The ambassadorial position was awarded to D’Arcy Drollinger, who will be responsible for celebrating and preserving drag culture in the city. Drollinger expects to be in drag regularly as part of the role, noting: “I’m going to be in drag pretty much 24/7 for the next 18 months.”
The role will get underway in the lead-up to Pride Month and will last for 18 months. Drollinger will be paid a $55,000 stipend for his work, which will entail producing and participating in drag events as well as being a spokesperson for the city’s LGBTQ community. There is a form on the city’s official website where people can file requests for the “drag laureate” to appear at community events.
A posting for the job said the city was seeking a person who could “embody San Francisco’s historic, diverse and inclusive drag culture, elevating the entire community on the national and international stage.”
In addition to having a drag career, Drollinger owns San Francisco's Oasis nightclub and is the executive director for a nonprofit residency program for LGBTQ artists in the city known as Oasis Arts. The club hosted a “Meals on Heels” service during the pandemic in which drag performers brought drinks, food and performances to home-bound customers.
Drollinger said that San Francisco already has an active and politically engaged drag community.
The program is a joint effort between San Francisco’s Human Rights Commission, the San Francisco Public Library and the mayor’s office.
San Francisco was also the first city to host the “Drag Queen Story Hour” initiative, which sees drag queens reading books to children at public libraries.
In a statement, San Francisco Mayor London Breed said: “While drag culture is under attack in other parts of the country, in San Francisco we embrace and elevate the amazing drag performers who through their art and advocacy have contributed to our City’s history around civil rights and equity.”
It’s a very surprising move for a city that is facing much more serious problems. If nothing else, the move speaks volumes about San Francisco’s priorities and its leadership – and helps explain how the city found itself in its current state.
The city is ravaged with crime and homelessness, with dirty tent cities, rampant and open drug use, and human waste littering the streets. It’s hard to imagine why anyone thinks spending $55,000 per year to promote drag shows right now is the way forward.
It’s not just San Francisco that thinks this is somehow a good use of taxpayer money; legislation was introduced in New York City to create the same role in 2021, but the effort has stalled after getting stuck in a committee.
West Hollywood is also poised to appoint a drag laureate of its own later this month, although they are expected to receive a significantly lower salary and will have more limited engagements than San Francisco’s drag laureate.
The role was originally slated for 2021, but a pay dispute delayed the plan as some felt the offering of a $5,000 stipend was not nearly enough, despite being almost double what the city’s poet laureate earns. The council then raised it to $15,000 per year for a two-year term slated to begin on International Drag Day this July.
Their drag laureate will be tasked with inspiring the next generation of drag artists and celebrating drag history, in addition to partnering with West Hollywood community organizations and businesses.
Sources for this article include: