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In recent years, preservation agencies at the federal, state, and locals levels have advanced more inclusive approaches to historic preservation by commissioning theme studies, surveys, and nominations to registers of historic places that address previously neglected aspects of US heritage. Much of the work done under the broad umbrella of inclusive histories has been focused on communities defined by a single aspect of identity. This essay raises questions about the effectiveness of single-community studies in addressing previously overlooked aspects of history at the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and more. We encourage preservation professionals to take seriously the concept of intersectionality, which acknowledges the multivalent quality of lived experience, addresses the complexity of identity, and recognizes the multiplicity of communities with a stake in the preservation and interpretation of any given historic property. This essay argues for the strategic importance of learning from recent studies of LGBTQ resources to refine intersectional approaches to preservation planning, while identifying hidden barriers to inclusion and cultural equity in programs and projects that use a single lens to identify cultural resources associated with underrepresented groups.


LGBTQ, historic preservation, intersectionality, diversity, cultural equity

Never again will a single story be told as though it's the only one.

—John Berger, G.: A Novel (1992)

There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle, because we do not live single-issue lives.

—Audre Lorde, "Learning from the 60s" (1982)

The multiplicity of LGBTQ histories and identities offers a path forward for the practice of historic preservation and cultural resources management (CRM) generally. Improved coverage of LGBTQ history at historic places has broader implications for the field of historic preservation. The National Park Service (NPS) theme study, LGBTQ America, signals new awareness of queer lives relevant to [End Page 290] most cultural resource surveys and related forms of documentation.1 But beyond the obvious implications of treating nonnormative sexual identities as legitimate interpretive subjects, these initiatives illustrate what it means to apply the academic and political concept of "intersectionality"2 to the practice of preservation. So too, it points to the value of doing so, and hints at possibilities for translating the concept into practice when carrying out standard CRM work on theme studies, surveys of cultural resources, nominations of individual properties for landmark listings, and interpretive projects.

LGBTQ history is particularly instructive precisely because it joins many different people under one banner and contains a universe of nonnormative sexual and gender identities, relationships, and practices, subject to change over time. As a rubric, it continues to evolve, hence the addition of letters I for Intersex, A for Asexual, TS for Two Spirit, and more. LGBTQ is not an identity in and of itself, but rather a contemporary political alliance that can conceal as much as it reveals about the individuals and communities designated by the acronym. LGBTQ scholars and activists have worked to bring attention to lives beyond those of middle-class white gay men and to recognize that queer experiences demand seeing beyond singular, fixed categories. As Kevin Murphy, Jennifer Pierce, and Jason Ruiz recently wrote regarding oral history practice, "a queer methodology destabilizes terms like identity and community from the outset."3

For these reasons, preservation planning initiatives related to LGBTQ heritage are among the first to move beyond studies of single communities, i.e., Latino or Asian American, to address the multiplicity and intersectionality of identities within any given community. Work on LGBTQ heritage has generated innovations in the conceptualization of studies, approaches to consultation, and understanding of the implications for preservation action. As such, it suggests new strategies for revealing the diversity and polyvocality underlying any seemingly homogenous community.

Intersectionality is one of the most influential and useful concepts for addressing the complexity of identities. In 1989 legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw introduced her theory of intersectionality to describe interlocking structures of oppression that compound discrimination; since then, the term has been employed by academics and activists to offer a critique and alternative to single identity [End Page 291] politics.4 Intersectionality has proven to be a useful frame for scholars across many academic disciplines and has been widely adopted by social justice activists, who have expanded its purview to encompass class, disabilities, age, and other categories of identity-based discrimination. Yet the relevance of intersectionality to developing culturally inclusive preservation practices has not previously been explored.5 For the purposes of this essay, we employ intersectionality as a description of subjective identity in which one's sense of self is multifold and varies according to context. Our perspective not only recognizes this wider range of marginalized identities, but also seeks to bring greater attention to the relationship between structural forces of oppression and human capacity to resist them, as well as expressions of agency and vibrant cultural expressions that come from claiming and celebrating identity.

