called for innovative programing including, “the creation and funding of LGBTQ+ artist residency opportunities or the development of City Drag Laureate positions to recognize the significant longstanding and ongoing contribution of drag artists to San Francisco’s culture.” Since the issuing of the report in August 2020, the Human Rights Commission has re-established its LGBTQI+ Advisory Committee. This working body has spearheaded this effort alongside Mayor Breed.
“San Francisco Public Library has long been a trailblazer in services to the LGBTQIA community, from our Hormel LGBTQIA Center at the Main Library to our pioneering work hosting Drag Queen Story Hours. We are more than proud to support the first Drag Laureate of San Francisco and look forward to supporting their community efforts through outstanding library programs and partnerships,” said City Librarian Michael Lambert.
“I appreciate the ability to learn about the history, tradition, and experiences across cultures here in San Francisco,” said San Francisco Human Rights Commission Director Sheryl Davis. “We celebrate the rich diversity of our communities and neighborhoods through a variety of efforts. I am heartened and glad to be supporting San Francisco’s first Drag Laureate, and the City’s broader LGBTQ+ Cultural Heritage Strategy. I am grateful for programming that recognizes and advances the contributions and history of the LGBTQI+ community.”
“I am so excited that San Francisco will take a lead role in ensuring queer culture, especially drag culture, is preserved and held in high esteem through the new Drag Laureate program,” said Michael Nguyen, a member of the Human Rights Commission LGBTQI+ Advisory Committee. “As a drag performer myself, I know the transformative nature of this art form, unlocking power through finding a voice as an artist and mobilizing our LGBTQI+ community as an activist. San Francisco has long been a place where queerdos have used drag as a platform to create international movements, from the International Imperial Court System and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. I am proud we are able to pay homage to our past, recognize a drag performer for their talents and impact, and build a future for even more drag activist spaces throughout San Francisco.”
About the LGBTQI+ Advisory Committee
Housed within the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, the LGBTQI+ Advisory Committee was established in 1975 to provide assistance and advice to the Commission regarding discrimination against LGBTQI+ communities, advocate for the civil rights of people with HIV/AIDS, and educate LGBTQI+ communities about public resources and direct services. Since then, the Committee was an integral part of LGBTQI+ advocacy and public policy. Over the years, Committee members and staff issued reports and incubated policy measures that led to legislation such as domestic partnership benefits, the formation of the LGBT Aging Policy Task Force, and more.
After a period of dormancy, Mayor Breed and the Human Rights Commission prioritized a revamp of the Advisory Committee to contemporize and better serve the needs of San Francisco communities today. Since 2018, the Commission hosted numerous outreach meetings and stakeholder engagement within the community to solicit feedback on the future direction of the Advisory Committee. This led to the formation of a new, 25-member body with the ability to include representation from elected officials, designated seats for CBOs and non-profits, and general seats from community members and leaders working to uplift LGBTQI+ communities regionally. People of color make up 75% of the Committee’s members, and has 50% Transgender and Nonbinary representation, making it one of the City’s most diverse legislative bodies.