Queen Máxima of the Netherlands is greeted by drag queens as she visits San Francisco’s Castro District.
San Francisco residents Maurits Dekkers and Hans Culp woke up at 5 a.m. Tuesday to get ready to greet their queen.
The Dutchmen dressed in drag to greet Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, a fitting welcome for the royal visitor from the first country to legalize same-sex marriage.
And so the pair towered in massive wigs, heels, dresses and sparkling makeup, clutching a trans flag and a bouquet of flowers, as they waited on the corner of Castro and 18th streets, the heart of the LGBTQ+ mecca.
“We mostly want to share what a beautiful and diverse place this is,” Culp said.
The queen did not disappoint: She greeted the pair with delight as she walked across the famous rainbow crosswalk, on her way to the Castro Theatre after visiting the GLBT Historical Society Museum with Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Rafael Mandelman. Flocked by a press gaggle, security entourage and two dozen royal fans, Queen Máxima sent the neighborhood into a tizzy during the first official visit from a European royal in 17 years. Fans waved Dutch flags or dressed in orange, the color that symbolizes national pride.
From left: Queen Maxima of the Netherlands and San Francisco’s Mayor London Breed host a news conference after visiting the Castro District in San Francisco, Calif., Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022.
The Castro tour was meant as an exchange between the two regions that have been pioneers for LGBTQ+ empowerment. It was just one stop on a whirlwind trip for Queen Máxima, whom Breed greeted at City Hall before the queen attended a Salesforce seminar on urban challenges and a UCSF event on medical innovations, then signed a climate pact with state officials.
“I’m here to not only learn about your history, but also to learn from each other,” Queen Máxima said outside the Twin Peaks Tavern, the last stop on the Castro tour Tuesday morning. “We have to make our world equal for everybody, so that everybody feels at home wherever they live.”
Standing next to the queen, Breed acknowledged that San Francisco has its challenges, but said the city would continue to push to make sure the entire world is a safe space for LGBTQ+ people.
Queen Máxima joined queer leaders in the historic Twin Peaks Tavern, probing what they learned from the AIDS crisis and whether the city’s new Office of Transgender Initiatives was making a difference.
From left: Ingrid Buscher and Richard Vermeij wave and cheer as Queen Maxima of the Netherlands leaves the Castro District in San Francisco, Calif., Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. Busher and Vermeij of the Netherlands reside in the Bay Area.
“We continue to fight for health justice for all individuals,” AIDS Foundation CEO Tyler TerMeer told the queen, saying the focus had shifted to the city’s unprecedented drug crisis, poverty and homelessness.
Aria Sa’id, president of the Transgender District, told the queen that transgender people still face stigmas and struggle to be employed: “There’s tolerance, but not a full acculturation.”
“Even in San Francisco, we’re not in a good place in terms of violence, jobs,” Mandelman added.
Breed touted the city’s efforts to address transgender challenges — the new transgender office, investment in trans entrepreneurs, a pledge to end trans homelessness and a guaranteed basic income program. The program will start giving out $1,200 a month to 55 homeless, housing-insecure and disabled trans people in October, Sa’id said.
Queen Maxima of the Netherlands is greeted by drag queens as she visits the Castro District in San Francisco, Calif., Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022.
Queen Máxima wanted to know: “Did the office actually help?”
Sa’id said the office did provide a bridge to navigate city bureaucracy, and the Transgender District helps shape its priorities and would hold them “accountable.”
Queen Máxima said the Netherlands takes LGBTQ+ equality “very seriously” and praised San Francisco and Castro leaders for their work. The Dutch queen, who is from Argentina, ended her remarks in Spanish.
Gracias a todos and long live Castro!” she said.
Mallory Moench (she/her) is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: mallory.moench@sfchronicle.com Twitter:@mallorymoench
Mallory Moench is a San Francisco City Hall reporter. She joined The San Francisco Chronicle in 2019 to report on business and has also written about wildfires, transportation and the coronavirus pandemic.
She previously covered immigration and local news for the Albany Times Union and the Alabama state legislature for the Associated Press. Before that, she freelanced with a focus on the Yemeni diaspora while studying at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism.


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