before Harvey Milk became "mayor of Castro
Street," San Francisco drag performer Jose
Sarria blazed a trail for openly gay politicians by
mounting an audacious 1961 run for the board of
supervisors during which he campaigned in both
men's and women's attire.
Though he placed ninth out of 33 candidates,
Sarria mobilized the gay voting bloc of San Francisco
and symbolized the potential ascension of LGBT
candidates, which would come to fruition with Harvey
Milk's election to city supervisor in the late
'70s. "I wanted to prove that a gay person had
the right to run for public office, that we all had that
right," Sarria told the Los Angeles Times.
To honor the accomplishments of the 82-year-old
Sarria, gay San Francisco city supervisor Bevan Dufty
wants to name a city block after him, reports the
newspaper. If successful, the move would create the first
street in the city named after an out man.
"My own little block, that's
nice--it'll make my enemies jealous,"
Sarria, who now lives outside Palm Springs, Calif.,
said to the newspaper. "It's interesting
they're doing this while I'm alive. They
usually do such things after you die. Maybe somebody
figures I haven't got much longer to live. I
hope they're not pushing me out the door."
Jose Sarria Place would be part of San
Francisco's 16th Street and encompass an area
containing a public library named after Milk. The hope
is that the library will be expanded to include a museum
featuring San Francisco's LGBT history.
Some residents, though, don't want the
name change, and now two dozen neighbors have signed a
petition to stop it. "Politicians dont rename the
streets they live on," resident Jimmy Buckley told
the paper. "They always go to somebody
Similar street name changes that would have
honored civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King
Jr. and Cesar Chavez have failed in California.
Supporters of Sarria say his achievements, which
include founding a successful charity organization
called the Imperial Court System, warrant the honor.
"Jose Sarria is our Rosa Parks," drag activist
Nicole Murray Ramirez told the newspaper. "This
one little man has had a far-reaching impact."