Towards an Intersectional Approach to Preservation

More than fifty years have passed since the new social history began to document previously overlooked communities in detail. The preservation field took some time to incorporate the broader, bottom-up perspective these scholars offered and the authors' own paths through the preservation field closely followed this trajectory. Yet, as active contributors to this project during the past thirty years, we have come to believe that the identity politics that energized campaigns to preserve neglected aspects of women's history, racial/ethnic history, and LGBTQ history run the risk of missing important intersections among and between identities and communities that are more complex than previously imagined, but which are consistent with the realities of social identity and experience.

A polyvocal strategy for documenting and interpreting historically significant properties would recognize multiple layers of use and meaning that adhere to places over time. By seeking out the layered stories that the majority of buildings hold, preservation plans can prevent the common pattern of creating oversimplified and incomplete versions of the past that overlook the often-contested interests of multiple stakeholders. Yet historic preservation processes conventionally have worked counter to this approach. Nomination criteria favor narrowly limiting a resource's period of significance to capture one aspect of its meaning. This has [End Page 292] led to tightly focused arguments as to why a place is worthy of designation, while also severely limiting our understanding of its significance and change over time. Many people's ability to see their own past reflected at historic places has been blocked by this outmoded trope in preservation planning. Likewise, the overarching value that institutional preservation policies have placed on physical integrity—requiring that the structure retain original physical fabric associated with its historical significance—has presented major obstacles when trying to designate sites associated with marginalized communities, who have often lacked the capital needed to own and control places significant to their histories. In this way, preservation policies and practices retain unexamined biases that stem from legacies of property ownership and dispossession. For preservation programs to become relevant and responsive to all of the groups that have contributed to the nation's past, a more critical perspective needs to be brought to the context that shaped differences in the capacity of various groups to leave lasting imprints on tangible resources and to protect the character-defining features of places that matter to them.

The National Register of Historic Places, which is described by the National Park Service as "the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation,"6 lags in equitable coverage of places associated with women, communities of color, LGBTQ people and other populations. Listings designated for their association with women or communities of color are widely acknowledged to be less than 10 percent of the overall designations,7 prompting historian and preservationist Raymond Rast to argue that "the fundamental methods of the preservation movement continue to spring from—and tend to contribute to—the designation and protection of properties (mostly old buildings) associated with prominent, white, male architects and their wealthy clients, just as they did for most of the 20th century."8

The California Office of Historic Preservation in the mid-1980s carried out one of the earliest examples of a cultural resource survey meant to compensate for the narrow lens traditional preservation offered on US history. Five Views: An Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California corrected the overwhelming whiteness of much prior preservation activity within the state by assembling teams to identify and document sites important to Native Americans, Mexican Americans, African Americans, Chinese Americans, and Japanese Americans. The project's choice to use race as the category of analysis set the pattern for the many studies that followed.9 [End Page 293]

Obviously "single-lens" studies have been critical to recovering histories of groups marginalized within historical scholarship as well as historic preservation activity. But they risk overlooking the complexity of histories and identities that co-existed in the very places they were examining. A review of federal, state, and local projects designed to enhance diversity in historic preservation reveals a fundamental problem; mechanisms are not yet in place that recognize the complexity of experience embedded in individual lives and present in seemingly homogenous communities. Most preservation studies continue to replicate the single lens approach to understanding the past and the places that reflect it. Preservation, then, has a systemic problem that produces misleading or partial representations of the past, overlooking the multiplicity of stories that remain to be told. By not fully addressing the intersectionality or polyvocality of most histories of place, important aspects of experience are silenced and erased, even in projects with the best intention of fostering diversity and inclusion within historic preservation.

As NPS came to understand that important aspects of US history, encompassing the stories of many Americans, are not reflected in federal designation listings, the agency has developed new projects under an umbrella effort described as "Telling All Americans' Stories."10 This initiative worked to make structural changes in how NPS reviewed landmark nominations and evaluated prospective additions to units of the National Park system. Focused studies of Latino Heritage (2013) and Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage (2018) were among the fruits of NPS efforts to expand its mission to include the history of all of the American people in its cultural resource programs.

