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Thursday, October 21, 2021

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News + PoliticsOpinionOpinion: All dressed up—and straight to the polls

Opinion: All dressed up—and straight to the polls

Take it from the city's top drag queen activists: Your vote should go toward making sure everyone is treated equally.

I’ve been a San Francisco resident for all of my adult life, thirty of those I’ve spent living in my tiny Tenderloin apartment—when I swing open the door; you pass by 20 feet of salon-style commissioned artwork, images of naked boys, and reminders of the community I call home. Drag for me is more than just art and entertainment; it’s about community, political activism, and a conduit for change.

This is true for both me and Honey Mahogany—who currently serves as a legislative aide to San Francisco District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney, holds a seat on the Democratic County Central Committee, and is someone who I can proudly call a dear friend. We are arguably two of San Francisco’s most recognizable, influential drag queens. We are both SF Bay Area natives who came out as queer in San Francisco; both of us as performers know first-hand what it’s like to grow up Brown and Black in a city and community that still struggles with diversity issues and representation. 

And that shared experience often unites the two of us together, whether marching side-by-side at rallies, engaging with queer youth, or championing social justice. 

For example: In 2015, Honey and I teamed up to host an “after school dance” event for the Youth Empowerment Summit (Y.E.S.), part of the GSA Network at Mission High School. The annual summit is a free conference for LGBTQ and allies youth activists who dedicate themselves to racial, economic, and educational justice for trans and queer youth. (That year, too, my annual Pride Party raised $67,338 for Y.E.S. through the support of sponsors and ticket sales, allowing them to staff the conference entirely. )

Juanita and Honey at City Hall. Photo by Marcela Pardo Ariza

In August of 2017, we were part of the host committee for the Official Rally and March for Equality, “Come Together” — a peaceful gathering dedicated to promoting inclusivity and love, where we demonstrated in opposition to those who deny the rights of equality for all. This June’s “’People’s March & Rally,” which I co-hosted and helped organize, was another like-intended demonstration to bring awareness to that very issue: allowing people to get away with stripping others of fairness.

Sufficient to say, we’ve worked tirelessly with one another and individually to advocate on behalf of marginalized communities across the Bay Area. 

Moreover, San Francisco has always been home to me. I care about the people who live here and the community built in this city, which is unlike anything anywhere in the world. It’s a city filled with creatives, queers, and troublemakers wanting to make the world a better place. It’s always been a place to run away to be your true self. And there’s no other place where I feel more like myself than right here.

I work with San Francisco’s disenfranchised daily. Whether it’s helping an elder in my building pay for (and operate) a cell phone, “holding space,” and mothering an LGBTQ+ individual in crisis, or throwing a virtual soiree to bring attention to pressing issues, this type of work that fuels my very being.

This year, Mahogany and I both agreed to ensure that all voters are informed, empowered, and protected. While we were getting photographed (in my gowns that Mr. David made) during a recent shoot, Honey and I chatted on how important it is for queens like us to use our voice to get people to participate in democracy.

“This year is unprecedented in many ways, but I think the most important thing to note is that we are where we are today because people chose not to vote in the last presidential election and all the subsequent elections that allowed Republicans to consolidate power,” she tells me in front of City Hall, the sun setting down on her immaculately applied beat. “I keep hearing people say that their vote doesn’t matter, or that the candidates aren’t progressive enough, or any number of reasons why they shouldn’t or won’t vote.”

But we both agree: it’s this exact line of thought that Republicans are counting on to take over the country—and bring us back to the dark ages of back-alley abortions and conversion therapies. That is why they have been working hard to suppress the vote for generations, especially this year. 

Juanita and Honey at the People’s March. Photo by Gooch

Our civil rights have been rolled back, our Supreme Court is forever changed and in danger of being beyond repair for a generation, and our very democracy is under attack like never before. 

“We cannot sit this one out,” she adds. “We must vote like our lives depend on it, because for those of us who are immigrants, Black, Brown, Asian, Muslim, trans, women, poor, jobless, or sick… it literally does.”

The upcoming election is a critical one for both of us and marginalized populations altogether. It can be exhausting for queens like us to stay ahead of the political curve and on the cutting edge of this country’s most pressing issues. The ones we currently face locally, nationally, and globally are serious on so many levels. There is not only a sense of urgency but one of responsibility. You must inoculate yourself with knowledge and facts — which sometimes means simply putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. 

Why? Because your vote can significantly affect those less fortunate than you. This backward administration has made every effort to dismantle the people’s rights over the last four years. We can not sit this one out.

So, I’ve written my annual voting guide, The Queer Agenda, and posted it to my website. Please try and take a moment to learn more about the candidates and propositions and see how they not only affect marginalized communities. Time is precious, and the one thing you can do right now is to vote and return your ballot early.

I want you to vote. Mahogany wants you to vote. We both want you to vote, support diversity, and continue to create a safe place where everyone is treated with respect and equality. 

Juanita More is a celebrated San Francisco drag queen, activist, philanthropist, chef, mother, muse, and collaborator. Find her at www.juanitamore.com


City Hall photos by: Marcela Pardo Ariza @marcelapardoa
Assistant: Juan Carlos Rodriguez Rivera 
Gowns: Mr. David Couture @mr.davidglamamore
Flowers: Tyson Lee for Mister Lee Designs @misterleedesigns
Honey Mahogany: @honeymahogany

Juanita Morehttp://www.juanitamore.com
Juanita More is a celebrated drag queen, activist, philanthropist, chef, mother, muse, and collaborator. Find her at www.juanitamore.com
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