Meet the 3 Black trans leaders who revolutionized SF's Tenderloin neighborhood

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Saturday, February 27, 2021
Meet the 3 Black trans women revolutionizing one SF neighborhood
The founders of Compton's Transgender Cultural District describe how the world's first legally recognized transgender district came to be.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Since as early as the 1920s, San Francisco's Tenderloin District has been a documented home for transgender residents.

"Everyone around me in my life told me that I'd have a better life when I came to San Francisco," Aria Sa'id co-founder and executive director of the Compton's Transgender Cultural District reveals. "So many trans people come here like refugees from other cities in the United States."

Sa'id first came to San Francisco when she was 19 years old. "As a Black trans woman, as a teenager in San Francisco, I learned very quickly that while San Francisco affirmed me legislatively...socially...I had walked into job interviews and been laughed at...I had been spit on in the street," Sa'id shares.

"We realized that if we didn't do something, the Tenderloin was quickly going to become gentrified and our history was going to be completely erased," recalls Compton's Transgender Cultural District co-founder Honey Mahogany.

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Sa'id, Mahogany, and third co-founder Janetta Johnson united to form the first legally recognized transgender district in the world. Encompassing six blocks in San Francisco's Tenderloin, Compton's Transgender Cultural District was named after the Compton's Cafeteria Riot, the first documented uprising of transgender and queer people in the United States against police harassment and abuse.

This historic riot sparked transgender activism and resistance in San Francisco and continues to fuel the district's work toward cultivating a celebratory, affirming space for trans people.

"I think that's the biggest part of the hopes, the dreams of Compton's Transgender Cultural District is a safe place for queer, trans and gender-nonconforming, nonbinary people to come to San Francisco and find a more welcoming space," Johnson states.

"Making sure that we are providing them with the opportunities to succeed and the tools that they need in order to succeed is a huge part of what the Transgender Cultural District is doing," adds Mahogany.

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Today, the founders create sustainable change through six major program initiatives that empower transgender people. From offering immediate employment opportunities to preserving cultural heritage, The Transgender District promotes economic advancement and fosters leadership skills all while strengthening the community.

"I think a future for trans people in San Francisco looks like social, cultural and economic empowerment, true empowerment, and true inclusion," Sa'id states.

Visit here to learn more about Compton's Transgender Cultural District.

To donate, visit here.

Follow The Transgender District on Instagram for the latest updates.

To see more ABC7 Allies in Action, go here.