Beloved Absolute Empress I José Julio Sarria, widely known as the Widow Norton and, affectionately, as Mama, passed away in New Mexico on August 19 at the age of 90.
Born in San Francisco on December 12, 1922, Empress José was the founder of the International Court System, encompassing numerous Imperial Courts, and had been, in 1961, the first openly gay candidate for public office in the United States, garnering an impressive number of votes for San Francisco City Supervisor, though not winning, more than a decade and a half before Harvey Milk’s successful race.
José Sarria also memorably entertained at the San Francisco gay bar the Black Cat, putting on and singing in opera parodies and touching hearts by leading the bar patrons in singing “God Bless Us Nelly Queens,” an early expression of Gay Pride. He was the subject of the biography “The Empress Is a Man,” by Michael E. Gorman, published as part of the Haworth Gay & Lesbian Studies series.
José touched many of our lives and will always be well remembered and sorely missed by all who knew him.