The First Transgender District in the Nation Gets a New Director

Longtime activist Aria Sa’id steps into the role.

When Honey Mahogany accepted a job with Supervisor Matt Haney in City Hall, she had to step down from the role of executive director for the nearly brand-new Compton’s TLGB District. The handful of blocks tucked between the Tenderloin and mid-Market has a long and important history as a site of queer liberation. When a trans woman threw a cup of coffee in a cop’s face in 1966, it started what’s now known as the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot — a turning point for trans and gender non-conforming people nationwide who were sick of being treated as second-class citizens.

In 2017, City Hall officially recognized Compton’s as a cultural district, with the goal of preserving and maintaining transgender-run businesses and residents.

But that’s just the beginning. While starting a cultural district is no easy feat, keeping one inclusive and active certainly isn’t a piece of cake. With Mahogany’s departure, incoming director Aria Sa’id has some big shoes to fill. But as a key player in the creation of the district from the beginning, she’s more than ready for the challenge — and she’s looking ahead.

“I’ve created a five-year, multi-prong strategy toward ensuring that the cultural district is effective in its mission,” Sa’id says.

It’s comprehensive, covering everything from creating a strong economic strategy, to establishing stable housing, to nurturing a collective sense of pride in the district. She also plans to bring new people in with a boot camp program for transgender entrepreneurs, and has an interest in creating trans-led, co-op-style businesses.

“Part of our effort in participating with Compton’s is to restore the humanity of trans people,” Sa’id told SF Weekly when the district launched in 2017. “Even in a world where we are hyper-vigilant of trans people, in media, and in society, there’s still a lot of work that we have to do.”

This story is part of our feature on Black people making history in S.F. Check out our pieces on Gloria Berry, Kaylah Williams, and Leah LaCroix.

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