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SYMHC Classics: The Compton's Cafeteria Riot

2019-06-29 | 🔗

This episode reached back to 2015 for some LGBTQ history. In 1966, a restaurant in San Francisco's Tenderloin district was the site of a violent incident in LGBT history. After the riot, a grassroots effort grew to improve relationships between police and Tenderloin's transgender community.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Everyone uses their phone differently in different places Early risers use it here. The Nite Owl use it here, and the lever we first good luck using it here. Wherever you are, you get more covered with extremely mobile, because it also connects to millions of secure wifi, hot spots and the best held teeny everywhere else. It's wireless reemergence call a visit, exert any mobile dark on restricting them. not available in all areas requires residential posts. They extended even an actual savings bearing a not guarantee. Fortunately, mobile broadband exposures visit explaining to accomplish Mobile, happy be Saturday. Everybody is the fiftieth anniversary of the Stone Wall Riots which started on June. Twenty eight nineteen, sixty nine and continued the twenty ninth, we have talked helstone, while in a couple of past episodes and for today's classic we're talking about one of its precursors, the captain's cafeteria riots of nineteen sixty six. This episode originally came out in twenty fifteen and we were alive
less careful with some of our language than we would be. If we were talking about it today, particularly with terms like prostitute, an Patty wagon, which we would be more likely to say, sex worker and police span, there's not really a great other term to replace like a one so enjoy. Welcome too, You missed in history. Class of production of I hurried use. How stuff works, allow and welcome to see me you open it, and I'm here fry today a lot of people called Stonewall riots which started on June. Twenty eight nineteen sixty nine the beginning The elderly, Bt Rights Movement in the United States and is, as is really often the case even over simplification, While uprising was more like the event that made people who were already fighting for elderly BT rights, aware that there was a By going on at all
in reality, gay rights organizations which, at that point were called homo file organizations had been actively working toward gay rights and legal protections for well over a decade before stonewall some of the most well known examples are the machine society and the daughter of believers, which were focused on the rights of gay men and lesbians respectively, and they were all other violent uprisings in the years before Stonewall names of these uprisings are not nearly as well known as stonewall is today. One of those was riot at Jean Competence Cafeteria in nineteen sixty six in which the restaurants patrons who were per permanently. Gay man drag queens and transgender women fought back against police, and that's it we're going to talk about today, and I do need to give a couple of notes before we start, the concept of gender identity and the language that we used to talk about. It has really evolved a lot since the time that we are talking about the word
transgender, wasn't going to until one thousand nine hundred and seventy nine after the story was long over and today it's an umbrella term that describes a range of ways in which a purse gender identity or expression doesn't match up with the sex that they were assigned when they were born. So our use of this term and this episode is a little bit anachronistic, but it's how many, but definitely not all of the people in this story went on to identify a later in their lives after that word had come into common usage. Also because three distinctly front. Groups of people were all involved in this event and those were across dressers transit are women and gay man we're not going to try to us civically name, every one of those every single time There might be relevant because that becomes strangely wording convoluted. We do
a clear, though, that, although there can be some overlap within these groups, such as gay men who cross dress or transgender people who also who are also gay as examples, these terms have specific meanings and they refer to specific traits and behaviors. So transgender refers to gender identity. Cross dressing refers to a person's clothing and gay refers to a person's physical or emotional attractions to other people. This episode also does include in parts that parents and teachers might want to avoid for younger listeners upper taking early some discussion, that's related to sex and sex work. So those are our notes. Before we start the captain's cafeteria riot was definitely a product of time and place. So we have to do some stage setting on this one. In the mid till eight nine, century many these around the United States started passing laws to make it illegal for people to cross stress. At this point, homosexual acts were
already illegal in most places. So it's not entirely clear exactly what sparked this need to regulate this type of dress at this particular time theory is that is people moved into cities and found communities of like minded people and began to more outwardly and publicly practice cross dressing, the majority this behaviour quite threatening, regardless of what the precise reasons were, Columbus, Ohio past such a law in eighteen. Forty, eight, I'll go Illinois did in eighteen. Fifty one and more cities followed, including San Francisco, California, in eighteen, sixty three, these low Were generally written to forbid all cross dressing, but in practice, enforcement was a lot more focused on people with a masculine appearing or physically male body. Who were wearing women's clothing? It also means
these laws were applied to both straight and gay people who cross dressed and transgender people whose dress was typical. Further gender identity. Magnus Hirschfeld coined the word transvestite in nineteen ten and today, most of us think of this in terms of cross dressing, but at the time it applied to a much broader range of gender identities and not just to clothing in nineteen. Nineteen Herschel would go on to found the institute for sexual science in Berlin, which was dedicated to studying sir gender through his work and the work of others. Around the same time, people gradually developed vocabulary to describe and talk about the nuances of sexual orientation and gender identity during world Two members of the United States Military, who were found to be in violation of various standards. Forbidding homosexual behaviour were given what was locally known as a blue discharge for those who are serving in the Pacific, this usually meant that they were processed out of the military in San Francisco.
