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The Imperials of Indiana

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Jose Sarria, founder of the International Court System. - PHOTO BY JOHN STEPHEN DWYER
  • Photo by John Stephen Dwyer
  • Jose Sarria, founder of the International Court System.


Indiana has become the most recent jewel in the crown of Empress Nicole the Great, Queen Mother of the Americas. The Sovereign Imperial Court of Indiana is not even a year old yet, but they are already expanding their influence throughout the farthest reaches of the state.

According to their website, the court is a part of the International Court System, the second largest LGBT organization on the continent. Jeff Wainscott, His Most Imperial Majesty, Czar I of Indiana, admits that much of the pomp and circumstance is done for fun and a campiness value. Czar Wainscott and his co-leader Czarina Jasmine I Jasmine Roberts, have been in office since the Coronation Ball held over Labor Day Weekend.

According to Wainscott, each ball is taken very seriously. A very formal dress code is strictly enforced.

The International Court System was founded by José Sarria, an LGBT activist who proclaimed himself Absolute Empress I of San Francisco, the Widow Norton. Sarria took the title in honor of the deceased San Francisco eccentric, Joshua Abraham Norton. Indiana is the 69th court in the system.

According to Wainscott, each court has a focus on charity and works closely with several charitable groups within the state. He says the Indiana court will work with LGBTQIA youth groups in Indianapolis and with the Hoosier Veteran’s Assistance Foundation.

While similar charities are supported by other state chapters, the national organization has several projects of its own.

Among those projects is the LGBT History Mural Project. The court is teaming up with CenterLink, a coalition that focuses on building partnerships between LGBT community centers. The mural will be painted in San Diego by graphic artist Joe Phillips, whose work has appeared in several comic books and advertisements. According to the Imperial Court’s website, the mural will include the likenesses of Harvey Milk, Dr. Frank Kameny, Jose Sarria and the Reverend Troy Perry, among others.

The Imperial Court is also spearheading a campaign to put Bayard Rustin on a stamp. Rustin campaigned for civil rights and gay rights until his death in 1986. He is also slated to appear on the mural.

The court is also helping a team of film-makers crowdsource a documentary called “Nelly Queen: The Life and Times of Jose Julio Sarria.” Although the initial IndieGOGO campaign only received 49% of its needed backing, the filmmakers have not given up on making the film. They are still active at nellyqueenfilm.com.

Wainscott says that although the group focuses on serving the LGBTQ community, membership is open to everyone.

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