Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Neighborhood Pride

The Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco has long been home for many transgender people. Even in the context of a city with a strong reputation as a safe haven for GLBTQ people, however, the neighborhood has not always met the needs of its transgender residents.

Community leaders worked with city officials to create Compton's Transgender Cultural District in 2017. It is named for the site of the Compton's Cafeteria Riots of 1966, a pivotal event in the community's history, similar to the better-known Stonewall uprising in New York City three years later.

In this brief 2019 story, journalist Chloe Veltman tells the story of the neighborhood's transformation with the help of resident Honey Mahogany and city planner Brian Cheu.



Today, the district provides affirmation, a sense of place, safety, and support for economic development. The cultural projects of the district include advocacy, celebration, and education both in real-life events and online projects. The personal stories collected on its YouTube channel are a good place to learn, for people inside and outside of the community. For example, Kelly Kelly explains specifically why having this geographic space is important to her.
Map: Transgender District SF Map Page

The district's sense of place is promoted in a variety of ways, including lamp posts and of course Instagram.



A post shared by Transgender District (@transgenderdistrict) on


Lagniappe

Any success in improving a neighborhood leads almost inevitably to concerns about gentrification: the tendency of improvements to make a neighborhood unaffordable for its residents. This can happen in a variety of circumstances. The first neighborhood I remember living in was Seven Corners in Falls Church, Virginia. It was rather modest when we lived there in the 1960s. My great grandparents happened to move into the same area in the late 1970s, and had financial difficulty staying when improvements were made to many of the apartments there. Upgrades have continued, so that it is now difficult to find any house in the area for under $600,000.

In many cases where the arts have been part of a conscious project of community development, property values can rise much more dramatically, often to the detriment of many of the same people who made the renewal possible in the first place. I have addressed the gentrification question in three different posts on this blog. Gentrification Outcomes (2018) is the broadest of these, drawing on excellent journalism by Linda Wertheimer. My 2016 Gentrifeination post explores the very specific role of coffee in gentrification. Most recently, Somerville Success (2020) focuses on the role of zoning in promoting the development of a city near Boston, with a link to a talk about gentrification there.

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