Scholar Megan Weinand Meets Queer Historian Susan Stryker

Susan Stryker and Megan Weinand

Susan Stryker & Megan Weinand

Recently, I had the honor of meeting Susan Stryker, a renowned historian in transgender studies and history! I read Professor Stryker’s book, Transgender History (Seal Press), years ago during my undergraduate studies.  I also watched her wonderful documentary on the Compton Cafeteria riots, Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria. A wonderful clip from her documentary can be seen here. If you are interested in these topics, I highly suggest checking out either of these! Few people know that the Compton Cafeteria riots of 1966, the first recorded transgender riots in history, occurred before the Stonewall riots (1969). I actually had the chance to see the original location of the Compton Cafeteria riots for the first time when I interviewed as a Finalist for the Point Foundation Scholarship in San Francisco last May!

Megan visiting the site of the Compton Riots

A bit of background on the riots: Compton’s Cafeteria had become a safe haven for San Francisco transgender individuals, many of whom experienced discrimination and police harassment including transwomen being taken to jail for the crime of “female impersonation.” One night (believed to be August 9th, 1966), the police raided the cafeteria and “all hell broke loose.” In her book, Transgender History, Stryker captures the sentiment of the community during the time of these historic civil rights riots:

The first night I was in San Francisco I was arrested for ‘sidewalk obstruction’ by the ‘tax squad’, which was a police squad that generally made life unpleasant for people who didn’t fit in. Later, I was arrested for ‘female impersonation’. I never felt that I was impersonating female, I thought, I am a female. What happened at Compton’s Cafteria that night wasn’t a ‘catfight’ between screaming queens-it was a riot, and it kicked off a new human rights movement. Out of Compton’s [riots] came some very beautiful, beautiful women. We felt good about ourselves. And that’s the most interesting part of it, because once you feel good about yourself, nobody can hurt you. Nobody can come in and turn anything around that you don’t want.”

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Photostill from the documentary Screaming Queens

Imagine my surprise when I went home to Tucson, Arizona for spring break from medical school, and I saw that Susan Stryker has recently taken a position as the Director of the LGBT Institute at the University of Arizona in my very own hometown. Professor Stryker was incredibly gracious and offered to meet with me.  We spent three hours discussing her life story and her perspectives on topics in transgender health. I was able to ask her questions and bounce ideas off her about projects that I am working on with Dr. Joshua Safer of the Boston University School of Medicine Transgender Research Group, as well as ideas from conversations I have had with my Point Foundation mentor, Dr. Jennifer Potter of the Fenway Institute.

I am really grateful to Professor Stryker for her time and great conversation, her commitment to the LGBTQ community and her continued inspiration as a tireless advocate!! Thank you Susan Stryker for taking the time to meet up with me!

 
This post was written by Rosen Goertz Point Scholar Megan Weinand
Megan is excited to pursue her dream to advocate for marginalized communities as a pro-bono physician, particularly for LGBTQ individuals, people of color, women, international and Spanish-speaking patients, and to advocate for these communities nationally, internationally, within the clinic, and on a policy level.  Learn more about Megan.