Transgender Rage: The Compton’s Cafeteria Riot of 1966

Although Susan Stryker’s lecture is entitled “Transgender Rage: The Compton’s Cafeteria Riot of 1966,” I felt that because she focused on the history of segregation and discrimination against the transgender community, leading up to the point of the riot, was compelling. Her lecture was broken up into parts in which she went over questions that she wanted to seek answers to when researching the event. Such questions like, “Was there a population of drag queens in Tenderloin…and how does prostitution play a role in this event?” were valid in determining the cause and effect of Compton’s Cafeteria riot. Stryker also brought up interesting points and issues concerning the way transgender people were treated and their response to oppression. The main idea that I concluded from attending Susan Stryker’s lecture is that corruption among the police, poverty and poor living situations and the “transsexual phenomenon” all contributed to retaliation of the transgender population.

Perhaps the most significant detail about the riot in 1966 was how transgender issues were dealt with in the community. According to Stryker, the “transsexual phenomenon” was the idea that transsexuals are sick and that they need help. It was made popular by Harry Benjamin in 1966. I felt that this information was important because it shed light onto the hardships of transsexuals in trying to pass off as the other sex, which lead to difficulties in finding a job and further pushing them to turn to prostitution. Others who tried to “fight for their right” were a group of social activists who called themselves Vanguard, who held regular meetings at Compton’s Cafeteria.