San Francisco is one of two West Coast cities that will, for the first time, be naming its first Drag Laureate — a local drag queen to serve as a city ambassador to and promoter of SF drag culture. And the Mayor's Office officially opened up applications for the position on Thursday.
"San Francisco’s commitment to inclusivity and the arts are the foundation for who we are as a city," says Mayor London Breed in a statement. "Drag artists have helped pave the way for LGBTQ+ rights and representation across our city, and they are a part of what makes our City so special. Investing in programs that continue their legacies and create opportunities for the next generation of drag performers to thrive help us to celebrate our city and this community. 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 Drag Laureate."
Applications for the Drag Laureate honorary position opened Thursday and the deadline is January 16. The 18-month position comes with a $55,000 stipend. Applicants must be full-time residents of the city, at least 21 years old, and have "fundamental knowledge" of San Francisco drag history.
The Drag Laureate's duties will include being spokesperson for the LGBTQ+ Community of San Francisco, helping produce and promote drag events with the San Francisco Public Library and the SF Arts Commission, and to "ensure San Francisco's rich drag history is shared, honored, and preserved."
San Francisco already as a Poet Laureate — it's currently Tongo Eisen-Martin, who was named to a two-year term in January 2021. But this will be the first time we'll get a Drag Laureate — despite the fact that, arguably, San Francisco was known for nightlife and drag performance long before it was known for its poets.
Mayor Breed announced the creation of the position back in June, when she helped kick off Pride Month. At the same time, she announced a $6.5 million plan to end transgender homelessness in the city — part of which is the guaranteed-income stipend for low-income trans people that launched its own applications earlier this week.
"San Francisco would not be the beacon for LGBTQ rights it is without drag artists,” said Supervisor Rafael Mandelman in a statement. "This program is an appropriate recognition of the essential role drag plays in our queer culture, and I look forward to seeing who will be named our first Drag Laureate."
It seems that San Francisco got the idea first, but simultaneous with SF launching this Drag Laureate position, the City of West Hollywood is launching its own (and of course everything takes longer in San Francisco). Applications in WeHo were due in September, after the idea was first proposed down there in October 2020. The first Drag Laureate was supposed to be named in November, but it looks like that hasn't happened yet.
Being a city with a historically large LGBTQ population, San Francisco naturally has a whole, official LGBTQ+ Cultural Heritage Strategy under the aegis of the Planning Department and the Mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce Development. The Drag Laureate program came out of that, and recommendations in the August 2020 report produced by the LGBTQ+ Cultural Heritage Task Force that was convened by former Supervisor Scott Wiener back in 2015. Also as part of the task force's recommendations, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence received their first grant in 2022 from the city's Grants for the Arts program.
Come February or so, we should know who San Francisco's inaugural Drag Laureate will be.
Top image via Lady Camden/YouTube