Even as NPS leaders commissioned these studies focused on single ethnic groups, they recognized their limitations. Reflecting on these thematic studies, former NPS Associate Director of Cultural Resources, Partnerships, and Science, Stephanie Toothman, acknowledged that agency leadership understood the limitations of zeroing in on specific communities, but noted pragmatically, "We had to start somewhere. There was a vacuum that the NHL [National Historic Landmark] theme studies are beginning to fill."11 Since 2014, these studies have been complemented by a grants program to support surveys and nominations of historic resources associated with communities currently underrepresented in the National [End Page 294] Register of Historic Places and among National Historic Landmarks.12 While adding much-needed information about underrepresented aspects of history, including about Native American communities, the majority of Underrepresented Communities Grants awarded in three rounds of funding adopted a single racial/ethnic lens. In addition to projects focused on the histories of specific ethnic/racial communities, NPS grants have supported local efforts to document LGBTQ history in San Francisco; New York City; Louisville, Kentucky; and Washington, DC. More could be done to prioritize cross-group connections between the intersectional identities that tend to fall into the cracks between theme studies.

Recent efforts to identify, document, interpret, and preserve the landmarks of LGBTQ heritage stand on the shoulders of earlier, community-based efforts to map LGBTQ life. These, in turn, hinged on the establishment and growth of LGBTQ community archives and historical societies.13 Advocates for bringing LGBTQ history into the preservation field first became vocal in the 1980s when queer preservationists and their allies associated with the National Trust for Historic Preservation pressed for the inclusion of LGBTQ content in its annual conference and publications.14

The NPS's 2016 LGBTQ Heritage Initiative presents the most impressive scope of all of these recent federal studies by the breadth of commissioned essays, including nominations of selected properties for listing on the National Register and as National Historic Landmarks, a crowd-sourced online map of LGBTQ places, and encouragement of participation by residents across the country to design a tour, organize a community event, or advocate for LGBTQ inclusion at historic places.15 The culminating publication, LGBTQ America: A Theme Study for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer History, is a remarkably ambitious work with thirty-two chapters by community scholars and academics from a broad range of disciplines. Of particular relevance to this essay, theme study editor Megan E. Springate made a point of offering intersectionality as an analytic tool for engaging in place-based studies of LGBTQ history.16 Springate explained in her essay, "A Note on Intersectionality," her reasons for this choice: [End Page 295]

What are the implications in an intersectional approach to LGBTQ history and heritage, particularly in the context of the National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks programs? . . . An intersectional approach also allows the recognition and evaluation of historic properties in context. . . . As well as providing a more nuanced and complete approach to documenting LGBTQ sites, an intersectional approach also connects LGBTQ history to broader patterns in American history, including Civil Rights, women's history, and labor history, just to name a few.17

In addition to reminding authors that they should ground their essays in place, Springate cautioned contributors against writing a single LGBTQ history, but rather to "be sure to recognize the intersectionality of identity and experience."18 At 1,200 pages, the LGBTQ theme study is substantially longer than other recent NPS initiatives, leading Springate to note, "When you go intersectional, it expands the work."19 The theme study offers preservationists multiple models for adopting an intersectional approach to CRM practice more generally.

A recent project that demonstrates the relevance and value of an intersectional perspective is the National Historic Landmark designation for the Pauli Murray Residence in Durham, North Carolina, a historic property the LGBTQ Heritage Initiative illuminated. Murray (1914–85) was a civil rights activist, attorney, feminist, co-founder of the National Organization for Women, a gifted writer, and the first ordained African American Episcopal priest. She was also a gender nonconforming woman who was open about her intimate relationships with other women. Accurately representing such a remarkable person hinges on an intersectional approach that braids the many strands of her identity together. The recent NHL nomination for the Pauli Murray Family Home identifies several areas of significance including LGBTQ, Social and Humanitarian Movements, Women's Rights, Civil Rights, and Law.20 This more holistic interpretation of Murray's life deepens understanding and appreciation of her accomplishments, as well as the barriers that structures of inequality placed in her way.

