Berkeley, CA — On August 24, 2021, the mayor of San Francisco began recognizing this month as Transgender History Month, honoring the advocacy efforts of activists in the Trangender District of San Francisco. Trans history is always important to commemorate, but why in August?
I was in the tenth grade when I began researching LGBTQ+ history. I’d grown up mostly out of the closet and entered high school as openly queer and nonbinary. Although I went to a progressive arts school in downtown Oakland, I noticed a lack of coverage of LGBTQ+ history in our curriculum. I decided to build a presentation titled, “Queer and Trans Riots: the Policing of the LGBTQ+ Community.”
I discovered a list of eight demonstrations and uprisings in the 1960s that predated the most widely known Stonewall Riots — one of which happened close to home in San Francisco — the Compton Cafeteria Riot.
In August 1966, a large group of trans women and drag queens of color led a successful uprising — against routine police harassment and violence towards their community in the Tenderloin. Following the riot, the police were less hostile towards the trans community, paving the way for better treatment of trans people in San Francisco.
Even though this action marks US history, many people don’t know this riot ever happened.
As a mixed queer and trans person from San Francisco, knowing this history makes me proud of my identity. To know that I can live today because of these women and queer people who fought before me — and that the struggle for liberation continues in their legacy.
Trans history must be honored and protected. Trans history gave us Pride. Trans history earned the LGBTQ+ community rights. Knowing trans history is not only important for improving the lives of trans people — but for ensuring this country’s democracy.
X Vazquez (they/she) is based in the Bay Area and studies LGBTQ Studies, Ethnic Studies, and Gender and Women Studies at University of California, Berkeley.
Edited by shaylyn martos