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Remember Your History

“Tales of the City” is a Netflix series with Olympia Dukakis in her role as Anna Madrigal. My friend Linda suggested this series to me. She is a fountain of knowledge and information when it comes to LGBTQ chit-chat about our rights and laws targeting our communities.

The original series takes place in San Francisco in the early 1990’s as does the the newer 2019 series. In the 2019 series there was a mention of Gene Compton's Cafeteria. It spurred my interest and I wanted to learn as much as I could about my community's history.

The Tenderloin District of 1960’s San Francisco.

That 50 block area was the only place drag queens and trans women could live openly without fear of arrest but there was always typical harassment from the police.

In 1966, a number of trans women and queens would meet late at night at Compton's cafeteria, as a type of refuge for safety in the area. Though the employee’s of the place would routinely call the police on them.

On August 6, 1966, a police officer grabbed one of the queens, who took offense at the roughness of it all, and threw a cup of hot coffee into his face. Bedlam ensued with tables flipped, dishes and cutlery thrown, and sugar shakers used to break the windows. This scene was later turned into a documentary by Susan Stryker called “Screaming Queens’.

This was 3 years before Stonewall. And 7 years after the 1959 Cooper Do-nut riots when once again the drag queens and trans-women were rioting for their rights in downtown Los Angeles.

We have been fighting for our rights for what seems like forever. The recent missed opportunity to have been granted equal rights throughout this country never made it out of committee in the Senate. HR5 died a slow asphyxiation type death in that Senate committee.

The Equality Act would have added sexual orientation and gender identity to the 1964 Civil Rights Act and would have also given protections to women, who are not listed as protected in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 but in the Title lX Amendment, which doesn’t offer the full protections.

Any hope of this being resurrected in the 118th congress… Well, we have a better chance of winning the Powerball. And with those odds, more than likely, the LGBTQ community will become a target of opportunity for the 118th Congress.

Remember your history, stay current on the legislation being brought to the floor of our federal government and let them know they will be held accountable. Pay attention to anti-LGBTQ legislation being voted on in different states. The LGBTQ communities and allies have enough votes to tip close elections if we stick together.

As the Spanish philosopher George Santayana in 1905 wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.

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