A Short History of an Empire once Larger that 26 European Nations.
The history of our Empire, here in Sacramento, is a glorious saga which has altered, illuminated, and enriched all our lives throughout our gay community here in the glittering capital of the sixth wealthiest economic unit on Earth. Each and every one of us has benefited in some way by some act of out Empire, its Imperial Court, or the Monarchs that reigned over both. Today our Empire, and the cast International Imperial System to which it belongs, is an anachronism in the gay community; but as its zenith, our Imperial Court was the undisputed and absolute leader of the gay community that reigned over seven Courts in cities and towns all over northern California, whose members knelt in loving subjugation to a throne even El Dorado would envy, and an Empire with a land mass larger than 26 European nations. A stroke of the Imperial pen could bring down oppressive elected officials, build community centers, organize entire gay communities, keep the doors of Hope House open, and even raise funds for Mom Guess What newspaper. Few people today know what was going on in a small unknown bar in Greenwich Village, when a routine police raid on June 28, 1969, lead to a rebellion that brought the City of New York to its knees, shook the Republic to it’s foundations, and altered forever the lives of the gay citizens throughout North America, maybe even the World. Gay Liberation did not start with the guys-in-ties sitting around a conference table in a mahogany-paneled office, it was the drag queens who said: “We have taken enough, now we demand our Rights!” The New York City Police had stormed into the midst of an Imperial Coronation and no power in the universe can equal the fury of a drag queen knocked off her stage. Stonewall was the beginning of the modern gay liberation movement, and the first blow for gay freedom came from a man dressed in a green dress named Marsha P. Johnson hit a cop with a shot glass. Look on the gay flag, the green stripe is in the middle, the most honored position on that flag, and when royalty is present, the purple goes at the top.
A question one often hears is “Where did all this come from?” The idea for a gay court began in central Europe in the 1840s as a way to “encourage” governments to grant some rights to gay people. For us, in the United States, the gay court system began, not in San Francisco, but in Seattle. About 38 years ago, Seattle was almost leveled by a horrible fire. The hardest hit was the gay ghetto. Kings County refused any aid to the gay families that had lost everything. So the gay community was forced to raise relief funds themselves. The county refused to allow this until the organizers came to the County.
Commission Meeting to name their officers. Our brothers and sister went, not to name a President of the Board, but to embarrass Kings County for their homophobia and to proclaim an Empress and her council based on the European idea of over a century ago. At the first annual ball, folks from Portland came and carried the idea back to their city where they founded the Court of the Snow Queens. To the first annual ball from San Francisco, came Jose Sarria, who is known and adored as the man who organized the Imperial System on the national basis and took the title of Empress I, the Widow Norton. In Sacramento, the bars of the late 1960s had what was called the King and Queen of Hearts. About 1970 this evolved into the Camelia Court reigned over by an annually elected King and Queen. In 1973, beset by the community and palace coups, the Camelia Kingdom collapsed. Out of the ashes, rising like a phoenix to soar with the Imperial Eagles, the Court of the Great Northwest Imperial Empire (CGNIE) was born. This year as the City of Sacramento prepares for is Sesqui Centennial, our Empire is celebrating its Silver Jubilee of service to the Capital’s gay community. Just as empires of yore had dynasties, so CGNIE does too, four of them. The first Dynasty, called The New Empire, was mostly organizational in nature. The first Empress, Billy (Roundtree), got Mama Jose to grant us the right to form an Empires. Billy I, also granted Stockton the right to form an Empire in San Joaquin County. The first Emperor, Timothy The Great, got San Francisco Empress Maxine to grant territory to CGNIE. Tim took a sword, waded into San Francisco Bay, and claimed all counties to the North for Sacramento. That sword had been handed down to every CHNIE Emperor for 25 years. Shannon V prevented the rebellion from splitting the Empire in two and has been called Shannon The Magnificent ever since. As the first Dynasty drew to an end, Empress Tina Barbarossa VII rescued the Empire from the very edge of bankruptcy and left a founding fund of $2,000 to start each new reign, a tradition carried forth to the present moment.
The Second Dynasty, called The Corporate Empire, began in the reign of Ginger Jerome VIII and started a five-year process to make CGNIE a legal California Corporation, to prevent financial ruin from ever troubling us again. This process was completed on September 12, 1991, when Emperor Terry Sidie XIII completed the task. The ninth Emperor, Douglas IX, was so upset by Count Sheriff Dwayne Lowe’s defiance of the US Supreme Court when the sheriff said, “I’ll never hire a faggot to work for my Sheriff’s Department” that the Emperor called his Leather Mistresses, Kate and Carol, to organize the greatest voter registration drive in the history of California. Even Governor Jerry Brown noticed the results. In three weeks, the Empire signed up to 1,500 new voters, a record unequaled in California history; and Sheriff Lowe lost his re-election bid by 992 votes. This, in turn, lead to the foundation of the River City Democratic Club when gays realized the political power they have. After RCDC was founded, their Capital Political Action Committee took up the political struggle for gay rights. In the reign of Empress Yvette and Emperor Chuck XII, the Empire of Stockton collapsed and Sacramento took back the territory to reorganize the Empire. The CGNIE Board of Directors sent Charlie Preston to Stockton as the Viceroy (the first Viceroy ever in the Imperial System) to restore the Stocktonian Throne. This was accomplished during the reign of Emperor Terry XIII, who gave Charlie the Lifetime Title of Imperial Grand duke of Dragonlaire. As the second Dynasty drew to a close, Emperor Terry XIII assisted in the founding of the Lambda Community Center (now known as The Sacramento Gay and Lesbian Center), which was his proudest accomplishment.
As the Third Dynasty, called the Federal Empire, began, Emperor Ralph VIX and his Empress, Shay, were approached by a delegation from Chico asking for a Court of their own. Chico lay’s within the territory claimed by Timothy The Great, and Sacramento was their Mother Court. The much adored Empress La Kish XV accepted an invitation for a State visit to Chico to attend the gay prom there; and the Province of Chico was born, the first Provincial Court in the Imperial System. The Province was difficult to administer, and it was Emperor Paul XVI that finally brought Chico and Sacramento together. While on a State visit to Provincial Chico, Empress Stacy XVI, the most elected person in CGNIE history, was elected to form a Court in Redding. Stacy and Paul made a State visit to Redding that was announced on the radio and the Barony of Redding was born. As the Third Dynasty drew to a close, Empress Lady Garnet and her Emperor, Leonard XVII, granted Independence to both Chico and Redding, now functioning Empires on their own.
The Fourth Dynasty is called the Second Corporate Empire. The Empire is able to devote all its energy to local affairs. Beginning in the reign of Empress Racine XXI, the Court began to recruit members from both the Latino and African-American gay communities. Prince President Terry Sidie (of the Corporate Board) brought the extremely popular Rainbow Festival into the Corporation to exist alongside and together with the Court. This makes it possible for CGNIE. Inc. to have a Corporate Office which is the envy of the Imperial World. Soon the Fairy Godfathers also joined CGNIE, Inc. Empress Racine XXI also attended campaign meeting for Tony Miller, when Tony ran for the Office of Secretary of State. While his lover looked on, Tony acknowledged Racine as his Empress. Every year for is 25-year long history, CGNIE has elected from the gay community at large, monarchs to rain for a year and raise money for gay-supportive charities. Over the years, CGNIE has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for our gay brothers and sisters.
The 5th Dynasty has begun! Coming back to find out the rest of the story.