Since 1987, the drag crew at Aunt Charlie’s Lounge has entertained San Franciscans with lustrous, boasting performances set to the tune of classic hits and more recent pop songs.
Fervent support from locals and curious visitors allowed Aunt Charlie’s to withstand cultural and economic pressures that pushed many other businesses aside throughout the years. As the last remaining gay dive bar in the Tenderloin, it stands out as one of the few institutions of a bygone era when artists, musicians, immigrants, and LGBTQ individuals flocked to the Tenderloin to live and create in a non-judgmental enclave.
The decision to drag is a personal one, as each performer’s motivation is rooted in individual histories and experiences. But on any given night, the girls from Aunt Charlie’s challenge rigid gender expectations, inevitably advocating for a more inclusive and accepting society.
Today, their stories and performances serve as an act of defiance in the face of legislative assaults in many parts of the country attempting to limit sexual freedoms and gender expressions that do not fit predominant views.