San Francisco names America's first drag laureate

San Francisco names America's first drag laureate

San Francisco has become the first city in the US to appoint a drag laureate. (Photo: AFP)
San Francisco has become the first city in the US to appoint a drag laureate. (Photo: AFP)

SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco has tapped a popular nightclub owner to be its first drag laureate, creating the ambassador-style position at a time when America's LGBTQ community fears an erosion of its rights amid rising conservative attacks.

D'Arcy Drollinger will receive a $55,000 stipend for the 18-month term, during which the performer will promote queer events in the famously liberal city, long at the vanguard of the gay rights movement.

"I am honored and thrilled to have been chosen as San Francisco's Drag Laureate, and I am proud to live in a city that is pioneering this position while other parts of the US and the world might not be supportive of drag," said Drollinger, the owner and artistic director of the cabaret-club Oasis.

The appointment -- the first of its kind in the United States -- comes with the nation divided over LGBTQ rights, and drag queens in particular have become a target in the so-called "culture wars".

In 2022, there were 141 incidents of anti-LGBTQ protests and threats targeting drag events, according to the GLAAD rights group, with an Ohio man indicted last month for allegedly trying to burn down a church hosting drag shows.

Social and religious conservatives argue that "drag story hours" -- hosted by schools and libraries around the country since beginning in San Francisco in 2015 -- are aimed at "indoctrinating" young people, and are a threat to public decency.

The far-right Proud Boys group regularly intrudes on these events, in some cases sending armed protesters to intimidate spectators.

"While drag culture is under attack in other parts of the country, in San Francisco we embrace and elevate the amazing drag performers who through their art and advocacy have contributed to our city's history around civil rights and equity," said San Francisco's Mayor London Breed as she named Drollinger to the job Thursday.

The mayor's office said Drollinger's responsibilities will include producing "drag-centered events and programming centered on celebrating and supporting San Francisco's dynamic and diverse LGBTQ+ community" and ensuring "San Francisco's rich drag history is shared, honored, and preserved ."

The project is a joint initiative of the mayor's office, San Francisco Public Library and the Human Rights Commission.

The attacks targeting drag in the United States are only part of what rights activists see as a conservative pushback against LGBTQ people across the country.

Lawmakers in a dozen Republican-ruled states have in recent months adopted laws restricting or prohibiting gender-affirming care for minors, and passed a raft of laws restricting trans students' rights.

And Florida has passed legislation infamously known as the "Don't Say Gay" law, which campaigners say stigmatizes LGBTQ youth.

San Francisco, long seen as one of the gay capitals of the world, is a regular target of US conservatives, who say its liberal attitudes and activism come at the cost of rocketing crime, homelessness and drug abuse.

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