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LGBTQ+ Hero Stamp Nominees

Jose Julio Sarria

1922- 2013

He started the League of Civil Education and later reformed it into the Society for Individual Rights. In 1961, he campaigned for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, becoming the first openly gay candidate for public office and opened the door for gay politicians that came after him, including Harvey Milk.

In 1964 the Tavern Guild of San Francisco crowned Sarria as the Oueen of the Beau Arts Ball. He proclaimed himself "Jose I, Empress of San Francisco," the beginning of what would become the Imperial Court of San Francisco and growing into the International Court System. Today, with 70 chapter courts across the United States, Canada and Mexico, The International Court System is the second largest LGBTQ+ organization in the world. Sarria led the organization until 2007, inspiring its members to serve their communities and strive for equality. His mantra of "United we stand, divided they will get us one by one." continues to resonate throughout the International Court System. Sarria continued his role as the "Grand Mere" of the International Court System until his death, traveling throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico sharing his wisdom and life experience with the younger generation of courtiers. 

Sarria's community service and activism continue to be recognized internationally. He served as Grand Marshall for Pride celebrations and gay rodeo events throughout the country, 1997, Sarria was invited to participate in the Global Cultural Diversity Conference in Berlin. He received the 1999 Human Rights Award by the City of Hayward, and recognized by the San Francisco GLBT Historical Society, the Gay & Lesbian Archives and One Institute in Los Angeles, the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality The San Francisco Senior Center and by the Mayor and City of San Diego

In 2006, San Diego City Commissioner Nicole Murray Ramirez and San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty led a successful campaign to rename a section of 16th Street in Castro to "Jose Sarria Court" . A plaque outlining Sarria's accomplishments, sponsored by the International Court Council is embedded in the sidewalk m front of the Harvey Milk Memorial Branch of the San Francisco Public Library. In June 2009, the California State Assembly honored Sarria for his lifetime of community service and activism. 

Sarria is the subject of the acclaimed book, "The Empress is a Man," by Michael Gorman which won a Lambda Literary Award in 1999, as well as two documentary films currently in production, "Nellie Oueen - The Life and Times of Jose Sarria" and "50 Years of Fabulous". Sarria is featured in the 2017 pilot episode of the new ABC mini series "When We Rise", written by Academy Award winner Dustin Lance Black.


Best known for a lifetime of activism Jose Julio Sarria was a native of San Francisco, a World War II veteran and founder of the International Court System. 

During the 1950s, he was an entertainer at the Black Cat in San Francisco where he was a vocal critic of the frequent police raids and discriminatory treatment towards the community. He would end every performance with "God Save Us Nelly Queens", his audience joining him in solidarity. 

Marsha P. Johnson



Marsha P. Johnson was an activist, self-identified drag queen, performer, and survivor. She was a prominent figure in the Stonewall uprising of 1969. She was initially referred to as ‘Black Marsha’ which later evolved to Marsha P. Johnson. The “P” stood for “Pay It No Mind,” which is what Marsha would say in response to questions about her gender.

As trans awareness is now more accessible to the world, we are grateful for Marsha’s defining role as a trailblazer in diversity and the spectrum of gender identity. Marsha Johnson and Sylvia Rivera co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) organization which offered shelter and support to the trans community.

Her life and untimely death resulted in her legacy of hero status for LGBTQ+ humans world wide.
Unapologetically herself in a time when it truly was not safe to do. The Marsha P. Johnson Institute protects and defends the human rights of black transgender people. Organizing, advocating, creating an intentional community to heal, developing transformative leadership, and promote collective power.

Sylvia Rivera


Sylvia Rivera LGBT.jpg

Latina Civil rights pioneer Sylvia Rivera along with close friend Marsha P. Johnson was a veteran of the 1969 Stonewall uprising, Sylvia was a tireless advocate for all those who had been marginalized as the “gay rights” movement has mainstreamed. Sylvia fought hard against the exclusion of transgender people from the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act in New York, and was a loud and persistent voice for the rights of people of color and low-income queer and trans people. The Sylvia Rivera Law Project continues Sylvia’s work by centralizing issues of systemic poverty and racism, and prioritizing the struggles of queer and trans people who face the most severe and multi-faceted discrimination.

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