This week, activists and legislators organized a mural at the intersection of Turk and Taylor in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, the first officially recognized transgender cultural district in the world.
The mural reads “BLACK TRANS LIVES MATTER” and is painted in the colors of the trans flag to commemorate the 54th anniversary of the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot, which is viewed as one of the first LGBTQ+ uprisings — three years before Stonewall.
According to the San Francisco Bay Times, the project was created by local trans artists KinFolkz, Sen Mendez, and Xara Thustra, in collaboration with The Transgender District, CounterPULSE, and the Tenderloin Community Benefits District as well as Supervisor Matt Haney and District 6 staffer and trans leader Honey Mahogany.
“It is incredibly important at this time, with everything going on across the nation and globe, to have this painting right at the heart of The Transgender District,” Mahogany told the SF Bay Times. “There is a convergence of history, given the historic importance of the site being the location of the Compton’s Cafeteria Riots and the area where transgender people and people of color have lived for decades.”
“The painting honors our intention to stay,” added Mahogany, who appeared on season 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race becoming the first queen to hail from San Francisco.
The story of the Compton’s Cafeteria riot begins in 1966, when a group of trans women fought back against police inside the cafeteria, a 24-hour restaurant popular with queer folks. As officers began to verbally and physically harass its LGBTQ+ patrons, one very fed-up trans woman threw a cup of coffee at a policeman’s head, sparking a riot led largely by trans women and drag queens.
According to Susan Stryker and Victor Silverman’s documentary film Screaming Queens (2005), the riot ended with several queer people being taken into custody — only after a police car was destroyed, a newsstand was set ablaze, and numerous tables and windows were smashed.
Decades later, the Transgender District was established in 2017.
Tonight, Friday, August 28, from 5 to 8 p.m. the District will be a hosting a “virtual party” over Zoom to commemorate the riots, with performances from trans and gay creatives, many of whom have been out of work in the pandemic.
Drag artists like Black Benatar and Rexy Amaral Tapia, Transcendent star Bionka Simone, and a keynote from Stryker, the Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and leading historian of the riot, are slated on the lineup.
“We could have involved many people with a national presence,” trans advocate Aria Sa’id told Eater San Francisco. “It was important to us to keep the focus on San Francisco queer culture and history.”