by Brian Burns and Judd Proctor
Standing Tall Before Stonewall
While many credit the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York as the spark that ignited the nation’s gay rights movement, pride and courage did not start at Stonewall. The transgender communities in Los Angeles, Philadelphia and San Francisco were at the front in fighting back against police harassment and arrests.
The transgender community stood tall in May of 1959 at Cooper’s Donuts on Main Street in Los Angeles. Then, in April of 1965, they, along with others, were denied service at Dewey’s lunch counter in Philadelphia for wearing “non-conformist clothing.” The transgender community fought back in San Francisco in 1966 at the two-day riot at Compton’s Cafeteria and in 1967 in Los Angeles at the Black Cat Bar.
Donuts Fly at Cooper’s Donuts
The transgender community has fought back against police brutality since at least May of 1959. It all started at Cooper’s Donuts on Main Street in Los Angeles. This coffeehouse style establishment stayed open all night and was situated between two gay bars in a rough section of town. It attracted a mixed crowd of drag queens, male hustlers, many Latinos or African American and their acquaintances.
Police often patrolled the area demanding identification, and looking for IDs that didn’t match their name or gender designation. Arrest often followed.
On this night they fought back, hurling donuts, coffee cups and trash at the police, forcing them into their squad cars as those inside poured into the street, dancing around the trapped police.
This would not be the last time they fought back.
Filmmaker, Barbara Hammer
Internationally-recognized as a film artist who’s created over 80 films and videos, Barbara Hammer is considered a pioneer of lesbian-feminist experimental cinema.
Born in Hollywood in 1939, she made her first film, “Schizy,” in 1967 about her own coming out process. Her 1974 short, “Dyketactics,” is considered the first film celebrating lesbian love to be created by a lesbian.
Her 1988 documentary, “The Female Closet,” exhibits her continued interest in recovering the hidden histories of lesbians, bisexuals and gays in Western culture.
With her 16-millimeter films in the 70s, video in the 80s, web-based projects in the 90s and later digital video, Hammer wanted her audiences to “leave the theater with fresh perceptions and emboldened to take active and political stances for social change in a global environment.”