Pride & Progress

In each Pride & Progress Conversation, Victory Institute's Jarod Keith interviews experts about key moments and people who shaped queer history.

The Compton’s Cafeteria Riot and the History of Trans Power in the Tenderloin

Guest Expert: Honey Mahogany, Co-Founder, The Transgender District of San Francisco

Airs Monday, June 21 at 5 p.m. ET 

In an episode that was almost lost to history until one determined academic, historian Susan Stryker, brought it back to life through her groundbreaking research, the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot is a defining moment in transgender visibility and activism. One late night in August 1966, police raided a favorite hangout spot of transgender and gender-non-conforming residents of San Francisco’s Tenderloin District, the 24-hour Gene Compton’s Cafeteria, in order to harass and arrest the patrons inside. The “screaming queens” fought back, throwing sugar shakers and coffee at the cops. Then the fight spilled into the street, with a crowd gathering to back up the patrons under siege, resulting in a riot that lasted at least two days. In our conversation with Honey Mahogany, we learn how the riot affected the culture of transgender advocacy for decades to come in San Francisco and beyond.

Further Reading and Resources: 

The Life and Times of José Sarria

Guest Expert: Gene Brake, Founder of the José Sarria Foundation

Airs Tuesday, June 22 at 5 p.m. ET 

Fed up with police abuse, José Julio Sarria, aka “the Widow Norton,” a famous drag performer at Black Cat Café and founder of the Imperial Court, ran for San Francisco Supervisor in 1961. He was the first out LGBTQ person to ever run for public office in the United States. Sarria garnered roughly 6,000 votes in a citywide election with thirty-four candidates, demonstrating to shocked politicians that there was a consolidated LGBTQ constituency. Although he lost, Sarria’s campaign brought visibility to the plight of San Francisco’s queer community and inspired generations of LGBTQ people to run for office. Jarod speaks with Gene Brake, founder of the José Sarria Foundation, about how one “thinking queen” used opera and high camp to fight for dignity and rights for the LGBTQ community.

Further Reading and Resources: 

Frank Kameny v. The United States

Guest Expert: Dr. Eric Cervini, Author, The Deviant’s War: The Homosexual v. The United States

Airs Wednesday, June 23 at 5 p.m. ET 

Frank Kameny was a trailblazing gay rights activist whose life’s work was marked by many “firsts:” he was the first person to ever use pro-gay arguments in a legal proceeding, he organized the first gay rights protests in front of the White House and he was the first out gay candidate for Congress in the United States. In his 2020 book, The Deviant’s War: The Homosexual v. The United States, historian Eric Cervini brings Kameny’s story to life, richly augmenting the official record with colorful, detailed anecdotes of gay life in the 20th century that make his book essential reading for anyone interested in queer history. In our conversation, we dive into Kameny’s life and his invaluable contributions to the fight for LGBTQ equality and representation.

Further Reading and Resources: 

HIV, AIDS and LGBTQ Political Power

Guest Expert: Dr. Ravi Perry, Chair and Professor of Political Science, Howard University 

Airs Thursday, June 24 at 5 p.m. ET 

June 5, 2021 marked the 40th anniversary of the CDC’s official recognition of what became known as the HIV/AIDS epidemic — a plague that not only devastated the LGBTQ community and Black America, but also forced the queer community to forge a new political coalition that saved lives and set the table for today’s debates about healthcare, disability rights, racial justice and LGBTQ equality. Dr. Ravi Perry is chair of the Political Science Department at Howard University, an expert on Black and LGBTQ representation in politics and proudly lives with HIV. We talk about the history of AIDS activism, how it changed the world and how it failed to end the epidemic in Black and Brown communities.

Further Reading and Resources: 

  • “What Pride marchers won’t be celebrating: The politics that have left so many Black Americans HIV+” by Dr. Ravi Perry | Washington Post
  • “The Perfect Storm Facing Black Men on HIV” by Rod McCullom | The Advocate 
  • Timeline: 30 Years of AIDS in Black America | PBS
  • Book: Let the Record Show: A Political History of Act Up New York, 1987–1993
  • Film: United in Anger: A History of ACT UP |
  • Film: Larry Kramer In Love & Anger | HBO Max
  • ACT UP Oral History Project |