Araguz booking raises questions about Harris County jail’s treatment of transgender inmates

Judge Vanessa Valasquez

Judge Vanessa Valasquez

According to the Houston Chronicle, Nikki Araguz has been booked into the Harris County Jain after arriving 40 minutes late for a scheduled court appearance on Friday. The court date was to allow Araguz to plead guilty to charges that she stole a watch from an acquaintance last year. Under the proposed plea bargain Araguz would have paid $2,600 in restitution and served 15 days in county jail. State District Judge Vanessa Velasquez, a Republican first appointed to the bench by Gov. Rick Perry, responded to Araguz’ apologies for her tardiness with “It’s too late for sorry,” ordering bailiffs to escort her to a hold cell next to the courtroom.

Araguz is the widow of firefighter Capt. Thomas Araguz who died in the line of duty last year. Capt. Araguz’s ex-wife and mother have sued to claim the portion of his survivor’s benefits reserved for the spouses of slain firefighters, claiming that since Nikki Araguz was identified as male at birth the marriage was invalid under Texas’ laws prohibiting the recognition of same-sex marriage. Mrs. Araguz’s birth certificate identifies her as female, as does her state issued identification.

Araguz’s booking has raised questions about the Harris County’s treatment of transgender detainees. The Sheriff Department’s Public Information Inquiry System listed Araguz using her male birth name on Friday. They have since removed the name from the site’s searchable database but have retained the record, listing it under the department’s “special person number” (SPN) filing system. The SPN record includes Araguz’s birth name. The Sheriff’s office has not returned calls from Houstini asking why the department is not using Araguz’s legal name and if this is common practice.

According to a friend who has visited Araguz at the jail her identity bracelet correctly identifies her gender as “F” – but reflects Araguz’s birth name, not her legal name. Araguz is segregated from the general jail population, but can receive visitors during regular visiting hours.

Araguz will remain in the Harris County Jail until Jan 25 when she is scheduled to appear again before Judge Velasquez.

—  admin

Looking for info on drag queen Kelly King

Anybody out there in Instant Tea Land know what became of a drag queen called Kelly King from Louisville, Ky.?

I got an e-mail today from David Williams of the Williams-Nichols Institute Inc., which is the corporate sponsor of the Williams-Nichols Archive and Library for LGBT Studies at the University of Louisville. They are trying to gather information on Kelly King, a drag queen who was profiled in the Louisville Times’ Scene Magazine on April 8. 1978. Apparently, the article set off what Williams calls “a firestorm of angry letters” from readers, an incident that has become, he said, “one of the earliest landmarks in Louisville LGBT history.”

From what Williams has heard, King has since died and is buried somewhere in the Louisville area. But they haven’t been able to verify that, and if she is buried there, they don’t know where. Here’s what they have heard:

1. Kelly King’s birth name was supposedly Rex Altman. He graduated from Doss High School in the Okolona area of Louisville in 1971 or 1972. Kelly King performed drag for several years at the old Odyssey club in Louisville and some other clubs. She apparently performed with Cissy Blake (Darrell Robinson), and Cissy Blake may have been the one who got Kelly King into the drag business.

2. By the late 1980s, Kelly King had moved to Pensacola, Fla., and continued to perform there. They have video of her performing at a 1988 AIDS benefit in Pensacola for the group EASE.

3. From Pensacola, Kelly King reportedly moved to San Francisco where she was murdered sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s. Her body was returned to Louisville and she was buried there “in her favorite black dress.”

And here’s what they want to know:

1. Where is Kelly King’s grave?

2. Did anyone attend her funeral and/or burial?

3. What is her date of death?

4. Does she have any family still living in the Louisville area?

I know there isn’t an obvious North Texas link to this story, but hey, drag queens travel all over to perform, and I know back in the early 1980s, performers from all over used to come to Dallas to perform at Joe Elliott’s bar, The Landing. Maybe Kelly King had fans here? Or maybe somebody who lives here now used to live in Louisville, or Pensacola, or San Francisco, and knew her and has information on what became of Kelly King. Plus, we do have readers all over the country who might see this post, too, and be able to help out with some info.

Anybody who knows anything is asked to contact the archives by e-mail at or

And here’s the video of Kelly King performing to raise money for EASE at Snoopy’s (which later became Fantasy, which burned down).

—  admin