Tonight: How the Tenderloin Built SF’s Gay Rights Movement

by on August 6, 2015

Vanguard, the Tenderloin-based gay liberation group

When I give talks about my book on San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, many people are surprised to learn that the Tenderloin was long the geographic center of the city’s gay, lesbian and transgender movement. Starting with the rise of the Tenderloin’s gay bars during WWII and through the mid-1960’s, it was in the Tenderloin where San Francisco’s gay rights movement took root.

Martin Meeker knows the Tenderloin’s role in the launching of the city’s gay movement as well as anyone. His 2006 book, Contacts Desired: Gay and Lesbian Communications and Community, 1940s-1970s, is indispensable to understanding San Francisco’s GLBT history.

Tonight at 6:30 pm at the Tenderloin Museum, Meeker and I will be discussing this often little known history. Visitors will learn of the historic role of Glide Church, and how Reverend Cecil Williams put the Tenderloin in the vanguard of the gay liberation struggle.

Attendees will also learn of the historic yet little known campaign waged by Tenderloin activists to secure federal war on poverty funds for queer youth. It should be taught in schools today but like much of the Tenderloin’s history it was forgotten until Meeker recovered it.

It should be a fun and enjoyable discussion about a critical slice of San Francisco’s past.

Tickets are only $5, and include museum admission. Event details are at

Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the Director of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which publishes Beyond Chron. Shaw's latest book is Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America. He is the author of four prior books on activism, including The Activist's Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century, and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. He is also the author of The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco

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