Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Date To Remember

This Friday, Aug 5, 2011 and Saturday, Aug 6, 2011 mark the 45th anniversary of the Compton's Cafeteria, riots in the Tenderloin of San Francisco in 1966. Gene Compton's all-night diner had become a favored hangout for the transsexual community as they were not permitted in Gay and Lesbian bars and "cross dressing" was illegal, at that time, in the State of California. This was 3 years prior to the Stonewall Riots in New York City on June 28, 1969.
In the late evening hours of August 5th, the management of Compton's called in the San Francisco Police as a few of the transwomen were getting a bit loud and raucous. When the police arrived, they arrested and started to extract some of the transwomen, who responded by throwing their coffee, along with the cups at the officers, who then called for backup. When the back up arrived, the situation quickly escalated into a general free for all, with coffee, food, plates, kicking, stomping high heels and furniture being thrown at police. During the melee, the plate glass window of Compton's was shattered.
The following night, August 6, 1966 members of the Vanguard (the first documented gay youth group in the U.S.) supported by members of the Glide Memorial Church and the Street Orphans (a group of street lesbians) picketed Compton's Diner in protest of their "No Fiaries" policy, that had been adopted after the incident of the 5th of August, 1966. Again police were called in and Compton's lost another plate glass window in the ensuing riot, agitated by a police response with undue levels of extreme force on the part of the San Francisco Police Department in dealing with what was, up to the point of their response, a peaceful demonstration against an injustice against a small minority of people.
The upshot of this was that it triggered a revolution, leading to the establishment of the National Transsexual Counseling Unit in 1968 - the first such organization in the world. After all, when a people are oppressed to the point where they have very little to nothing left to lose, what are they supposed to do to gain their freedom and humanity?
I believe that this is an important date to remember for the simple reason that this was the first time that the most highly oppressed segment of our society stood up for themselves and decided that we would no longer be pushed around or denied our humanity. With the failure of last years "inclusive ENDA" I believe that now, more than ever, we need to remember that the TS, IS and TG populations are still the most stigmatized and oppressed segments of our culture and it is important to remember that we still have a long way to go before our battle to be recognized as Children of God/Citizens of the United States/Human Beings, deserving of the same rights and protections under the law, as anyone else, is won.
As a group, we have made some significant gains, but we still have a long way to go before we can say "no one gets left behind" in the areas of necessary medical treatment, counseling and respect for our humanity through education and getting our truths of existence out there. I am realistic enough to know that we will never gain 100% acceptance, but at least we should be able to get to the point where violence and discrimination against us, with legal impunity, and denial of our human rights and needs becomes endemic rather than epidemic.
In the many disruptive names of Sophia, may this be so. Let's keep up the good fight until we've won.
In Solidarity,

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