Honoring the Trans Legacy of San Francisco

August is Transgender History Month

Pax Ahimsa Gethen

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San Francisco Mayor London Breed and trans activist Donna Personna raise the trans pride flag outside City Hall, surrounded by guests and photographers on the mayor’s balcony. Photo by Pax Ahimsa Gethen, CC BY-SA 4.0.

This week, the City and County of San Francisco kicked off Transgender History Month, an annual celebration that started in 2021. Mayor London Breed and trans activist Donna Personna raised the trans pride flag and held a ceremony at City Hall, alongside representatives from The Transgender District, San Francisco Office of Transgender Initiatives, and other guests and honorees.¹

Trans History Month was created to commemorate the anniversary of the Compton’s Cafeteria riot in August 1966. Taking place three years before the better-known Stonewall riots in New York City, trans women rose up in resistance to police harassment at Gene Compton’s Cafeteria in the Tenderloin. That site is now part of The Transgender District, the first trans cultural district in the country.

The Transgender District was founded in 2017 by three Black trans women: Janetta Johnson, Honey Mahogany, and Aria Sa’id. Each of these activists is notable in her own right. Johnson is the CEO of the TGI Justice Project, a prison abolitionist organization with a focus on the liberation of Black trans, gender-variant, and intersex people. Mahogany, the Trans District’s first director, was the first trans person to serve on the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee, and was elected its chair in 2021. Sa’id, the current director² of the Trans District, has worked as a policy advisor to the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, and as a program manager for St. James Infirmary.

Janetta Johnson, accompanied by members of El/La Para TransLatinas, speaks on stage at the San Francisco Trans March, June 2016. Photo by Pax Ahimsa Gethen, CC BY-SA 4.0.

San Francisco hosts a number of other trans-led organizations as well, including El/La Para TransLatinas, TAJA’s Coalition, Lavender Phoenix (formerly APIENC), Parivar Bay Area, and Trans Thrive. All of the aforementioned groups are led by — and center the needs of — trans people of color. Other trans people of color whose leadership has been recognized by the City include HIV health activists Cecilia Chung and (the late) Felicia “Flames” Elizondo, and former San Francisco Human Rights commissioner Melanie Ampon, who now operates the city’s first trans-owned electrolysis practice.

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Pax Ahimsa Gethen

Queer agender trans male. Black vegan atheist, pacifist. Pronouns: they/them/their. funcrunch.org, patreon.com/funcrunch