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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 19, 2013

  

CONTACT

Gerard Koskovich

gerard@glbthistory.org

 

 

Media Statement
In Memory of José Julio Sarria (1922-2013):
Daring, Colorful Pioneer of GLBT Activism 

  

San Francisco -- José Julio Sarria (1922-2013), a pioneer of activism on behalf of dignity and equality for GLBT people in the United States since the mid-1950s, died of cancer at his home in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque on the morning of Aug. 19, 2013; he was 90 years old.   

  

Before his death, Sarria had donated his extensive archives, along with costumes, artwork and memorabilia from his career as an entertainer and activist, to the GLBT Historical Society, an archives, research center and museum in San Francisco.  

  

Statement from Paul Boneberg, executive director of the GLBT Historical Society:

  

The GLBT Historical Society notes with great sadness the death of Jose Julio Sarria, one of the founders of the modern queer community. We have lost one of our grandest, most daring and most high-spirited pioneers -- an iconic leader who guided our community for more than six decades with skill as an organizer, with talent and wit as an entertainer, and with a clear vision of equality.

  

In the darkest days of oppression of GLBT people in the 1950s, when it was in effect illegal to be gay, Sarria fought for our rights as one of a tiny handful of GLBT activists. A gifted performer, he used his stage at a famous San Francisco gay bar, the Black Cat Café, to rail against police oppression and to urge GLBT people to stand up for ourselves.

  

In 1961, in the midst of a San Francisco police crackdown on gay bars and other gay meeting place, José ran for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. In so doing, he became the first known openly gay candidate for elected office anywhere in the world. Although he did not win, he received over 5,000 votes.

  

José also cofounded pioneering GLBT organizations, including the League for Civil Education (LCE) in 1961, the Society for Individual Rights (SIR) in 1964 and the Imperial Court System in 1965. These institutions are forerunners of the multitude of GLBT activist and nonprofit organizations that exist today. Indeed, the Imperial Court system, now in its 48th year, continues its role as a major fundraising organization in many cities across the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

  

José Sarria was one of the great pioneers who created the GLBT community that exists today. Wherever there are GLBT groups fighting for equality or undertaking community service, they are emulating José, who often said, "There is nothing wrong with being gay. I want you to look out for each other."

 

  

ABOUT THE GLBT HISTORICAL SOCIETY     

   

The GLBT Historical Society is a research center and archives that collects, preserves and interprets the history of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and the communities that support them. Founded in 1985, the society maintains one of the world's largest collections of GLBT historical materials. For more information, visit www.glbthistory.org.   

 

In addition, the society sponsors The GLBT History Museum, located at 4127 18th St. in San Francisco's Castro District -- the first full-scale, stand-alone museum of its kind in the United States. Currently featured in the Main Gallery is a long-term exhibition: "Our Vast Queer Past: Celebrating San Francisco's GLBT History." The Front Gallery and Corner Gallery spaces present changing exhibitions. For more information, visit www.glbthistorymuseum.org. 

 

 

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EDITOR'S NOTE: The José Sarria Papers in the archives of the GLBT Historical Society include a scarce film clip of Sarria performing at the Black Cat Café just months before it was closed down by state liquor-licensing authorities in 1964. The clip is posted on the Historical Society's YouTube channel:

   

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fg61D1uklpI

 

The following images of José Julio Sarria may be reproduced free of charge in association with coverage of Sarria's death. Mandatory Credit: Courtesy GLBT Historical Society (San Francisco).

 

Postcard for Sarria for Supervisor Campaign
Postcard promoting José Sarria's 1961 campaign for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Courtesy GLBT Historical Society (San Francisco).

Poster for Sarria for Supervisor Campaign.
Campaign poster for José Sarria's 1961 run for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
Courtesy GLBT Historical Society (San Francisco).
Jose Sarria posing to the right of a mannequin wearing a gown and tiara
José Sarria posing with one of his historic Imperial Court gowns at the Pop-Up Museum of the
GLBT Historical Society, October 2009. Courtesy GLBT Historical Society (San Francisco).
José Sarria in October 2009.
José Sarria at the Pop-Up Museum of the GLBT Historical Society, October 2009. Courtesy GLBT Historical Society (San Francisco).

José Sarria at left being interviewed by a TV reporter at right
José Sarria being interviewed by Joe Rosato of NBC TV News at The GLBT History
Museum, Oct. 4, 2011. The display in the background marks the 50th anniversary of
Sarria's run for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Courtesy GLBT Historical
Society (San Francisco).

Jose Sarria seated and looking at a photo album
José Sarria at his home in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, N.M., preparing his archives for donation to the GLBT Historical Society. Courtesy GLBT Historical Society (San Francisco).
Photos of The GLBT History Museum. For a selection of high-resolution photographs of The GLBT History Museum, along with captions and credit information, see the following DropBox. The photos may be reproduced free of charge in media reports on the museum.

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/uylgf42u8f3bkzx/VOdFGrbw4N