2020 has been such a shit show I don’t even want to talk about it anymore!
I am happy to see this year go and I’ve already started to make plans to produce more art, philanthropy, and activism for 2021.
Imitation, they say, is the highest form of flattery. The next best thing is having a mural painted of yourself. The only thing better than that is having a lot of them! As the darling Pete-Astrid Kane stated in the SF Weekly article, How Many Murals Does Juanita MORE! Need?
“San Francisco is a street art kind of town. But not everyone has an image of themselves on a wall somewhere — let alone more than one. Those of us in the three-murals-and-fewer community may be experiencing a twinge of jealousy, as a drag queen, philanthropist, and all-around sensation Juanita MORE! is about to get another one.” Yes Pete-Astrid, I am about to get another one. But have no fear, lovers, I’m no stranger to a back alleyway.
I went to my storage unit earlier this week and brought back a massive box of memorabilia that I’ve been wanting to archive. This past year has afforded me the time to reflect on my triumphs and accomplishments (there were no failures that I could note here!). It’s a daunting task that is filled with sentimental value. Among other things, I came across the many beautiful expressions of gratitude I received from non-profit organizations, politicians, and the community thanking me for the hard work I’ve done advocating on their behalf.
Perhaps most touching for me was when I came across a photo of myself dressed up in honor of “Her Royal Majesty, Empress of San Francisco, José I, The Widow Norton.” Jose Sarria’s great legacy lives on after him and reminds me that there is still much work that needs to continue on in her name.
I don’t know if I’ve shared this story before, but Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black and activist, hero — and, most importantly, friend Cleve Jones — once came to me with an idea for me to play the Widow Norton role in ABC’s docudrama miniseries “When We Rise.” Tragically flopped the screentest (but I still looked fabulous).
Cut to the year ahead of us: In the spring of 2021, the Imperial Council of San Francisco will be crowning a new Emperor and Empress — a tradition that began with Jose Sarria’s coronation at the Beaux Arts Ball in 1964. According to those in attendance, Sarria was quoted as saying he was “already a queen,” before going on to proclaim himself “Her Royal Majesty, Empress of San Francisco, José I, The Widow Norton.” With that very royal proclamation, Sarria gave birth to the Imperial Court system. Say what you will, but Jose was not only regal, he was also damn ballsy.
Speaking of ballsy, I urge you to become a member of The Imperial Council of San Francisco and support an institution that holds a larger-than-life legacy in our shared queer history.
My annual Pride Party is the most anticipated event during San Francisco’s Pride Month. It continues to be one of the only non-profit events during the weekend’s festivities dedicated to supporting the city’s vital organizations that serve our queer community. Along with the Pride Party and the other benefits, I’ve fundraised on behalf of, to date I’ve raised over $900,000 for charity.
This past year’s successful People’s March called out racial injustice and the changes all of us want to see happen. Led by an all-Black and Brown committee of queer and trans community leaders, artists, and performers, it was truly, in the words of John Lewis, a demonstration of “Good Trouble.” With hope — and a few prayers — Pride 2021 will be just as powerful.
In short, dear lover, my hope for 2021 is that we continue to move courageously forward in our fight for racial equality, find beauty in each other’s differences, have faith in our future on this planet, and as always, share loads and loads of love.
And one last very important note. I want to send my sincere and heartfelt condolences to all the families of the more than 1,790,000 lives lost to COVID-19 worldwide. And to all of our frontline responders, healthcare workers, and tireless advocates working in healthcare, you are the definition of selfless love and bravery.