Sunday, 21 August 2016

On This Day: 21st August 1966

Stonewall gets all of the press. Lore has it that it is the very first time in modern history that the LGBT community physically fought back against police harassment. Lore is wrong.

Until some very recent development began to take hold in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, it has always been an impoverished neighborhood, home to the transient and the marginalized. Polk Street, between Ellis and California Streets, was the heart of the gay community in the 1960s. Turk Street, to the south and east, was home to the transgender/transsexual community. Because cross-dressing was illegal in San Francisco, gay bars often didn’t welcome transgender and transsexual people out of fear of being raided by police. What’s more, and because it was extremely difficult for transwomen to hold a job, many of them turned to prostitution and drugs. Rounding out the Turk Street population was a host of homeless LGBT youth, drag queens, prostitutes and hustlers.

At the corner of Taylor and Turk streets stood Gene Compton’s Cafeteria, a twenty-four hour restaurant and one of the few places that the people of Turk Street could go to get out of the weather and the violence on the street, and get a cheap meal or grab a cup of coffee between tricks. It was also the meeting place for Vanguard, a radical queer youth group established by Glide Memorial Methodist Church.

In the Spring of 1966, new management arrived at Compton’s, and they began to make life difficult for the hustlers, transwomen and homeless youth who spent a lot of time there but very little money. By summertime, Compton’s hired security guards and began calling the police to clear out the restaurant. Vanguard responded with a picket on July 18, but Compton’s policy of harassment and discrimination continued...


From the excellent Box Turtle Bulletin daily maiil-out.

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