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San Francisco Creates World’s First Official Transgender District

“Nightclubs are a place people can be free to love and dance with the people they want.”

San Francisco last month approved funding for the world’s first legally recognized transgender district, the Daily Beast reported Tuesday.

The Compton’s Transgender Cultural District is now entitled to a cut of a $3 million tax that pays for all the city’s cultural districts, which also include the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District and the LGBTQ Leather Cultural District. So far, San Francisco has given $215,000 to Compton’s, said Claire Farley, the director of San Francisco’s Office of Transgender Initiatives.

The transgender district, which is part of the city’s seedy Tenderloin neighborhood, was legally created last June and named in honor of the 1966 ​Compton’s Cafeteria riots in the area, which marked the beginning of transgender activism in San Francisco.

Supervisor Jane Kim, who sponsored the legislation, said the idea was to support the area’s business and and preserve its ​culture, particularly its nightclubs, which she described as LGBTQ “safe spaces.”

“We don’t often think of nightclubs as safe spaces, but for the LGBTQ community, they’re a place people can be free to love and dance with the people they want,” she said. “That’s why we’re working so hard to have an intentional strategy to keep our small businesses here so they can grow and thrive.”

District Manager Honey Mahogany, a transgender female drag queen who in 2013 appeared on the reality TV competition “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” said gay bars are places where “traditions are passed down.”

“Many of our traditions are passed down through queer bars because those are the places where our elders interact with younger generations,” she said. “Drag is often seen as a way of storytelling and passing on stories of previous generations.”

Transgender identity is ostensibly an affirmation of old-fashioned gender roles ― unlike, say, gender fluidity. But critics see it as as anything but traditional. They worry that transgender rights threaten the very notion of gender along with gender-specific language (pronouns), organizations (sports leagues), and spaces (women’s prisons).

For some conservatives, transgender activism is just one facet of a hyper-individualistic liberal project that is fragmenting Western societies. (Nevermind that conservatives have their own radical individualistic impulses when it comes to limited government and the free market.)

It is somewhat ironic, then, that a new generation of liberals has united conservatives with one of their former ideological opponents. Second wave feminists, against whom conservatives defended traditional gender roles at the time of the Compton’s Cafeteria riots, are now awkwardly allied with the right in defense of traditional gender itself. 

Cover image: Two people kiss at the 43rd annual LGBT Pride Celebration & Parade in San Francisco on June 30, 2013. (Getty Images)

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