The Riot Before Stonewall

This month we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the June 1969 Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village. As well we should! Those few nights were the birth of the modern gay liberation movement which has brought us to where we are today.

But it wasn’t the first gay riot.

Three years earlier, in August 1966, a riot broke out at Compton’s Cafeteria in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco. The exact day isn’t certain because media in San Francisco kept the news locked up tight. The was nothing in the newspaper, on TV or on radio. And of course there was no social media in those days, so the story was squashed! Almost, anyway.

The story has been told and continues to be. The Advocate covered it last year in Don’t Let History Forget About Compton’s Cafeteria Riot.

I described Compton’s above as a “gay riot” but in actuality it was transgender people and transvestites in the vanguard of this fight, just as they were a few years later at Stonewall.

It’s a great story. Settle back and watch this documentary made available by KQED-TV in San Francisco.

This video looks at a reenactment of the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot and its continuing relevance today. Donna Personna was at Compton’s that night in 1966 and is a co-writer of the production.

Title image: Screen capture from Screaming Queens.

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