Trans & Queer API Timeline
In pursuit of honoring our histories, timelines became an important way to showcase a larger community narrative and culture. Our timelines, created by us for us, connect our Dragon Fruit oral histories with broader movement histories, bringing together individual stories to form a complex cultural narrative.
Paper Timeline (2014)
Tracy Nguyen sharing about Lavender Phoenix’s timeline at the 2015 Intergenerational Brunch. The QTAPI History Timeline is below the LavNix timeline.
digital Timeline (2016-2017)
While we were reaching hundreds of people with our paper timeline, we knew that even more people wanted to see our histories in action. In 2017, Dragon Fruit volunteers launched an online TQAPI history timeline for the Dragon Fruit Digital Portal. Unrestricted by paper, the online timeline allowed us the space to dig deeper into specific events and go as far back into history as the 1800s. This gave us the opportunity to speak more about colonialism and the creation of the “Asian” as a racial category within the U.S. racial context, and later, “Asian-American” as a political category in the 1960s and “Asian Pacific Islander” as a census-based category in the 1980s.
The online Dragon Fruit Project Timeline is a companion to the well-loved paper timeline, and neither could ever be fully comprehensive. Each brings its own utility—while the paper timeline provides a conversational and interactive way of understanding history, the online timeline gives more points of information, and the digital format allows for viewers to read, digest, and come back to the timeline at their own pace.
The digital Dragon Fruit Project Timeline is available here.
digital graphic Timeline (2021)
Even though timelines highlight the past, we know that they are living documents. We must continuously add, edit, and remix timelines in order to speak to present-day context. So, in 2021, LavNix recruited Tracy Nguyen once again, to take the paper timeline and make it digital. In this round of edits, we updated key events, filled in some of the gaps from the original timeline, and added 5 more years of content to capture the biggest moments from 2014 to 2021. Created during the COVID-19 pandemic, the digital timeline allowed us to showcase our interwoven community histories virtually! To this day, we continue to hold workshops to share the digital timeline with organizers and activists from around the country.
Image preview of LavNix Digital Graphic Timeline. Full file can be found here.
What might be missing?
One of our most innovative Dragon Fruit experiences involved taking our stories to the streets with our very own walking tour. LavNix was inspired by the Berkeley South Asian Radical Walking Tour (BSARHWT), a historical and theatrical experience sharing the narratives of South Asian activists and organizers. With the support of Anirvan and Barnali, BSARHWT creators, we aimed to create our own walking tour to show the history of TQAPI communities in San Francisco.
We aimed to create a type of political dissemination that would engage community members in an interactive way, grounding people to hyper-local work in San Francisco and the broader Bay Area. Organizers pulled from our own oral histories of TQAPI activists and community members, and referenced the histories of other organizations in order to create a physical story that spanned decades.
Beginning in 2015, volunteers began to compile information on specific historical sites, such as Glide Church, the International Hotel, and the apartment where the organization Daughters of Bilitis was born. Before moving to the streets, we created digital versions using mapping software, adding pins of significant historical monuments. Then, we moved to getting the Walking Tour ready for the streets.
The DFP Walking Tour successfully launched at the 2018 NQAPIA (National Queer Asian and Pacific Islander Alliance) National Conference that drew 600 TQAPI folks. Over the span of two workshop sessions, over 70 people experienced our first in-person walking tours. They lasted about three hours and took participants to several important spaces for TQAPI history in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco including California Hall, Compton’s Cafeteria, Glide Memorial Church, API Wellness Center/SF Community Health Center, N Touch, Divas Bar, Transgender Gender-variant and Intersex Justice Project, and Vietnamese Youth Development.
The November 1964 issue of The Ladder, depicting Ger Van Braam, a queer Indonesian womxn, full-face (Daughters of Bilitis). One of the histories uncovered in the research for the walking tour was the influence and leadership of API women and other women of color in the formation of Daughters of Bilitis, often cited as the first lesbian national organization in the United States.
When does a place become more than a place? More than the sum of its physical place? Our favorite places invite feelings of comfort and belonging as we approach; they interact with us just as we interact with them.
They can both facilitate movements, and be representative of them. When our favorite places are threatened, it can feel as if our very movements are under attack.
Operating under rapid gentrification, our LGBTQ spaces in San Francisco are shifting and struggling to find meaning in a city now being built for the wealthy. The Tenderloin neighborhood in San Francisco has some of the most important sites in the nation for LGBTQ history, and yet little is known about many of the sites.
As one of the city’s more affordable neighborhoods, it was also the first stop for many immigrant communities (Vietnamese, Chinese, Cambodian, Laotian, Filipino) and houses the historic Little Saigon neighborhood.
All these queer, trans, and API histories often intersected, and now our previously invisible stories are being brought to the forefront.
One of the stops on the tour was at Compton’s Cafeteria. As Tamara Ching, born in San Francisco, describes in an NPR article, “from Compton’s ‘you could walk to Woolworth’s to buy [fake] eyelashes, and it was two blocks from the airline bus terminal,’ where […] many drag queens and trans women would go to change from male to female clothes.” She said, “Compton’s nourished people. People would sit there for days drinking a cup of coffee. I would buy a full meal. I don’t cook and I loved eating at Compton’s — it was like downtown.”
With persistent and increasing harassment from Compton’s workers and police, tensions came to a head when a policeman, known by the community for his bigotry and aggression, forcefully grabbed a trans woman’s arm and she threw coffee on him. The crowd at Compton’s, including Black and Brown trans women like Felicia Flames, pushed the police out of the cafe and fought with them until paddy wagons arrived and many were arrested. The Compton’s Cafeteria Riot, as it is now called, is seen as a collective action taken by the community against police harassment and transphobia.
Tamara Ching was a special guest at the walking tour in 2018. Here, DFP walking tour leaders and participants are stopping in front of Compton’s Cafeteria.
Creating a Walking Tour was an experiment in making our histories known beyond the digital world and beyond the classroom. The physical manifestation of the Dragon Fruit Project put people in the literal places where history happened, reminding community members that they are also actively able to shape history.
Check out the Resilience Archives interactive Bay Area LGBTQ AAPI history map! If possible, go to one of those locations with a friend and explore the history!
What other tours have you attended and what are the similarities and differences between the ones you’ve attended and this one?
Do you know about Compton’s Cafeteria?
What are some queer and trans culturally significant events in San Francisco?