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Rainbow Center gives screening of transgender activism film

By Katie McWilliams
On March 31, 2014

Activism and human rights was the focus of Monday afternoon's screening of "Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton's Cafeteria" at the Rainbow Center.
The film, narrated and researched by Susan Stryker, a transwoman, told the story of transgender activism prior to the "Stonewall Riots," a movement generally accepted as the first instance of LGBTQIA activism.
The screening was the last event in the Transgender Day of Celebration at the Rainbow Center and showcased the little known history behind transgender activism. The Compton riots occurred in 1966 when police forcibly assaulted the corner diner, where transwomen were known to gather in large numbers late into the night. The documentary described the brutality the women faced on that night as they rose up in defense of their rights, but it also focused on the larger issues the riot was indicative of.
"We had to fight that night, not for our rights as gay people, but our rights as human beings," said Amanda St. Jaymes, one of the women involved in the riot.
The 1960s, the documentary said, was a great time to be out and about. San Francisco was filled with clubs and people indulged in dancing and parties as a lifestyle. Still, transgender individuals were not recognized as valuable members of society and were discriminated against in everyday life.
Tamara Ching, another transwoman who Stryker interviewed, said she remembered being singled out by the police force based on wearing buttons on the wrong side of her shirt or wearing makeup.
"I remembered when the cops would come into the bar and point and say, 'you and you and you come with us,'" Ching said.
Ching recalled how transgender people were repeatedly jailed and were often kept in solitary lock up. The hatred and discrimination was not just institutionalized in the actions of the police, but others would also taunt the community. One survivor of the riots remembered sitting in Compton's Cafeteria and having locals pull crosses to the front windows of the establishment, yelling that the women were going to hell.
Alongside exploring the discrimination transwomen faced during the '60s (and continue to face today) the film highlighted how, within the LGBTQIA movement transgender people are often excluded from the history of the movements. According to Stryker, as a recently changed woman, she found solace and comfort in researching her demographic's history.
"Researching transgender history helped me find my identity," Stryker said.

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