Honey Mahogany: From competing in 'RuPaul's Drag Race' to making history in politics

SAN FRANCISCO -- "RuPaul's Drag Race" alum Honey Mahogany is reciting her favorite lyrics in her song, "It's Honey," and laughing about how fun and silly it is, calling it a celebration.

"It's Honey. Sweeter than even maple syrup. Sweeter than chocolate made in Europe. Sweeter than candy red and green. Sweetest thing you've ever seen."

Mahogany has a lot to celebrate. She was recently elected as the first Black and transgender chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party, making her one of the party's highest-ranking transgender officials in the country.

It's the second time she has made political history: In 2020, Mahogany was elected vice-chair to the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee, making her the first Black trans person elected in the state of California.

Mahogany -- who uses she/they pronouns and identifies as nonbinary and queer -- grew up in San Francisco. After attending USC in Los Angeles, she returned to San Francisco to earn her master's degree in social work from UC Berkeley. It was during her university days that Mahogany first tried drag for a student film and discovered drag represented more than a performance, but rather, an essential part of who she was.

"I began to embrace it. Drag for me had always been a celebration of what was feminine in myself. But I realized that I didn't have to be in drag to celebrate that about myself and acknowledge the full spectrum of my gender," Mahogany said. "To this day, I don't really necessarily completely identify as a woman. I think that gender is fluid, and that it can change and that sometimes it changes over time."

Mahogany has been busy working to empower transgender people and preserve the culture, character and history of the LGBTQ+ community in San Francisco. Along with Aria Sa'id and Janetta Johnson, she co-founded the first legally recognized transgender district in the world, Compton's Transgender Cultural District, which encompasses six blocks in the Tenderloin neighborhood.

Mahogany announced her candidacy of the Democratic party on the corner of Turk and Taylor, where a plaque commemorates the 1966 Compton's Cafeteria riot -- one of the first documented collective uprisings of LGBTQ+ people that helped bring about LGBTQ+ rights.

"We are not just a district. We're not just a neighborhood. I think we are a cultural center, who also is pushing and pushing and pushing to create more and more transgender political power, and economic and social advancement of some of our most marginalized populations," Sa'id said.

Mahogany is also a co-owner of The Stud, the oldest and beloved queer bar in San Francisco. In 2017, she and others formed a collective to take over the ownership and management of the bar, making it the first worker-owned cooperative nightclub in the country. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Stud closed in 2020 but the owners hope to reopen it.

"With the closure of a lot of queer bars, a lot of the institutions that we've relied on for so long, I think that's something that I'm also really afraid that we might lose," Mahogany said.

While there are constant challenges and barriers for the transgender community, which Mahogany is fighting to change through her work, she also wanted people to understand the beauty and joy of being transgender.

"We oftentimes see this narrative in the media of how horrible trans people's lives are, how they're discriminated against, how they're being murdered. And all of those things are true. Trans people face tremendous discrimination, have just so many barriers that they have to overcome in order to be their full authentic selves and just to live," Mahogany said. "But when you look past those barriers, you get to not just the resiliency, but I think the creativity and the abundance of love that exists within the trans community."

Ultimately, Mahogany said she is fighting for a future where diversity is celebrated and valued, and is doing so by building spaces that affirm and preserve the beauty and power of queer and trans life.

"I want to see a world where we can all be successful and supportive, where we all are getting our basic needs met, and where we value diversity and don't see it as a threat," she said.

Watch the video to learn more about Honey Mahogany's journey and history-making work.

This Pride Month, we're celebrating members of the transgender community as a part of a special series called Our America: Who I'm Meant to Be. Click here for more stories from your city and around the country.
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