Although the Stonewall Riots of 1969 are often credited as the first time the LGBTQ community fought back against police repression, that’s far from the truth. The Compton Cafeteria Riot occurred three years earlier, in 1966, and is one of the first recorded transgender riots in US history. As with Stonewall, the participants were disproportionately trans people of color, trans women, and sex workers.
Here, mixed race trans male author Red Jordan Arobateau has excerpted the night of the Compton Cafeteria Riots from his autobiography. In writing that reads like a work of poetry, Arobateau provides an impressionistic view of the Tenderloin’s transgender community, and their encounters with the police, building tension to the climax of the actual riot, which only occupies a short area of the excerpt, though the beginning feels naturally like the lead up.
Red Jordan Arobateau’s website and work can be found here.