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Transgender cultural district planned for San Francisco’s Tenderloin

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Developer and city supervisor work together to create nation’s first trans neighborhood

Turk and Taylor.
Photo by Daniel Hoherd

In collaboration with D6 Supervisor Jane Kim and Group i, the developer in charge of the upcoming 950 Market space, part of San Francisco’s Tenderloin is poised to become the nation’s first ever transgender district.

Supervisor Kim and several transgender activists announced legislation Tuesdat to rechristen part of the TL as the Compton’s Transgender, Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual (TLGB) District, named after the eatery that marked the first transgender civil rights uprising in the United States. If enacted, the Compton’s District will be the first legally recognized transgender district in the world.

“The lower Tenderloin is the most important neighborhood in America for transgender history, culture, and civil rights,” said Supervisor Kim, who represents the Tenderloin. “By creating the Compton’s TLGB District we are honoring this vibrant community built by transgender people, and are sending a message to the world that trans people are welcome here.”

A view of Gene Compton's cafeteria in the Tenderloin District circa 1966.
Courtesy of Screaming Queens/Frameline

In 1966, Compton’s Cafeteria, a former coffeeshop at Taylor and Turk, was the site of a resistance by San Francisco’s transgender community. After continued abuse by Compton’s Cafeteria employees and the San Francisco Police Department, transwomen initiated a two-day riot that made its way out onto streets of the Tenderloin, predating the Stonewall riots by three years.

The goals of the new district, according to a press release, are the following:

• To create a safe, welcoming and empowering neighborhood lead by trans people for trans people, and to create a place of healing, opportunity, and reparations in a neighborhood that historical has been a place of both violence and resistance. That means making sure that transwomen who currently live in the district are able to stay by creating pathways to affordable rent and homeownership. It also means that the City of San Francisco will need to ensure that neighborhood services, business, community groups, and public policy are transgender focused and culturally appropriate for the transgender community.

• To stabilize and economically empower the transgender community through ownership of buildings, business, homes, historic sites, and community space.

• To preserve the places where transgender history took place for future generations. That means making sure that historic buildings like Compton’s Cafeteria and the El Rosa Hotel are preserved and accessible. Its also means protecting Legacy Business and historic non-profits like Aunt Charlie’s and The St. James Infirmary and TGIJP from displacement.

Supervisor Kim went on to stress the importance of having such a district, saying: “In the last few weeks our federal government has made it clear that minority communities have never been more at risk in America.”

Group i’s involvement is also key as they are currently in the process of constructing a 12-story residential and hotel complex in the area. According to Hoodline, “The developer has agreed to donate $300,000 to the Compton’s District Stabilization Fund to help support the preservation efforts.”

The developer will also let queer historians further investigate the tenuous notion that secret tunnels exist under street level, a theory that was debunked by KPIX in 2016.

Here’s how the Compton’s TLGB District will take shape in the Tenderloin.

To make things official, legislation will have to pass through City Hall red tape. Meanwhile, the impending 950 Market project will take approximately two years to complete.