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San Francisco becomes first city to officially recognize Transgender History Month

San Francisco, CA - June 28, 2019: Unidentified participants in the 16th annual Trans March, a celebration of trans and gender non-conforming people.
Participants in the 16th annual Trans March in San Francisco, 2019 Photo: Shutterstock

San Francisco Mayor London Breed (D) issued an official proclamation celebrating Transgender History Month, making the Golden City the first American locale to do so.

“I am honored to join the transgender community today to declare August as Transgender History Month in San Francisco. Our transgender community has a rich cultural history in this city and is so important to our diverse identity,” Mayor Breed said in her announcement.

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“San Francisco has been and always will be a place where everyone can seek refuge, sanctuary, and safety,” she added. “Today, we celebrate both our city’s pride and the transgender community.”

San Francisco is home to many historical events that changed the world for LGBTQ people, like the Compton Cafeteria Riots which became the first officially recognized transgender rights demonstration in America with the designation.

“The country’s first Transgender History Month honors the 55th anniversary of the Compton’s Cafeteria Riots, which occurred in August 1966 in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, marking the beginning of transgender activism in San Francisco,” Mayor Breed’s announcement reads.

The Compton’s Cafeteria Riot is one of the best-known LGBTQ rights demonstrations to take place pre-Stonewall.

The Tenderloin location, the chair of a chain of Compton’s Cafeteria restaurants, was in operation from the 1940 to the 1970s. It became a popular hangout for trans people until Cafeteria personnel, fearing the loss of more profitable clientele, would call the San Francisco Police to clear the place out.

On an August night in 1966, when the police attempted to arrest a trans patron, she responded by throwing her coffee in the officer’s face. This touched off a riot, with approximately 60 people pushing back against the police that night. A picket against Compton’s took place the following night.

Now, the area is formally known as Compton’s Transgender Cultural District, declared by the San Francisco City Council in June 2017 to preserve and honor the history of the trans community in the Tenderloin.

Mayor Breed’s office says that the Riots are “one of the first LGBTQ uprisings in United States history, preceding the better known 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City.”

Many other actions towards LGBTQ rights were recorded in the pre-Stonewall era, from a riot at Cooper Do-nuts in Los Angeles in 1959, a sit-in at Dewey’s lunch counter in Philadelphia in 1965, and a picket of the Chicago newspapers in 1966 for refusing to sell ad space to Mattachine Midwest, an early gay rights organization.

In a San Francisco City Hall ceremony, Compton’s Cafeteria Riot veteran Tamara Ching was presented a Certificate of Honor.

“As we have proven, we are capable of transcending what is imposed on us, to attain lives in which we are authentically and exquisitely us,” Jupiter Peraza, director of Social Justice and Empowerment Initiatives for the city’s Transgender District, said at the ceremony. She drafted the proposal that became the official proclamation in just under two months.

“We are our own most prized possessions,” Peraza added.

“Transgender History Month is so iconic!” Aria Sa’id, co-founder and President of the Transgender District, said in a statement. “I don’t think the broader public realizes how many significant contributions to history, culture, social justice, and of course, popular culture that transgender and gender non-conforming people have made. On behalf of The Transgender District, we are overjoyed to celebrate this incredible milestone.”

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