Monday, May 08, 2017

Before Stonewall, Before…

Before Compton’s, before Dewey’s, before L.A.’s Black Cat there was Cooper's.

Stonewall wasn’t the first uprising, it wasn’t even the second, but as far as we know now it was the fifth uprising but I guess Stonewall got the press coverage.

This showed up on my news feed, even though it is 2 years old it bears repeating.
Ladies In The Streets: Before Stonewall, Transgender Uprising Changed Lives
NPR
By Nicole Pasulka
May 5, 2015

It was after the bars had closed and well into the pre-dawn hours of an August morning in 1966 when San Francisco cops were in Gene Compton's cafeteria again. They were arresting drag queens, trans women and gay hustlers who had been sitting for hours, eating and gossiping and coming down from their highs with the help of 60-cent cups of coffee.

The 24-hour eatery was a local favorite. It was centrally located — adjacent to the hair salon, the corner bar and the bathhouse — and provided a well-lit and comfortable haven for trans women performing in clubs or walking the streets in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood.
[…]
Compton's management didn't want the cafeteria to be a popular late-night hangout for drag queens, trans women and hustlers. Workers would often call the police at night to clear the place out. The Tenderloin, where sex work, gambling, and drug use were commonplace, was one of only a few neighborhoods where trans women and drag queens could live openly. Yet they were still regularly subject to police harassment and arrested for the crime of "female impersonation."

And when a policeman in Compton's grabbed a drag queen, she threw a cup of coffee in his face. The cafeteria "erupted," according to Susan Stryker, a historian who directed Screaming Queens. People flipped tables and threw cutlery. Sugar shakers crashed through the restaurant's windows and doors. Drag queens swung their heavy purses at officers. Outside on the street, dozens of people fought back as police forced them into paddy wagons. The crowd trashed a cop car and set a newsstand on fire.
Moral to the story, don’t aggravate a trans woman with a coffee in her hand. I say that because back in 1959 another uprising started the same way,
10 Years Before Stonewall, There Was the Cooper's Donuts Riot
The first gay uprising in the United States occurred ten years before Stonewall, on the opposite side of the country.
Out
By Evan Moffitt
May 31, 2015

In May of 1959, a group of drag queens and hustlers fought cops in a donut shop in downtown Los Angeles, furious that LAPD officers were arresting their friends purely for legally congregating in Cooper’s Donuts, a popular gay meeting place.
[…]
Rechy was in fact one of three people the police tried to arrest that night in May of 1959, when the patrons of Cooper’s had had enough. A large group of transgendered women and others pelted the officers with donuts, coffee, and paper plates until they were forced to retreat and return with larger numbers. Rechy managed to escape, but when the police returned a riot ensued that shut down Main Street for an entire day.

That night is widely considered to be the first gay uprising in modern history, seven years before the Black Cat Riot* in L.A.’s Silverlake neighborhood, and ten years before the Stonewall Rebellion.
There is that coffee cups again!

These uprising have been distorted over time into a “Gay” uprising which negates the history of trans people and lesbians. We have seen this effort by some white Gay men to make the world revolve around them when in reality there were gender queer, trans people, lesbians and racial minorities were involved. Most of the time the police went after gender queer and trans people checking that they were wearing at least three pieces of birth gender clothing. It was also the trans people who were working the streets in order to survive that the police attacked.

Back in 2008 Metroline was called out because they said,
As we enter the Pride month I for one hope the community takes a moment to reflect back on all the effort put forth by gay men and women in the past to secure the freedom and acceptance we currently enjoy today. Fighting during a period in time where it was hazardous to one’s physical health to be on the forefront. Stonewall was not simply an activist protest where they went home afterwards and partied. They were beaten and dragged away to jail by the police. It was a time when fag bashing was an accepted method of controlling homos and keeping them out of the neighborhood. There were no drag queens there at all. It was gay human beings simply standing up for being who they were. [My emphasis] Making a stand even though they fully knew the dangers of doing so. That’s true courage no different than that on a battlefield.
You can read about the exchange here and here.

We cannot let trans people be written out of our history!

*L.A.’s Black Cat, Where the Fight for Gay Rights Got Its Start
Jun 05, 2014   By Whoville Staff

February 11, 1967 is not a date that’s widely heralded as significant in the fight for LGBT civil rights. In the popular consciousness, it doesn’t rival June 28, 1969, the day of the famous Stonewall riot in New York City, which is widely regarded as the beginning of the modern LGBT rights movement. But in truth the 1967 Black Cat protest is the older sister — the Jan Brady to Stonewall’s “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” — of Stonewall. And in Southern California, its claws ran deep and left their own indelible mark.

It was the first time that LGBT people in the United States organized a protest against police persecution. The raid and the arrests that accompanied it inspired the first legal argument that gay people were entitled to equal protection under the law.
Notice how this article say LGBT rights and people, not “Gay.”


1 comment:

Richard Nelson said...

In 2008 I along with other community members stood up to the Metroline and their revisionist history of our-stories. Here is a piece that was first published on my blog Furbirdsqueerly in 2008 at the height of the flap and then again usually in the month of June. The Stonewall Vets site provides lots of answers with many eye-witness accounts. We still are getting lots of hits on the article from all around the world. Check out our article and it has some good accounts: https://furbirdsqueerly.wordpress.com/no-drag-queens-at-stonewall-you-say-we-say-take-a-flying-fuck/.