This pattern was definitely not unique to San Francisco or to world war. Two. It happened in other port cities and other wars as well, but the algae BT population of San Francisco grew tremendously, during the warriors, is people who had been discharge because of their sexual orientation reprocessed out of the army there and then state in that area. A number of researchers also started studying gender and sex during the nineteen fortys and nineteen fifties, including famously Alfred Kinsey at the Kinsey Institute for Sex, gender and report, Jim and also Carl Bowman at Langley Porter Psychiatric Clinic at the University of California, San Francisco, and while some of this research day evidently did not follow today's ethical standards. It did begin to give at least some doctor a better idea of how to work with lesbian, gay and transgender patience and nineteen. Fifty two Christine Jorgensen
became a household name after having had a series of surgeries in Copenhagen, which were widely described in the press as a sex change. Today, that's really the term that we would use the talk about these procedures. We would call them sex reassignment, surgeries or gender confirmation surgeries. Although these Procedures had been available in Europe for a while. They were really pretty widely unknown in the United States. Before this point, Jorgensen became an instant celebrity story gave a lot of transgender people hope that their bodies could be made to match their gender idea identity. I wanna be clear there. Not every transgender person chooses to or is able to have surgery, but at this point in history, Jorgensen story and the subsequent media, she received were earth shattering for a lot of transgender people it raised
I'd of awareness on the subject, and she received letters from all over from people who basically thanked her for helping them understand their own identity and be able to talk about it with other people. Later in the nineteen fiftys. The word transsexual came in to use to describe people who wanted to change or have changed their physical body from the sex that they were assigned at birth. a number of mass market novels that related to ideas of cross dressing and gender identity were published in nineteen. Sixty Virginia prince, launched transvestite, which was the periodical in the? U S that was intended for a transgender market subscribers to the magazine also form the first known organization for transgender people. In the? U S, not long after this and nineteen sixty six Doktor Harry Benjamin published the transsexual phenomenon, which described patience. He had been working with creating a course of treatment to help them transition from the sex. They had been assigned at birth to
gender that they felt themselves intrinsically to be an all of this brings as to what happened at competence cafeteria in nineteen sixty six, although Californy Had repealed its law against cross dressing in nineteen, sixty two people were still being arrested for it homosexuality was also illegal. San Francisco itself had a growing algae BT population, thanks in part to the military discharges during world war. Two that we discussed, and awareness of trans gendering gay rights issues was starting to grow. Thanks to the work of very social movement organisations. There are also high profile stories like Christine Jorgensen and the work of doctors and psychologists such as Doktor Harry Benjamin for all of these things really came together and will lead to
what has become known as the contents cafeteria riot and we're going to talk about this riot, specifically after a brief word from a sponsor a view of class. A guy Richie movies like Snatch in Sherlock Holmes, then you don't want to miss the gentlemen in beaters January, twenty. Fourth, this movie has at all an unbelievable all star, cast great action, smart riding and it's funny as hell, storing Matthew, Mokanna, hey Charlie Hottam, Henry Goulding, Michel Daiquiri, Jeremy, strong Eddie, Morrison College Feral, an Hugh grant. It doesn't get any better than this. Mokanna hey plays a king pin named Mickey Pearson, who runs a London based we'd empire when he tries to cash in and get out of the game. He puts in motion a series of schemes, bribery and blackmail led by those trying to steal his domain out from under him. Guy Richie really returns to his gang sir routes on this one, and it looks dangerous
good, if you haven't seen the trailers, yet there hilarious an available online. Now, the gentleman is in theatres, everywhere January. Twenty fourth be sure to check it out, fail to get to specifically the neighborhood where continents cafeteria was located and what happened there. In nineteen sixty six San Francisco Tenderloin District was home to many of the city's track, queens transgender people, gay men and others who just didn't fit into conventional ideas of gender expression and sexual orientation, and it wasn't a particularly nice place to live. This was a red light district run down seedy with hotels that advertise transient rooms. There were high crime rates and a thriving and not particularly safe industry, a vice
Often the police force in the tenderloin seems more interested in taking advantage of the situation than actually helping to protect the community and a lot of the people who were living in the tenderloin just didn't have other options, as people were turned away from jobs and housing and cleaner safe for parts of the city. That goin, effectively became a gay ghetto police would even direct gay entrance and or people who were arrested in other parts of town to the tenderloin, where they might actually be able to find a place to live, and some of its residents were unable to find work due to their sexual orientation. Or gender expression and as a result, they turn to sex work. As a last resort many many reasons, this was inherently dangerous in addition to the risks of sexually transmitted disease or being arrested or jailed, the people, soliciting press