The modest, single-family home Murray's grandfather built in 1898 cannot directly speak to the complexities of Murray's history and legacy. Fortunately Duke University's Human Rights Center has plans to open the Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice at the house. In the words of its board chair, it will focus on "history, arts, education and activism where learning and thoughtful discussion that advances Pauli's vision for an inclusive American takes place." The new use [End Page 296] promises to make the landmark a living legacy consistent with Murray's ambitions for social change.21

SF LGBTQ Case Studies: Preservation Planning in America's Queerest City

San Francisco is internationally recognized as a magnet and place of pilgrimage for LGBTQ people and a critical proving ground for advancements in queer culture, politics, and civil rights. A pioneer in efforts to identify, document, and preserve LGBTQ historic sites, San Francisco was the site of foundational efforts to bring LGBTQ concerns into the preservation agenda.

The 2016 Citywide Historic Context Statement for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer History in San Francisco by Donna Graves and Shayne Watson was prepared in a period when the city was self-consciously working to broaden the ways historic resources were being identified, documented, and preserved. In 2010, the San Francisco Historic Preservation Commission requested that planning department staff evaluate the state of the city's landmarks and evaluate important aspects of San Francisco's history that had been neglected. In the staff's assessment, "San Francisco's landmarks predominantly reflect the experience, domiciles, and businesses of historic San Francisco's more powerful and affluent residents." The report concluded that "the vast majority of landmarks were evaluated and designated based on architectural associations," rather than cultural or historical significance, and that the city's landmarks "represent intact, high-style design, rather than vernacular architecture."22 In response to this finding, the commission encouraged development of landmark designations and historic context statements focused on the social history of previously underrepresented communities that would provide a sounder and more inclusive basis for preservation planning. This represented an advance in what types of places are protected by designation, a critical issue given the extreme level of development occurring in San Francisco, which does not affect all communities equitably.

Graves and Watson built on the foundation set by the 2004 study Sexing the City: The Development of Sexual Identity Based Subcultures in San Francisco, 1933–1979, authored by Damon Scott and sponsored by the Friends of 1800.23 Their report broke ground as the first LGBTQ historic context study in the United States. It was, however, intended as a framework for future research, not a thorough treatment of the subject. In 2013, Graves and Watson secured funding [End Page 297] to develop a more comprehensive historic context statement for San Francisco's LGBTQ history that strived for more diverse representations of queerness consistent with the current state of knowledge in academe as well as the perspectives of groups whose identities fall within and even at the margins of the LGBTQ umbrella.

The Citywide Historic Context Statement for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer History in San Francisco presents historical background on nine themes spanning the long arc of human habitation in what is now San Francisco, from its earliest indigenous presence through the AIDS epidemic in the 1980 and 1990s. It pays particular attention to incorporating place-based histories of underdocumented groups within LGBTQ communities, including lesbians, bisexuals, transgender people, and LGBTQ people of color.24 Scholars and local advisors helped Graves and Watson to develop effective strategies for tapping community-based knowledge, with a goal of reflecting the diverse and often intersectional experiences of LGBTQ people in San Francisco.

San Francisco is fortunate to have substantial publicly accessible archives for LGBTQ history, including the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender (GLBT) Historical Society (sometimes known as the "Gay Smithsonian") and the James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center of the San Francisco Public Library. These resources allowed the context statement to document queer history in the obvious places, such as the Castro and Tenderloin neighborhoods, but materials in their collection also confirm that LGBTQ history is woven into many neighborhoods and sites across the city. The richness of San Francisco's LGBTQ archives, however, still reflects biases in its coverage. The majority of primary sources reflect the experiences of white, gay, and middle-class men, both for reasons of relative privilege and because of the deep losses in a generation devastated by the AIDS crisis, which prompted a wave of commemoration and documentation. For these reasons, connecting with people who had important knowledge of underrepresented communities was an essential task in Graves and Watson's study, requiring numerous community meetings and interviews.25 Still, research into otherwise underrepresented members of San Francisco's LGBTQ communities is unfinished and must be a priority for future projects. [End Page 298]

In addition to creating a more inclusive record of queer history, San Francisco's LGBTQ Historic Context Statement was written to build local capacity for preservation advocacy. Rather than following a typical context statement format designed for preservation professionals, the document was designed to be reader-friendly, beginning with a heavily illustrated narrative history and concluding with a "Step-by-step Guide to Evaluating LGBTQ Properties in San Francisco," which provides members of the public who are unfamiliar with the designation process with the tools needed to take action to save LGBTQ places.

