Herstory of Drag: Mother Flawless Sabrina
Born Jack Doroshow in Philadephia in 1939, the legendary LGBT icon tired on her first piece of women's clothing at 8 years old. By the time she was 19, she had perfected her Flawless Sabrina character.
Mother Flawless is an unsung hero whose archives and work helped transform drag from an amusement for straight people into an art form that celebrated queer identity. In the 1960s Drag was widely stigmatized - even within the gay community and it was Sabrina who organized drag pageants across the country.
“We would take hotels, usually in the black section of town, and rent out the ballrooms,” she told Out in 2015. “We would hang sheets as a canopy outside so people could get in and out of the building without being seen, even though they were in suits and ties when they came in.”
In the pre-Stonewall era, drag was still a felony, and Sabrina herself was arrested over 100 times of times. Facing arrest for promoting her 1967 film 'The Queen', in Times Square. The movie recounted the Miss All America Beauty Pageant, where Sabrina played "Mother" to the contestants, including a young Crystal LaBeija. The documentary received public interest because Flawless convinced Andy Warhol to fund the work. It went on to become an international success at Cannes.
Flawless decamped from the pageant circuit not long after the release of the film and worked behind the scenes, consulting on movies with gay content in Hollywood (Dog Day Afternoon, Midnight Cowboy, and most notably Butch Caddisy and the Sundance Kid). The film doesn't feature gay characters; Flawless was hired to ensure that the stars didn't 'appear' gay as the studio was concerned they would come off as homosexuals because their characters weren't vying for a woman's hearing.
In a Dazed profile, Flawless stated "“I don’t know how the hell they came up with that.” Sabrina says, rolling her eyes. “There’s a scene in that film where Paul Newman rides a bicycle and I remember being asked by the director’s assistant, ‘Did he look faggy?’ My first reaction was, ‘Faggy?’ I’ll faggy you, you bastard! What did they assume, that every homosexual on the planet called me three times a day to give me their every waking thought?”
Flawless returned to New York in late 1980's, where his partner, Curtis Carman, was based. There, Flawless continued to collaborate with untold numbers of artists, to those and attend many of New York's most infamous cabarets and parties and most importantly, to advocate tirelessly for artists, queer people, and children.
Sabrina eventually had her felonies overturned and went on to live a life activism for the LGBTQ community and for those living with HIV/AIDS. When Hilary Clinton was Secretary of State, Sabrina worked with her to make it possible for trans people to change the male (M) or female (F) sex markers on their passport and continues to fight for gay marriage.
In 2017, Sabrina passed away at the age of 79. The Trailblazer who was known as "Mother" to many people in the LGBTQ community is cited as inspirational New York figure and will be recognized for her work in years to come.