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Barbara Gittings Helps Lead First 'Annual Reminder' Protests

Gitings was an activist in both the pre-Stonewall homophile movement of the 50s and 60s and the post-Stonewall gay liberation movement. She organized the New York Chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis and, in 1965 – along with Frank Kameny – Gittings was instrumental in leading the “Annual Reminder” pickets, which were some of the very first pro-LGBTQ+ protests visible to the American public. 

One cornerstone of her work included pressuring the American Psychiatric Association to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. For three consecutive years beginning in 1970, Gittings organized protests, stormed into, and participated in the Association’s annual meeting. In 1972, Gittings organized a panel on homosexuality along with an anonymous psychiatrist who was masked and used a voice modulator. Finally in 1973, the Association announced its removal of the classification and invited Gittings to the meeting. 

Compton’s Cafeteria Riot Catalyzes Trans Community Power In San Francisco

In an episode that was almost lost to history until one determined academic, historian Susan Stryker, brought it back to life through her groundbreaking research, the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot is a defining moment in transgender visibility and activism. One late night in August 1966, police raided a favorite hangout spot of transgender and gender-non-conforming residents of San Francisco’s Tenderloin District, the 24-hour Gene Compton’s Cafeteria, in order to harass and arrest the patrons inside. The “screaming queens” fought back, throwing sugar shakers and coffee at the cops. Then the fight spilled into the street, with a crowd gathering to back up the patrons under siege, resulting in a riot that lasted at least two days.

Pride & Progress editor Jarod Keith speaks Honey Mahogany – co-founder of San Francisco’s Transgender Cultural District – about how the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot affected the culture of transgender advocacy for decades to come in San Francisco and beyond.

José Sarria Makes Historic Bid for Public Office

José Julio Sarria
José Julio Sarria

Fed up with police abuse, José Julio Sarria, aka “the Widow Norton,” a famous drag performer at Black Cat Café and founder of the Imperial Court, ran for San Francisco Supervisor in 1961. He was the first out LGBTQ+ person to ever run for public office in the United States. Sarria garnered roughly 6,000 votes in a citywide election with thirty-four candidates, demonstrating to shocked politicians that there was a consolidated LGBTQ+ constituency. Although he lost, Sarria’s campaign brought visibility to the plight of San Francisco’s queer community and inspired generations of LGBTQ+ people to run for office.

Sarria campaign announcement. Courtesy Jose Sarria Foundation.

Sarria campaign event. Courtesy Jose Sarria Foundation

Stonewall Rebellion Marks Turning Point

Vice squads–police units devoted to “cleaning up” undesirable parts of urban life–routinely raided the bars frequented by LGBTQ+ people. Laws against people of the same sex dancing together or wearing clothing made for the opposite sex were used as justification to arrest patrons. By the 1960s in New York City, the mafia owned many of these establishments and its members would bribe officers in order to avoid fines. Sometimes the arrangement meant that patrons would be forewarned of a pending raid in time to change their clothing and stop dancing. That wasn’t true during the early morning hours of June 28 1969, when the NYPD raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. 

When they arrived at Stonewall, the police locked the doors so that no one could escape as they conducted arrests. As certain patrons were released, they joined a large crowd that had been gathering outside the bar. Those chosen for arrest started resisting the police officers with the encouragement of the jeering crowd. Violence broke out and the crowd overwhelmed police, who were forced to call in reinforcements. The conflict lasted into the next day as more and more people joined the riots from around the Village as word spread. 

The Stonewall Rebellion marked a turning point for the LGBTQ community, demonstrating that LGBTQ+ people could and would fight against injustice, and serving as inspiration for many who would later run for office.

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