Founded by three black trans women in 2017 as Compton’s Transgender Cultural District, The Transgender District is the first legally recognized transgender district in the world. Originally named after the first documented uprising of transgender and queer people in United States history, the Compton’s Cafeteria Riots of 1966, the district encompasses 6 blocks in the southeastern Tenderloin and crosses over Market Street to include two blocks of 6th street. In 2016, the City of San Francisco renamed portions of Turk and Taylor to commemorate the historic contributions of transgender people, renaming them “Compton’s Cafeteria Way” and “Vikki Mar Lane” respectively.
This urban region of the city’s Tenderloin District has held a documented, ongoing presence of transgender residents since as early as the 1920s- with the Tenderloin known as a “gay ghetto” during the 1930s to the 1960s- prior to the birth of the internationally renowned Castro District in San Francisco. This area is home to the city of San Francisco’s first LGBT bar, and various community spaces, gathering sites, and hotels with cultural significance for the broader transgender and queer community in the Tenderloin.
We aim to create an urban environment that celebrates the transgender tipping point in the United States and the world, while educating the world of the deep profundity of transgender culture and our contributions to the liberation of humankind.
The mission of the Transgender District is to create an urban environment that fosters the rich history, culture, legacy, and empowerment of transgender people and its deep roots in the southeastern Tenderloin neighborhood. The transgender district aims to stabilize and economically empower the transgender community through ownership of homes, businesses, historic and cultural sites, and safe community spaces.
Within our founding are core values of creating an effort that facilitates the healing, economic empowerment, and cultural enrichment of transgender people in the Tenderloin district- who have been and continue to be plagued by social and structural violence, marginalization, disenfranchisement, and abject poverty, yet maintain a fiery resistance and unfaltering resilience.
To create a safe, welcoming, and empowering neighborhood, led by trans people for trans people.
To create a place of healing, opportunity, and reparations in a neighborhood that, historically, has been a place of both violence and resistance.
To stabilize and economically empower the transgender community through ownership of buildings, businesses, homes, historic sites, and community space.
To preserve the places where transgender history took place for future generations.
The Transgender District is leading the way to provide innovative solutions for our community, ensuring the viability and stability of our project, our mission, and our goals in creating an atmosphere that celebrates and affirms the ongoing presence, resilience, contributions, and culture of transgender people in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, and creating safe spaces for trans people that inspire economic advancement, leadership development and community.
As a legally recognized Cultural District in San Francisco, we focus our work toward six major program initiatives:
The district is actively in negotiations with the City and County of San Francisco and supportive housing agencies to stabilize transgender residents who are vulnerable to displacement due to development and gentrification in the Tenderloin area. Unfortunately, the majority of long-time transgender residents of the Tenderloin have been chronically homeless. The District aims to support, create, and facilitate efforts and initiatives that cure transgender houselessnes, and identify resources to stably house disenfranchised members of the transgender community.
Economics and Workforce Development
We are implementing a multi-prong economic empowerment strategy that fosters both real-time, immediate employment opportunities for transgender people with multiple barriers to self-sufficiency and sustainability; while also creating an incubator entrepreneurship program that will provide monetary and educational resources for transgender entrepreneurs aspiring to open businesses and projects in the district area. We are committed to the creation of district- owned and operated social enterprise programs, in addition to facilitating business models that include monetary and sweat equity options to cultivate as many transgender business owners and ownership opportunities as possible.
Arts and Culture
We celebrate the culture, resilience and resistance of transgender people in the city’s Tenderloin area by working with transgender and gender non-binary artists to lead neighborhood placemaking efforts, art exhibitions, informative and topical panel discussions, and varied music programs that are led by and for transgender people. In addition, the district aims to be the city of San Francisco’s hub of transgender culture—and with innovative partnerships—lead more unique and impactful events, exhibitions, cultural celebrations, festivals and more—with the aim of educating the broader world on acceptance, equality and liberation of transgender people- while economically supporting transgender artists, musicians, performers, business owners, cultural workers, and more.
Cultural Heritage Conservation
We actively work with historical preservationists, the San Francisco Planning Department and California State Senator Scott Wiener’s office to identify, evaluate, and document buildings and areas of the district with significant cultural and historical assets to the transgender community. We also promote the legacy of transgender culture in the district through oral history and storytelling, in addition to partnering with archival institutions and museums that possess cultural artifacts related to transgender culture.
As the transgender community is a marginalized and disenfranchised community—both in San Francisco and worldwide—we are creating an environment that affirms the lives and authenticity of transgender people living in a world that consistently tells us we should not exist. The broader goal in our efforts towards urban beautification, placemaking, art and cultural affairs, and more, is to continue a wave of cultural shifts in which the humanity and resilience of transgender people is celebrated, and respected. As we build the infrastructure for a thriving cultural district- we also are building a re-imagined world in which transgender people are socially, culturally, and economically empowered and genocide against us is eradicated.
We actively participate in policy meetings with various San Francisco City & County government agencies to help shape and guide protective City regulations, tools and programs (such as zoning and land use controls) to promote and protect safe spaces and commercial enterprises for the transgender community. The district has successfully begun implementing our placemaking and urban beautification efforts with the City of San Francisco’s Department of Public Works and San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency to ensure renewed crosswalks, increase of sidewalk trees, increase in restroom access, and more. The district aims to create ongoing urban beautification efforts that enrich the lives of longtime residents of the Tenderloin as a reverse gentrification model.
As part of our placemaking efforts, all of the light poles in the district are adorned with the Transgender Flag!
Show your pride and support of the district - take your photo with a flag and share on social media with #transgenderdistrict.
The BIENNIAL Report serves as the community stabilization plan for both the District and its community members.