attitudes in the tenderloin weren't, necessarily looking for someone who's outward appearance when clothed did not match up with their physical sex. Transgender sex workers consequently became the targets of violence and harassment. This also lead to gay and transgender people in the tenderloin being arrested on suspicion of prostitution, regardless of whether they were prostitutes or whether they were engaged in any activity that could even resemble prostitution at the time and being arrested, tended to be a whole lot worse for gay men and transgender people, then, for everyone else, people who were physically mail but were dressed in women. Women's clothing would be sent. The men's jail where they were often at risk, were being assaulted, raped or murdered because of how they behaved and how they were dressed,
Conditions were bad enough that in nineteen sixty five tenderloin residents launched a grass roots campaign to try to improve the neighbourhood and the economic conditions there, and their goals were to bring in much needed social services and to qualify for Anti poverty funding. That last part was challenging because many anti poverty programmes were targeted towards racial and ethnic minorities, but the population of the tenderloin industry. Was predominantly white. There were gay activists, neighbourhood, organizers and ministers at the forefront of this effort, and it s spawned a youth organization for Gay and transgender street kids, which is known as Vanguard, Vanguard, held its meetings that gene contents, cafeteria, which is a popular gathering place for the gay community, drag queens and transgender people in the tenderloin it was a twenty four hour cafeteria that was part of a local restaurant chain, is out of the corner of Turk and tailor streets, and it was next to a gay bath house and down the street from a Woolworth also nearby were a bar and the airport,
us terminal that many trans people and drag wings used change their clothes. So is basically a convenience Paralyzed lies in relatively safe location for people to congregate. Twenty four hours a day as well the patrons who was interviewed in the documentary screaming queens the riot contents. Cafeteria quote it was beautiful because it was clean as well. case for the tenderloin in general. Many regulars competence, cafeteria, where they are because it had nowhere else to go. Other restaurants. Clubs in hotels wouldn't serve them because of their sexual orientation, their gender expression or their dress. But competence would let them in. It was a place where people routinely went to make sure their friends knew that they were still alive But the management at the cafeteria did not really like the fact that it had become basically a hang out for this particular crowd. Staff started trying to discourage the ongoing paying
out by implementing a service charge to make up for the fact that people were taking up table space but not buying food. However, they tended to charge. This service starts kind of selectively the people God on their bills were mostly the most obvious at gay and transgender people who frequent to the establishment. In the summer of nineteen, sixty six management and staff at the restaurant started, calling the police to report people who were spending too much time loitering and not enough time. Eating or spending money. Regulars responded by picketing, and this was an effort that was led by the group. Vanguard in July of nineteen sixty six by this point, most of the nighttime regulars, the cafeteria were really used to being hassled by police police act. it is in general, had really been increasing because of the number of military recruits that were passing through San Francisco on the way to be at NOM, but the cafeteria had become a safe spot where people felt like they didn't need to worry about me.
Targeted for what they were wearing, where they were standing beings, you loud being mistaken for a sex workers or basically for any reason that somebody felt like hassling them, so tensions really grew as police became more and more present inside the restaurant. The exact date of the riot at the cafeteria is not known. Today. The newspapers didn't cover this event, and no police reports from the evening have survived until today, although there are definitely enough eye witnesses and there, I witness reports to corroborate that this did happen, and we know that it happened in August of nineteen. Sixty six, the restaurant that night was packed staff at the cafeteria decided to call the police to have some of the patrons who were there removes at an officer put his hand on somebody from the crowd. This person is most frequently described as a drag queen and that person through a cup of coffee
to the police officers face as more people began, throwing glasses, silverware and plates. The police left the cafeteria to call for backup while they were gone, the crowd broke, windows and turned over tables and fights broke out both in and around the restaurant. The police return and started making arrests and filling the paddy wagons property damage far. Including a vandalized police car in a new stand that was burned down. So if the riot at contents cafeteria had taken place somewhere else or at a different time, it's hardly possible that it wouldn't have led to any kind of meaningful change for the lives of the gay and transgender people who participated in an afterward, but this was San Francisco. It was during the night team Sixtys, when a number of social movements were all concurrently striving for change on a number of different fronts, so it did actually lead to some things are getting better and we'll talk.
