San Francisco may be blazing a trail yet again, with the introduction of the first Transgender District in the world. Called the Compton’s Transgender, Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual (TLGB) District, it would encompass six blocks in the southeastern Tenderloin, and would also hop over Market Street to include two blocks of Sixth Street.
The district would memorialize the rich history of queer rights that took place in the neighborhood, preserve its legacy, and could give the area an economic boost.
District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim announced the move on the steps of City Hall Tuesday, accompanied by local transgender rights activists and historians.
“The lower Tenderloin is the most important neighborhood in America for transgender history, culture, and civil rights,” said Supervisor Kim. “By creating the Compton’s TLGB District we are honoring this vibrant community built by transgender people, and are sending a message to the world that trans people are welcome here.”
“Transgender folks were forced by the police to live in just a few blocks of the Tenderloin,” said Janetta Johnson, Executive Director of the Tenderloin-based Transgender Gender-variant Intersex Justice Project and a founding member of the Compton’s District Coalition. “If any gender non-conforming person tried to leave the neighborhood they would be arrested, robbed, abused, and put in jail. The Compton’s Coalition hopes to create healing spaces in the district by reclaiming sites of violence and giving them back to the community.”
The reference of “Compton’s” in the proposed name is a nod to Compton’s Cafeteria, the site of a historic uprising of transgender rights in 1966—three years before the riots took place at Stonewall in New York. The 24-hour eatery was a favorite of local queens and queers, to the dismay of management. Cops were frequently called, but one evening, the patrons had enough. A huge fight broke out between the queers at Compton’s and the SFPD, and resulted in the first-ever group resistance held in support of queer rights.
But the district won’t just be a place to remember the past—its creation would also help preserve its future. A proposal to demolish an entire block (containing 950 Market St.) in the historic area was approved by the Planning Commission before activists fought back.
“The block slated for demolition was the site of historic TLGB bars dating back to the 1930’s,” said Honey Mahogany, a well-known drag queen and organizer for the Compton’s Coalition. “We couldn’t just let them be torn down without trying to preserve our history.”
Through negotiations with Supervisor Kim’s office it was determined that the project could continue, but would also preserve the area’s history.
“The 950 Market St. sponsors have really heard us on the importance of preserving transgender history,” said Nate Allbee, an author of the city’s Legacy Business Registry and a vocal proponent for the preservation of TLGB historic bars and business. “After meetings with our coalition they are not only creating a Compton’s District Stabilization Fund to provide grants to the transgender community, they’re also allowing historians to map and document the underground spaces running below their project before the demolition.”
Supervisor Kim was scheduled to introduce the legislation to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday afternoon. It will go up for a vote by the full Board at a later date.