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    What’s Next?

    whatnextBy Donna Sachet, Heir Apparent 4th in Line of Succession to Queen Mother I Nicole the Great

    Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from a piece that is published in the January 2015 issue of “The Court Communique,” the official publication of the International Court System.

    As we begin the official celebration of the 50th anniversary of Empress José Sarria’s founding of the Imperial Court of San Francisco and ultimately the International Court System, some wonder where do we go from here? Is this make-believe world, which so many of us enjoy, valid in today’s world? Sure, we hold an enviable record of longevity, but what’s next?

    One of our honored Empresses, Chablis, is in the process of filming a documentary about the Court of San Francisco, titled 50 Years of Fabulous, a trailer of which will debut at our 50th Anniversary Gala in City Hall on Sunday, February 15, 2015! Everywhere we go, her film crew is there archiving our activities, interviewing our members, and asking some tough questions. Among those questions is, “What’s next?” What appeal would today’s LGBT members find in the Court System? Are we listening to those who identify as LGBT today and are we willing to adapt to their interests, or do we expect them to conform to our ways? Do new participants see viable role models in leadership positions? The answers are neither simple nor readily available.

    Having been elected Empress of San Francisco 20 years ago, I am often surprised to be the first monarch to walk at an event since there are more living SF Empresses after me than before me. My social circle tends to consist of those around my age with similar court experiences. How do I hear what today’s concerns and interests are?

    While working on a film project recently, I started chatting with a young actor who seemed fascinated with me, having heard me described in the press. Gradually, I turned the conversation to him and his life experience. Remarkably, he related that his parents had both been very supportive of his coming out, his friends from school treated him no differently, encouraging him to run for class president, and he found a welcoming LGBT community in a relatively small town in the Midwest. Excuse me? Who among us can claim any of those situations for ourselves? We remember parents tossing their kids out of the house, fellow students bullying and ostracizing us, and the LGBT community to be in some place very far away that we could only dream of.

    I often tell the story of passing by Harvey’s restaurant on Castro Street and overhearing 2 young guys discussing the origin of the Harvey’s name. “I think Harvey Fierstein has something to do with it,” said one. The other responded, “I saw an old black and white movie about a guy who had an invisible friend, a human-sized rabbit nobody could see, named Harvey…or was it Harry?” I could not stay silent! I gave them a quick lesson about Gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk, trying my best not to sound too much like a school teacher or an old fogie. How could Gay guys in San Francisco in the heart of the Castro not know our basic history? But, on the flip side, what place does our history have in their day-to-day lives?

    Call me a dinosaur, but I have never used any of the many social applications geared to Gay hook-ups, eg. M4M, Grindr, Adam4Adam, etc. I come from a generation where Gay bars were the place to meet potential partners, requiring basic social skills, conversation aptitude, and realistic expectations. There were well known signals within our clan, code words and even wardrobe hints…

    We all know that being a part of the vital LGBT community is about much more than simple sexual episodes.

    If we take that subject off the table, where are our common interests? We were immensely proud to have successfully launched and achieved our goal of a U.S. Postage stamp honoring Harvey Milk; what did that mean to an urban 20-something New Yorker? In many of our cities, our LGBT leaders have earned a place at the table, sometimes gaining access to highly placed elected officials and offered enviable positions of leadership; what does that mean to LGBT individuals under 30 who don’t even register to vote and can’t name the current Vice President of the United States?

    We are tremendously proud of our 50 years of charitable activities as the International Court System; will that become merely a historic record, fading from memory and relegated to the dusty pages of a history book? Rather than merely posing cryptic questions, I offer a few ideas with the hopes of keeping our International Court System relevant and thriving. Part of the answer is finding ways to converse more seriously and substantively between generations. We need more events that are designed to improve communication, not simply to drink and party. While I never want to lose sight of the fun side of the Court System, I also never want to lose sight of José Sarria’s commitment to addressing the issues of the day. I often watched José actively engaged in conversation with younger people, happy to share stories of her colorful past, but equally anxious to hear what was happening in the lives of others with a whole different perspective.

    … Survey after survey says that the number one reason people stay involved in the Court System is because of friends who become an extended family. That value goes beyond history, beyond sexcapades, and beyond dress-up.

    If we can maximize that potential, reach out to another generation, whether behind us or in front, and realistically research our activities with an eye ready for change and updating, then the International Court System and the relationships it encourages will thrive well into the next era.

    Donna Sachet, Absolute Empress XXX, is an actor, singer, community activist, fundraiser, spokesmodel, and writer based in San Francisco. For more information about Donna, please visit