The historic context statement includes a section on the challenges traditional approaches to integrity pose for LGBTQ historic sites, recognizing the implications of this work for changes in preservation policy and practice. Many aspects of queer history unfolded in the liminal spaces of San Francisco's less privileged neighborhoods, in areas buffeted by economic and demographic change, or affected by plans for redevelopment. Important events and organizational meetings were often held in a succession of restaurants, bars, and storefronts, subject to repeated change over time due to shifting economic and cultural realities in a dynamic city. All of these factors have led to diminished integrity of tangible resources, which has left properties vulnerable to substantive change or demolition and subsequently ineligible for designation or tax credits that incentivize preservation. The context statement makes a strong argument for recognizing properties that have poor integrity but important histories attached to them, while suggesting practical strategies for increasing public awareness of their significance.

The report's recommendations go beyond preservation's conventional focus on the physical building precisely because control over real property—spaces to gather and openly express one's sexual identity and orientation—has been such a fundamental problem in LGBTQ history, given the power of legalized discrimination, social stigma, and the potential of violence to restrict, conceal, or erase permanent traces of queerness on the built environment and cultural landscape. For these reasons, the San Francisco study draws attention to the importance of interpretation and education at LGBTQ historic sites regardless of the extent of the remaining physical fabric. It also makes the case for preservation programs to invest in sustaining intangible aspects of San Francisco's LGBTQ heritage that are critical to the vitality of its communities, such as heritage businesses, still in operation despite the pressures of hyperdevelopment in a booming city, and ongoing community events such as the annual San Francisco Pride Celebration & Parade, the Dyke and Trans Marches, and the Pink Triangle memorial on Twin Peaks.

The Citywide Historic Context Statement for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer History in San Francisco was adopted as a formal planning tool in November 2015 and has informed multiple reviews of building projects, planning decisions about specific neighborhoods, interpretive programs, and landmark nominations. More than three hundred properties documented in the context statement are flagged in the San Francisco Planning Department's online Property Information Map (with rainbow flags!) so that anyone researching a specific building [End Page 299] can access the study's findings. As a result, these places now stand a chance of being protected under California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) laws related to historic preservation, which mandate that municipalities consider the impacts of development on historic resources. Perhaps most importantly, these laws give standing to public opinion during environmental review processes, providing communities an opportunity to speak in a collective voice to resist projects that would damage the social and physical fabric of San Francisco's LGBTQ enclaves, and recognize less visible "non-claves" from the standpoint of queer experience.

The shared ambitions of LGBTQ America and San Francisco's Citywide Historic Context Statement were to bring equitable treatment to the many communities that coexist under the political banner of the LGBTQ acronym, often with considerable tension over issues of race, class, gender, and differences of sexual orientation. Once their multiple historic resources have been identified, however, this fragile coalition risks dissolving into its constituent parts based on relatively narrow identities, social networks, perceptions of self-interest, and access to the forms of power that typically garner resources for heritage preservation. Different LGBTQ communities possess unequal capital to advocate for the protection of cultural resources associated with their affinity group. How can the coalitions that supported theme studies and surveys be converted into strategic alliances, much less durable partnerships, whose participants can agree on priorities for action that are not driven exclusively by the self-interest of their most powerful constituents? Here the concept of inter-sectionality has strategic implications for efforts to mobilize around issues of social justice and cultural equity in cultural resources management.

