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Felicia 'Flames' Elizondo, Trans and HIV Activist, Dies at 74

Felicia Elizondo

Elizondo was a popular drag artist in San Francisco and a tireless volunteer for HIV and LGBTQ+ organizations.

Felicia “Flames” Elizondo, a transgender activist and long-term AIDS survivor, has died at age 74.

Elizondo, who died Saturday, had been in hospice care at a veterans’ hospital in San Francisco, friends told The Bay Area Reporter. The article did not state a cause of death.

A native of San Angelo, Texas, Elizondo settled in San Francisco in the early 1990s after having visited several times. She was known for performing with a musical drag group, the Tenderloin Queen’s Revue, at venues throughout the city, including centers serving LGBTQ+ seniors. She was a frequent presence at Aunt Charlie’s Lounge on Turk Street and helped persuade city officials to name a portion of the street for another trans drag performer, Vicki Marlane.

She was a tireless volunteer for LGBTQ+ and AIDS groups. She estimated that she made 80 panels for the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, and she raised funds for organizations including Project Open Hand, Shanti Project, and the San Francisco LGBT Community Center.

She and Luis Gutierrez-Mock, a queer trans man, organized the San Francisco Trans March for several years. “What I remember about Felicia are her performances and how giving she was of her time and energy,” Gutierrez-Mock told the Reporter. “She was always down to raise money for friends, HIV prevention, and the trans community.”

“She’d always say, ‘I’m a diva, I’m a bitch, I’m an icon, I’m a legend, and I’m your history,’” he added.

Elizondo had worked in a variety of jobs over the years, including nurse’s aide, receptionist, and customer service representative, and served in the Navy during the Vietnam War.

She was featured in the 2005 documentary Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria, about the 1966 uprising by trans patrons of the San Francisco eatery (she was not present but said she wished to “hold the torch” for those who were), and her story is also being told in the current FX series Pride.

She served briefly on the San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services Commission, to which she was being appointed by Mayor London Breed in 2019. Breed visited her in hospice, a spokesperson for the mayor said.

A celebration of Elizondo’s life is being planned.

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