that, after a brief break for another word from a sponsor When you use zoom every day, a little better, that's pretty great five. You think about it Talking about zoom video communications, with the webs best reviewed video conference service to use by millions, to meet one on one or hundreds at a time. That's pretty mind: boggling zoom, video conferencing, lest you connect face to face with anyone across town or across the world, with flawless video, clear, audio, an instant sharing of files, video anything and you can connect through any device, desktop laptop tat, smartphone conference room system. I could just keep going on. Look everyone if you're not using zoom video communications. The only question we have is why not? Why not will make its super easy for you to visit zoom online and set up a free account. Today, you can try the most affordable
and most reliable video communication solution on the market. So me happy with zoom So to get back that what happened after the riot grassroots efforts were chain. In the tenderloin, which had started in the weeks and months before the riot grew stronger in the wake of it. A few months later, the central city, Anti Poverty Office opened and one of its goals was to improve relations between the gay and transgender communities and the police. Police farther, Elliot Blackstone had been named, a liaison between the police force and homo file organisations, as well as the greater gay community back in nineteen sixty two. This focus also expanded to include transgender people following the riot at first, the transgender community, still at that point described as drag queens and transsexuals since the term transgender had yet to be coined
was largely left out of this mission, but Louise Argus draws a transgender resident of the tenderloin district, gave Blackstone a copy of the transsexual phenomenon and insisted that he read it after he did. He played a key role in shifting the police forces. Treatment, of the transgender community, in addition to working towards implementing programmes and services that helped unprotected transgender people. He work to change the attitudes of the police force. Another programme started after the riot was the centre for special problems, which was part of the San Francisco Public Health Department. The centre for such special problems started as support group, and it started working toward connecting transgender people with me will care and other services that they needed the centre also started issuing identification cards for transgender people, and this sounds minor, but it was actually a huge deal before this drivers. And says, and other idea could only reflect a person's gender as it were
signed at their birth for someone who has transitioned, could not get an idea card that accurately of reflected their identity, and this was not a perfect system using a centre for special problems. Idee meant that the person who carried it was publicly identified as transgender, whether he or she wanted to be or not. But it also meant that people could. things like open bank accounts and apply for jobs without trying to use what, by all appearances, looked like someone else's idee card, although some of them no movement organizations behind these changes, grit gradually fizzled out. Our split into other groups are otherwise ended. A lot of the programmes themselves continued on for you, Years until they were updated or replaced by other social services, however,
many of the issues that the transgender community faced in the tenderloin district in nineteen sixty six persisted- and they still exist today in most of the United States being transgender- is not protected class, so people can be fired or refused housing, medical care or other necessary services because of their gender. expression. Transgender people continue to have a vastly higher risk of suicide than the general population, as well as of much greater risk of being the victim of violent crime. Mid. Nineteen, seventy is, there was actually a serial killer in the tenderloin and other L dvd neighborhoods in San Francisco, who killed at least fourteen people. Most of them train women or drag queens and was never apprehended according to the twenty twelve hate violence report from the national coalition of Anti violence project.
Transgender people are also more than three times more likely to experience police violence than the general population. The cafeteria closed in nineteen. Seventy two Elliot Blackstone, who was then retired from a force, was the grand marshal of the San Francisco pride parade. in two thousand six. A plaque commemorating the riot was installed that same year, though, as we mention the topic episode, the still more riots bar so frequently pinpointed is like the start, their rights. We men- and this is one of the violent uprisings that happened before that when it was not actually the first. There were also a couple of similar ones at one was that Coopers doughnuts, which was a donut shop that was in a predominantly gay neighbourhood and had a number of gay and transgender people its patrons and there was also another one that was at a bakery. So several
Similarly, pushing back against police kind of kind of events happened in the years immediately Lee leading up to stonewall and then stone walls. The kind of China became big name out of all. Thank you so much for joint action on this Saturday. If you have heard an email address or a facebook url or something similar over the course of today's episode, since it is from our car that might be out of date. Now you can email us at history, podcast at how stuff works, dot com and you can find us all over social media at missed in history, and you can subscribe to our shadow on Apple podcast, who podcast the Iheart Radio APP and wherever else he wasn't the pod gown
stop EMS than history, glass in the production of Iheart radios. Housetop works for our part. Have it's for my how radio visit thy heart, radio broadcasts or wherever you listen to your favorite, chose today, episode is brought, you buy zoom, there's no, like meeting face to face and there's nothing like zoom to make that happen. Zoom Letty, enacting, do business across town or around the world zoom together. All of your communication needs into one is a platform for video conferencing phone calls Group chat Westerners and your conference rooms and connect Lee from anywhere your mobile phone, your laptop or conference room zoom. How business gets done, get Europe The account at zoom dotcom today meet happy with zoom