This “Drag Race” Alum Just Made Electoral History in San Francisco

Honey Mahogany is the first black trans person elected to public office in her city and her state.

The category is… local politics!

Honey Mahogany, a San Francisco-based drag performer and transgender activist, was recently elected to the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee (SFDCCC). Mahogany is known worldwide for her appearance on Season 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, but she’s also a staple in her local LGBTQ community. Her historic win makes her the first black transgender woman to be elected to public office in her city, and the state of California.

“This is my first election, and I am honored to have had the support of so many people across the city,” Mahogany wrote in a celebratory Facebook post.

Mahogany blazed a trail for San Francisco queens on RuPaul’s Drag Race and has been followed by just one other performer from her city: Rock M. Sakura, who is currently competing on Season 12. Mahogany’s fashion choices on the show were criticized by some, but her style undoubtedly helped convey her unique nature as a performer. (Her looks even inspired Season 11’s “Caftan Realness” challenge.) Unfortunately, Mahogany’s Drag Race legacy also includes the show’s first-ever double elimination, as she was sent home by RuPaul alongside Vivienne Pinay in Episode 4.

Drag Race took Mahogany on an important journey, but when she returned home to San Francisco, she embarked on an entirely new endeavor: becoming politically active in her local community. She first got involved in politics in 2016 when The Stud—a mainstay of San Francisco’s queer nightlife scene of over 50 years—was in danger of closing. Mahogany and a number of others rallied to buy the business from its former owner, forming a collective that took over management of the bar on January 1, 2017. This made The Stud the first cooperatively owned LGBTQ nightlife venue in the country.

“I quickly realized that this issue of continued displacement, gentrification, and the pushing-out of queer communities of color could really be mitigated through smart policies and advocacy work,” Mahogany tells NewNowNext. “That’s what really propelled me into becoming more politically active.”

Mahogany was on the March 3 ballot for a seat on the SFDCCC as a part of the “Social Justice Democrats” slate. She had already served on the committee for two years prior, after being appointed by the chairperson to fill a vacant spot. This year, the entire board had to be voted in. Mahogany won a seat on the committee, meaning she’ll serve for the next four years before the seat is up for election again.

The SFDCCC is responsible for setting the agenda of the San Francisco Democratic Party. The committee does a lot of the leg-work to build the local Democratic Party through voter registration, voter outreach, fundraising, and chartering of Democratic clubs and organizations. One of the most important functions of the SFDCCC is its endorsements, which hold significant power and greatly benefit the candidates who receive them.

Local Democrats are elected to the committee by popular vote, and a number of ex-officio officers also serve, including Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein.

Meera Fox/Getty Images
Honey Mahogany celebrates Pride Month in San Francisco in June 2019.

Mahogany says her main priorities for change within the Democratic party are fighting corruption, taking “big-money investments” out of local politics, and promoting diversity among elected officials.

Part of Mahogany’s privilege is her fame as an entertainer, and she plans to leverage that platform to make space for other underrepresented identities. Mahogany celebrates that recent elections have brought a wave of new voices to the forefront of the conversation; however, she notes there is still plenty of room for improvement.

“I think we only benefit from diversity, and I think diversity is not an option. It should be mandatory,” she adds. “That’s something I’ve consistently fought for, regardless of what table I’m sitting at: [making] sure that the people who are not at the table are brought into the conversation.”
 

Mahogany’s seat on the SFDCCC is especially important to her because it allows her to look out for the interests of her community. Her district contains The Tenderloin, a historically queer neighborhood where some of the earliest LGBTQ-related riots in the U.S. took place, even predating New York City’s famous 1969 Stonewall Riots. Mahogany is also a co-founder of the municipally recognized Transgender Cultural District within her governance, formally named the Compton’s Transgender Cultural District after the 1966 Compton’s Cafeteria Riots.

“The reason that I’m in politics is to figure out solutions for my community, and I think politics are an effective way of making that happen,” she says. “I feel like I have to use my privilege, and the places that I find myself in, in order to represent and provide a different perspective.”

Mahogany says that she will continue her advocacy through politics but isn’t sure what that advocacy will look like four years from now. She doesn’t have any specific political goals in mind. For her, it’s more about which position puts her in a place of power to actually enact important change.

“I think when the opportunity presents itself, I’ll know it and take a chance,” she says. “My ultimate goal is just to be of service to the community and figure out how I can be most helpful.”

Tim Harris is an Albuquerque-based multimedia reporter and journalist who has been featured in Out Magazine, AMP by GLAAD, and others.
@talltimboy