Broad context documents and surveys of cultural resources can be translated into an action agenda that prioritizes places that resonate for multiple stakeholders. Places where issues of intersectionality are present offer untapped potential for reaching across and among communities, yet they are also sometimes rife with tensions over questions about whose history matters, and how to reconcile differences between racialized and gendered experience, even within seemingly homogenous queer communities. These are the places that demand polyvocal documentation and layered interpretive strategies. San Francisco's LGBTQ Historic Context Statement highlighted places that hold great promise for intersectional and multivocal strategies. Several buildings identified in SF's LGBTQ study that fit this profile have been commissioned for fuller documentation and recognition. Case studies of three such sites follow.

The Women's Building

The LGBTQ context statement revealed that many social halls, theaters, and other buildings constructed as public gathering spaces had unexpected connections to queer history, often relatively fleeting but nevertheless significant. One such place was California Hall, built by the German Association in 1912 on Polk Street. Over time the Hall acquired multiple associations with LGBTQ history, from an infamous 1965 episode of police harassment at the Council on Religion and the Homosexual's [End Page 300] New Year's Eve fundraiser, which brought public attention to longstanding police oppression of LGBTQ people in San Francisco, to the 1970s, when the hall hosted the first public service of the Metropolitan Community Church, one of the first intentionally welcoming religious institutions. It also was the base for meetings of a pioneering gay mental health program, Operation Concern.26

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The Women's Building, 2017. In 1994, a painting titled Maestrapeace covered the building facades to communicate women's contributions across time and around the world. The intergenerational, multiethnic mural collective included Juana Alicia, Miranda Bergman, Edythe Boone, Susan Kelk Cervantes, Meera Desai, Yvonne Littleton, and Irene Perez. (Photo credit: Bruce Rinehart)

California Hall also hosted drag-theater productions that appeared in rented facilities across the city including the Russian Hall, the Village Theatre, Bimbo's 365 Club, and the Japan Center Theatre.27 In the 1980s, the Swedish American Hall on Market Street housed the first public event organized by Asian American lesbians as well as religious services offered by the queer Radiant Light Ministry and meetings of Mobilization Against AIDS.28 Looking at the history of places through an intersectional lens deepens our understanding of historic resources that may already be valued by some portion of the broader community, but whose full scope of significance has yet to be illuminated. [End Page 301]

What was once a Norwegian social hall in San Francisco's Mission district was transformed by radical, primarily lesbian, feminists into one of the primary centers of women's activism and LGBTQ political and social life in San Francisco. Opened in 1979, The Women's Building (TWB) at 3543 18th Street describes itself as "the first women-owned and women-operated community center in the U.S."29 The four-story edifice called Mission Turn Hall, built in 1910 in the heavily immigrant Mission District, was originally part of a network of German American associations across the United States that offered physical education and space for community social, cultural, and political activities. In the 1930s it became Dovre Hall, home to the Sons and Daughters of Norway. Ethnic social halls founded by immigrants in the early twentieth century lost their relevance in post-WWII decades as successive generations' interest dwindled and founders passed on. In 1978, the feminist organization San Francisco Women's Centers began to search for a permanent home after facing challenges in organizing a major event on violence against women that the sponsoring collective decided should be for women only; the initial conference location, San Francisco State University, backed out after that decision. A sympathetic realtor steered them to Dovre Hall and the ambitious goal of raising funds to own the building was set.30

Purchasing the large building for $535,000 in 1978 dollars presented a significant challenge for a grassroots women's organization. It demanded enormously expanded fundraising, as well as new skills in financial planning, contract negotiations, publicity, tenant recruitment, and property management. Some members were concerned that becoming property owners would institutionalize and dilute their radical goals and pose a conflict with their grassroots base.31 Fortunately, the effort went forward; its success has ensured that the organization can stay true to its grassroots commitments, especially now that many community organizations are being squeezed out of their facilities by spiraling rents. Building ownership allowed The Woman's Building a level of stability and duration in place that is singular among the many women's centers created during the years associated with "second wave" feminism.32

Archival sources and a solid base of scholarship now make it possible to document the buildings and landscapes of post-WWII feminism. But it has yet to receive systematic attention within preservation planning initiatives. No local, regional, or national surveys or theme studies have grounded this theme in place. Properties associated with second wave feminism have just begun to reach the fifty-year mark (the threshold used by most registers for establishing eligibility), opening [End Page 302] the door to increasing the number of properties on the National Register of Historic Places designated for their association with second wave feminism. The movement's well-documented and transformative impact on American society and culture point to the importance of designating related landmarks.

