Jose Julio Sarria: The LGBT Community Loses A Trailblazer

 photo JoseCommunique_zps0d7f2eda.jpgWWII Vet was first openly gay candidate in American history

by Brian Leubitz

Jose Julio Sarria was a trailblazer in the LGBT community. That word is tossed around lightly sometimes, but it would be hard to imagine a more perfect moniker for Mr. Sarria. And the LGBT community has lost a legend today.

One of America’s gay rights pioneering leaders, José Julio Sarria, passed away quietly in his home in New Mexico this morning. He was 91.

Mr. Sarria was a proud World War II veteran and the very first openly gay candidate to run for public office in North America. He was a candidate for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1961. Mr. Sarria’s candidacy was the start of true gay political power and gave voice to gay people who were tired of being treated like second class citizens. San Diego City Commissioner Nicole Murray Ramirez, a close friend of Mr. Sarria’s and a long time Latino Gay Activist stated “José Julio Sarria was indeed the Rosa Parks of the gay rights movement as an activist in the 1950s and 1960s.” (GLAAD)

Sarria formed the Imperial Court System, a kind of gay version of the Rotary Club…with a lot more makeup. The system now has chapters in over sixty cities across North America, where it continues to give back to local communities.  As you can see from this 9 page bio (PDF), Sarria had a long history of breaking barriers both for the Latino and LGBT communities.

Leaders who are unafraid of creating change, and are dedicated to fighting for the future and the rights of those who come after them, are rare. José Julio Sarria lived an amazing life, and during his 91 years he saw much. And he helped make the world a better place, both through hard work and humor.