Compton’s Cafeteria Riot: 50 Years Later
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Compton's Cafeteria Riot, which was a significant milestone in the fight for equality for the trans community.
Three years before the Stonewall riots in New York, San Francisco’s transgender community stood up and asserted their rights at what came to be known as the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot.
Read on to find out how organizations across the Bay Area are celebrating the 50th anniversary of this riot, which took place in August 1966.
What exactly was the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot?
One evening in August 1966, the Tenderloin’s transgender community had had enough. After years of being marginalized by society and harassed by the police, a riot ensued at Gene Compton’s Cafeteria, a favorite late-night hangout spot at 101 Taylor St.
A second Hoodline article provided these additional details:
The riot, in which a group of trans people fought back against police in the Tenderloin, occurred “on a Saturday night in August 1966”; due to incomplete police records and a lack of reporting on stories involving trans men and women at the time, no one knows the exact date it occurred.
Susan Stryker, a filmmaker and historian, directed the documentary Screaming Queens, which tells the story of the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot.
According to Stryker, “If the famous Stonewall riots in New York City were the origin of this nation’s gay rights movement, the Tenderloin upheaval three years before was ‘the transgender community’s debut on the stage of American political history.'”
“‘It was the first known instance of collective militant queer resistance to police harassment in United States history.'”
Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot
Celebration in the Heart of the Tenderloin
The Compton’s Cafeteria Riot 50th Anniversary Committee is joining with a host of individuals and organizations — including San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim, the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, and the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation — to put on a celebration for all ages at Boeddeker Park on Sunday, August 28.
The party will also include appearances by trans performer Donna Personna, drag queen Sheena Rose, Transgender Law Center Director of Programs Isa Noyola, SF Senior Advisor for Transgender Initiatives Theresa Sparks, and more.
Sunday, August 28 at 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Boeddeker Park – 240 Eddy St, San Francisco, California 94102
Free, but the event organizers request that anyone who’s able makes a donation to their crowdfunding campaign to help defray the costs.
Compton’s 50th: Vanguard Revisited
As described on The Tenderloin Museum website:
“In 2011, Megan Rohrer and historian Joey Plaster created a remarkable work of public history: Vanguard Revisited, which introduced the history of the 1960s radical queer-youth organization Vanguard to contemporary queer homeless youth, who created their own art and poetry zine in conversation with essays and themes from the original Vanguard newsletter. The new zine also featured archival materials, a historical narrative and writings from urban ministers and youth organizers.
“For the 50th anniversary of the Compton’s riots, a second issue of the Vanguard Revisited zine will be released, with new materials by the original authors and editors. For the Tenderloin Museum program, Rohrer will describe the initial process leading up to Vanguard Revisited and will discuss its legacy.
“Rohrer is the pastor of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in San Francisco and is a nationally recognized leader on issues of homelessness, gender, sexuality and faith.”
Thursday, September 8 at 6:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Tenderloin Museum – 398 Eddy St, San Francisco, CA 94102
Free and open to the public