Following a day of festivities in Dolores Park, a joyful procession of at least a thousand trans and queer people, and allies, marched Friday evening from Dolores Park down Market Street to the Tenderloin.
In light of 20 states recently enacting anti-trans laws and others barely fending them off, this year’s march was as much a symbol of strength as ever, organizers said. Part protest part celebration, marchers emphasized that the Trans March continues to be a rebellion.
One marcher, Miko, said that as a nonbinary person, the Trans March is a symbol of liberation.
“I feel it’s important to defend and fight for those types of liberties. It’s a battle for open-mindedness. It’s far more important today than before — it’s sometimes two steps forward and one step back. If we don’t speak up, it might not go well.”
As ranks of people passed, many called for justice and held up banners bearing portraits and homages to Banko Brown, a 24-year-old Black trans man killed by Walgreens security guard in downtown San Francisco on April 27. The city he grew up in, many said, had failed Brown his whole life; one marcher said that San Francisco sidelines Black and Brown trans people despite its reputation as a haven for queer communities.
Among the hundreds of groups and organizations participating in the march was the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group of queer and trans nuns dedicated to community service for marginalized communities. The Sisters, founded here in 1979, were recently at the center of a controversy after being invited — and then disinvited after conservative backlash — to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Pride Night.
Following discussions between the Sisters and Dodgers and strong support from people nationwide, the group was re-invited, stating that they are now “more closely tied with the LA Dodgers than ever before.”
Sister Anya Streets, a queer, trans activist marching with the throng of people along Market, pointed out that in the current political landscape, “nobody’s safe.”
“The other states are trying to cancel drag and trans and all the queers. And think about it — they’re not happy women are voting.”
“If abortion is a felony, and felons can’t vote? If accessing birth control becomes a felony, and felons can’t vote?” said Sister Anya Street’s friend, seeing the expansion of such bans as a possible precursor to more limited voting rights.
The march proceeded from Dolores Park down Market Street, occupying half of the street’s lanes, with musicians and speakers keeping energy high throughout. Cars honked in support, shouting encouragement as people flooded the city’s main artery. Soon, marchers made a sharp left turn, heading to the heart of the Tenderloin.
The sea of people poured into cordoned-off blocks at Turk and Taylor streets, taking a moment of rest before the night’s parties and mingling with one another. Turk and Taylor is the famed site of the 1966 Compton’s Cafeteria Riots, which saw trans sex workers facing off with police after years of enduring profiling and jail time for “female impersonation.”
Workers at Gene Compton’s Cafeteria, a diner that occupied 101 Taylor St. in the 1960s, regularly called police on trans customers until closing its doors in the years after the confrontation. The August rebellion has lately been recognized as an important precursor to the Stonewall uprising several years later in New York City that spanned several days from June to July 1969.
Speaking from a cable car parked at the edge of the crowd, Socorro Moreland, founder of Brotherhood510, a support group for Black and Brown trans-masculine people, called out: “Who knows about Stormé DeLarverie?” Only a few out of the hundreds present whooped in response.
So, not many, said Moreland. He briefly described DeLarverie, a Black trans-masculine drag king and bodyguard who regularly patrolled the streets of downtown New York City in the 1960s to keep their queer siblings and “children” safe. DeLarverie became known as the “Rosa Parks of Stonewall” after being the first to counter New York police as they raided the Stonewall Inn.
“It’s really important for us to understand that we have always been here and we have always been fighting. DeLarverie was the bouncer of Stonewall. They were the caretaker for the queer and trans folks who were there. When Stormé was approached by police, Stormé hit the police.”
Socorro works closely with Xavier Davenport, a mentor of Banko Brown’s and a Black trans San Francisco native who runs his own support organization for Black trans men of color called Pyramid Kings.
The crowd cheered. After Moreland spoke, the DJ turned up Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own.” A hundred people began to dance in the middle of Taylor Street.
“The Trans March is the most important part of Pride,” said Celestina Pearl, who was stationed next to a St. James Infirmary van that greeted community members along Market Street. Pearl is the outreach services director for St. James Infirmary, an organization in the city that serves sex workers of all genders and orientations.
“First of all,” said Pearl, “it was our trans communities that started Pride, with the riots. It’s always the most marginalized of our communities that must be taken care of. That’s the most important thing.”
“I love my trans community; I will always fight for my trans community; I’m a ride-or-die bitch for the trans community. Always and forever,” she cheered, waving friends in the crowd streaming by.
“We still need to be rioting,” Pearl added.
“This was a huge victory,” said Rosa Astra, one of the organizers of the Trans March. Astra was critical to 2022’s Trans March, which ended up joining forces with the Abortion March that followed a wave of abortion bans or limitations in states across the country.
Astra said that marches like the Trans March are crucial in a country that wasn’t founded to serve those not identified with the dominant white, straight male society.
“You go from having a slave-based economy to never rewriting the constitution,” she said, and with that as the underpinning of American politics, there is no choice but to continue the fight for liberation, she said.