Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Night at the Diner, When It All Blew Up

Though it was almost a year ago, I still think about this screening of "Screaming Queens," the documentary film which tells of a rebellion of trans* women against the San Francisco police. The attendees ranged the gender spectrum, and filmmaker Susan Stryker did an in-depth question and answer session. We learned that this momentous 1966 incident was barely reported, was hushed up even though a police car was burned in downtown San Francisco--and that the police chief who came around to supporting the trans* women pretty much got framed and lost his job... The brave actions of these women, who stood up fearlessly for their right to exist, reverberated through the City in ways little remembered and barely recorded.

There were ripple effects radiating from this revolt at Compton's Diner, from tangible actions to help trans* people, to influence on the local community (including the Warfield Theater half a block away, its hippie patrons intermingling with the downtown queens directly or indirectly, contributing to the sexual and political liberation ethos). As housing was destroyed in nearby areas, activism was augmented by the resultant efforts by the queer community to protect homes that they and other poor, working class people lived in.

The value of this film is to everyone, not only queer and trans* people: it brings to light an event of resounding historical importance. Because it involved the most marginalized gender group in our society, it is overlooked as something irrelevant to the general population. This inspiring show of bravery is helpful to everyone who is being oppressed and needs to stand up for their rights.

The impact of this screening itself also attests to the importance of organizations like Artists' Television Access, who provide a place where a wide range of programs and audiences can meet. Each community needs its space to be together among themselves, and they also need to intersect with others, which is what happened at this program.

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