How about Compton’s Cafeteria?
Do you know about a defining gay riot that
preceded Stonewall by three years?
Check out “Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton's Cafeteria“, and you‘ll learn about an event which is often overlooked in GLBT history books.
Compton’s Cafeteria in San Francisco was a gathering place for people from all walks of life including those who were Transgenderd and Drag Queens. It was a rough time to be either Trans or a Drag Queen because in 1966 these gals were under constant threat of arrest for wearing women’s clothing in public. Although Compton’s was located in a rough neighborhood, “Hair Faeries” as they referred to themselves at the time, could hang out in relative safety.
The riot began on a night when police were summoned to handle some rowdy patrons. When a policeman picked the wrong Drag Queen to rough up, she threw a cup of coffee in his face and the riot was full on. Chairs were thrown, the restaurants huge plate glass windows were busted, cop car windows were shattered, a newsstand was burned to the ground and blood was spilled.
The following night, saw the return of more transgendered people, others from the neighborhood, and the GLBT community at large. The crowd began picketing the cafeteria which was now refusing to serve them and things again got ugly. The demonstration ended on the second night when the newly reinstalled windows were smashed once again.
“Screaming Queens” features interviews with some of these ladies during this time, and it’s fascinating to hear them speak about their lives back when GLBT people and gay rights were rising to the country’s collective consciousness. You can watch it online, and you tube has segments of the movie available as well.
I can’t begin to fathom the courage these people must have had then (and now) to just live their lives. We all owe them a debt of thanks and remembrance.
A personal goal of mine this month is to learn something new about our history every day, and I’m glad I now know of the Ladies, Queens & Queers of the Compton Riots.
Tracy Chapman: "Talkin Bout A Revolution"