Mourners celebrate gay rights pioneer Jose Sarria

SFGate
|
September 9, 2013

San Francisco put on a funeral fit for an empress at Grace Cathedral on Friday for Jose Julio Sarria, a drag queen who became a pioneer in the gay rights movement.

The funeral combined all the pomp of theEpiscopal Church with the flamboyance of gay life. The Right Rev. Mark Handley Andrus, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California, presided. Two empresses and two public officials were among those who gave eulogies.

Sarria's official title was Empress Jose I, the Widow Norton, and his ceremony looked like one of those state funerals held for royalty in Victorian times. Some mourners wore long dresses with trains; the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence had a place of honor.

Sarria was hailed as a colorful pioneer in many guises, and also as a great man.