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'It Seeks to Diminish Us': San Francisco LGBTQ Groups Protest City's Redistricting Plans

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A person stands outside holding a microphone with other people standing around and holding a rainbow colored flag.
Transgender District Director of Social Justice and Empowerment Initiatives Jupiter Peraza speaks outside the site of the Compton's Cafeteria riot in San Francisco on March 30, 2022, calling for the Transgender and Leather and LGBTQ districts in the Tenderloin and Western SOMA to remain in District 6. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

A coalition of San Francisco LGBTQ organizations rallied Wednesday to protest the city's current redistricting plans, which they say will sever neighborhood ties between longstanding transgender and queer communities and dilute those communities' political power.

Recently, the city's nine-member Redistricting Task Force approved moving forward with a draft map that would move the Tenderloin from District 6 to a newly redrawn District 5, separating the Tenderloin from the South of Market area and enjoining it with the Western Addition neighborhood. The task force is set to approve the new district map in mid-April.

Opponents of the proposed map say the move could displace some of the city's most marginalized residents, split the political power of LGBTQ residents in those areas, and disconnect the Transgender District — the world's first and only transgender cultural district — from the Leather and LGBTQ Cultural District in nearby SoMa.

The coalition — including leaders from the Transgender District, the Leather and LGBTQ Cultural District, the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club, the Alice B. Toklas LGBTQ Democratic Club and the Tenderloin People’s Congress — called for the Tenderloin neighborhood and SOMA to be kept together in the same district.

“The redistricting task force continues to ignore overwhelming testimony from community members to keep the Tenderloin and SOMA together in District 6,” said Jupiter Peraza, director of social justice and empowerment initiatives at the Transgender District, at Wednesday's press conference.

“We need comprehensive district boundaries to ensure vulnerable communities are represented adequately. Without proper representation, we run the risk of being overlooked in the decision-making process that molds the future of our communities.”

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Edward Wright, president of the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club, said the task force must listen to queer and trans residents.

“We are here today because we have not been heard, and it’s critical that the task force knows as they move forward in this process that they cannot divide the LGBTQ community,” Wright said at Wednesday's event.

“That potential separation would furthermore divide the Transgender District, which is again the first recognized transgender cultural district anywhere in the world, from the Leather and LGBTQ Cultural District, which is also the first of it's kind recognized anywhere in the world.”

Black and brown people stand listening with stern faces as a pride flag is held in the background
Staff members of the Transgender District listen to speakers outside the site of the Compton's Cafeteria riot, San Francisco, March 30, 2022, during a press conference calling for the Transgender and Leather and LGBTQ districts in the Tenderloin and Western SOMA to remain in District 6. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

The press event took place at the site of the Compton's Cafeteria riot, a historic area for queer history and the LGBTQ civil rights movement.

Compton's Cafeteria served as a meeting place for drag queens, trans women, sex workers and other marginalized individuals in the 1960s. In August 1966, a riot occurred in response to police harassment against the trans community. After the riot, local LGBTQ advocacy gained a stronger foothold, and more support services for the community were established.

"The Tenderloin represents one of the last vestiges of housing affordability, socioeconomic and racial diversity, trans and queer cultural heritage, and a dense concentration of legacy businesses that have been long-lasting community centers for all of San Francisco," said Peraza in a statement.

"Keeping the Tenderloin and SoMa together in District 6 is an urgent and imperative matter — one that if not defended, could displace vulnerable communities that are already fleeing San Francisco at alarming rates."

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“The redistricting task force was knowingly drawing an imaginary line through the middle of our community, dividing us in half," said Curtis Bradford, co-chair of the Tenderloin People’s Congress during Wednesday's press conference. "It seeks to diminish us, it seeks to do harm to our community, it seeks to silence our voices. We can’t let the city break up our community, diminish our voice at a time like now when we need it so much.”

Organizers invited their supporters to attend the next task force meeting this Saturday morning. The final plan is due April 15.

This story includes reporting from KQED's Juan Carlos Lara and Spencer Whitney, and from Bay City News.

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