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Before Stonewall: Compton's Cafeteria

Guest Post from Max Bellman-Seeskin


A late-night scene in Gene Compton's Cafeteria. The cafeteria was a popular destination for queer people of all kinds: hustlers, queens, hair fairies. This photo shows an Imperial Court of San Francisco event at the cafeteria. The date and names of the subjects are unknown.

Photo: Henry Leleu, Courtesy the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society


It feels like a miracle that the SCOTUS ruled in favor of gay and Trans employees (Bostock v. Clayton County, 2019) as an offshoot of the Civil Rights Act, and a rare moment where cases of both gay AND trans people were heard and weighed, and justice was served. What stands as remarkable to me is how much change has continued to occur in a relatively short time span since Spade (2008) published the piece “Methodologies of Trans Resistance. A Companion to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Studies” calling out mainstream gay