The Act of Allyship: LGBTQ+ ICONS
In April 2023, Montana Republicans barred transgender lawmaker Zooey Zephyr from the House floor wielding "decorum" rules, after she rebuked colleagues supporting a ban on gender affirming care for children and protested their efforts to silence her.
Orinda Artist, Joy Chew, the founder and owner of JoyousJoyfulJoyness, was shocked by these events. She had planned on traveling to San Francisco to pass out samples of work to local businesses. In the hours before leaving for this errand, Joy felt compelled to use her artistic skills of making fine art foiled prints to show up for the LGBTQ+ community as an ally and amplify the voice and message of Rep. Zooey Zephyr. With this act of allyship, Joy spontaneously created a foiled print of Rep. Zooey Zephyr entitled Let Her Speak.
A few hours later while Joy was in San Francisco, she donated the artwork Let Her Speak to the SF LGBT Center, passing on the voice that she wanted to amplify with the artwork she created.
After accepting the foiled print of Rep. Zooey Zephyr, the Center decided to meet with Joy. During the meeting, Joy expressed that she wanted to donate more foiled prints of past and present Queer ICONS from San Francisco, as well as from around the world. In collaboration with the SF LGBT Center, Joy drew 17 Queer ICONS and hand foiled each portrait to celebrate these amazing people.
My work seeks to capture the core essence of the subject, breathing life into them.
Each portrait is drawn by hand digitally, usually starting with the eyes to capture the subject's presence. The style of the line work rides between realism and artifice, and pragmatically maximizes the ability of the foil to release cleanly.
Using foil as a medium gives the portrait a dimensional effect that is subject to the influence of ambient lighting, the surrounding space, and the viewer. It also brings the subject to life in a way a two dimensional drawing alone could not.
It is a living and breathing representation.
Art is an important tool of expression, but also can be a profound instrument of change. Zooey Zephyr's powerful message inspired me to show through my art that we stand with her and the entire community as allies. With this series of portraits of LGBTQ Icons, I hope to continue amplifying and shining a spotlight on this wonderful community, and spark more positive actions from allies worldwide.
The Queer ICONS (in alphabetical order)
Bayard Rustin was an African American leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, non-violence, and gay rights. Rustin was a gay man and, due to criticism over his sexuality, he acted as an influential adviser behind the scenes to civil rights leaders.
Bobbi Campbell Jr. was a public health nurse and an early United States AIDS activist. In September 1981, Campbell became the 16th person in San Francisco to be diagnosed with Kaposi's Sarcoma, when that was a proxy for an AIDS diagnosis. He rapidly became one of the leading activists during the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, co-founding People With AIDS San Francisco in 1982.
Breonna McCree holds extensive experience in transgender human rights activism, as well as deep roots in community organizing in the Tenderloin and San Francisco. She has led transgender empowerment, and HIV prevention and treatment programs in San Francisco's Tenderloin for 20 years.
Felicia Flames (Elizondo)
Felicia Flames (Elizondo) was an American transgender woman with a long history of activism on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community, raising awareness about transgender issues and rights. She was a regular at Gene Compton's Cafeteria in San Francisco during the time of the Compton's Cafeteria riot, a historic LGBTQ+ community uprising.
Gladys Alberta Bentley was an American blues singer, pianist, and entertainer during the Harlem Renaissance. Her career skyrocketed when she appeared at Harry Hansberry's Clam House, a well-known gay speakeasy in New York in the 1920s, as a black, lesbian, cross-dressing performer.
Harry Hay and Don Kilhefner
Harry Hay and Don Kilhefner were prominent LGBTQ activists who co-founded the Radical Faeries, a countercultural movement that aimed to create inclusive, spiritually-oriented spaces for LGBTQ individuals to explore their identities and beliefs.
Heklina was an American actor, drag queen, and entrepreneur in San Francisco. Heklina founded the drag club Trannyshack in 1996, and promoted LGBTQ+ visibility and acceptance through her performances and events.
Honey Mahogany is an activist, politician, and performer. Mahogany became the first transgender person to serve on the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC) following her appointment in 2018, and was elected Chair of the DCCC in 2021. She was instrumental in setting up The Transgender District in San Francisco, where she served as the first director.
J Manuel Carmona
J Manuel Carmona is a San Francisco-based artist creating powerful public works at the intersection of Mexican American heritage and the LGBTQ+ community. He was one of the artists behind the recent mural “Queeroes” that was painted on the outside of the SF LGBT Center in 2021.
José Julio Sarria was also known as The Grand Mere, Absolute Empress I de San Francisco, and the Widow Norton. She was a pioneering LGBTQ rights activist and drag queen from San Francisco, California, and made history as one of the first openly gay candidates to run for public office in the United States, running for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1961.
Juanita MORE! is a celebrated transgender drag queen and LGBTQ+ activist known for her significant contributions to San Francisco's Queer nightlife and her advocacy work, particularly in supporting transgender and marginalized communities.
Mark Bingham was a gay American rugby player and hero of Flight 93 on September 11, 2001. His courage and actions in resisting the hijackers are significant to the LGBTQ+ community as a symbol of bravery and unity in the face of tragedy.
A Queer Latino Artist, Simón Malvaez was born in Tijuana, a border city of Mexico and the US. He studied graphic design in Mexico City and currently lives in San Francisco. He was one of the artists behind the recent mural “Queeroes” that was painted on the outside of the SF LGBT Center in 2021.
Sister Roma is an activist, gay pornography director, fundraiser, entertainer, and event host/emcee. Since 1987, she has been a member of San Francisco's Sister of Perpetual Indulgence, a charitable and activist organization.
Sylvester James Jr., known magnanimously as Sylvester, was an American singer-songwriter. Primarily active in the genres of disco, rhythm and blues, and soul, they were known for their flamboyant and androgynous appearance, falsetto singing voice, and hit disco singles in the late 1970s and 1980s. These singles became anthems of empowerment and self-expression for LGBTQ+ individuals.
Nikki Calma, better known as Tita Aida, is a social activist from San Francisco, California. She is a community leader who is highly significant to the LGBTQ+ community for her long-time advocacy, particularly for HIV/AIDS awareness and in supporting transgender and immigrant communities.