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Poster for 1980 conference held at The Women's Building.

(Courtesy Docs Populi/Lincoln Cushing Archive)

TWB is a powerful example of the spaces second wave feminists created and claimed to advance women's rights and press forward with visions for a more equitable society. Enacting a version of separatism that had parallels in the Black Power and Third World Liberation movements, organizers established a variety of women-centered spaces during this period including domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, feminist presses and bookstores, coffee houses, financial institutions that served women, women's health clinics, and arts/performance spaces. Scholar Daphne Spain describes women's centers as "incubators of autonomy" and positions them as the most important manifestation of second wave feminism in the built environment.33 [End Page 303]

The truth of Spain's claim is amply demonstrated by San Francisco's Women's Building, a place where the intersections of feminism and lesbianism were self-consciously explored, and whose founders and subsequent users chose an expansive view of feminism by operating at the intersection of multiple contemporary political and social movements in Northern California, with parallels nationally. By serving as an incubator for new organizations and sponsoring or hosting a wide variety of programs, TWB served as an umbrella for overlapping but not necessarily identical efforts to fight sexism, racism, homophobia, imperialism, and other oppressive forces.

For forty years, The Women's Building has anchored the social change efforts of Bay Area women, feminists, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and progressive groups, acquiring layers of significance as an early and ongoing laboratory for inclusiveness and experiments in the politics of intersectionality. As Roma Guy, one of The Women's Building's founders recently recalled, "We understood that we can't have real social change for women unless we connect with all people's issues, because women are everywhere."34 With support from the NPS under their LGBTQ Heritage Initiative, Graves recently prepared a nomination of The Women's Building to the National Register of Historic Places.35

Japanese YWCA

Preservation studies focused on the place-based history of a single community risks minimizing the attachments of other groups. During her research on homophile organizations for the San Francisco LGBTQ Historic Context Statement, Watson found that the Mattachine Society's first annual national convention was held at 1830 Sutter Street in San Francisco.36 As author of a historic context statement for San Francisco's Japantown, Graves knew the address as the location of the Japanese YWCA.37 Cherished by Japanese Americans as an important touchstone for their history, 1830 Sutter Street illustrates the multiple histories that may coexist within the history of a single building. Our work in preservation needs to prioritize discovery of these connections.

A rare public emblem of the struggles and accomplishments of Japanese American women in the United States, the Japanese YWCA was formed in 1912 by Issei (first generation) women who were barred by segregationist policies from use of key facilities in the main YWCA chapter. It was the first independent Japanese YWCA in the United States to address the social and service needs of women and [End Page 304] children. Although other cities subsequently formed Japanese YWCA organizations, San Francisco's Japanese YWCA at 1830 Sutter Street appears to be the only structure purpose-built by and for Japanese American women in the United States. Designed by noted architect Julia Morgan and completed in 1932, building construction was funded from within the Japantown community and by contributions from the national and San Francisco YWCAs. Because California's Alien Land Law prevented Issei from owning property, the San Francisco YWCA held title to the building in trust for the Japanese American community. In 1942, when all people of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast were forcibly removed and incarcerated behind barbed wire in remote "War Relocation Centers," they not only lost access to, but also control of, what previously was regarded as Japanese American community property. Their dislocation and dispossession brought new users to the building. With their arrival, the building acquired additional layers of significance.

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Japanese Young Women's Christian Association, 2016 (Photo credit: Donna Graves)

After Japanese residents were forced from Japantown, the San Francisco YWCA turned 1830 Sutter Street over to the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), [End Page 305] which leased the building until 1960. During WWII, AFSC was active in working to document and ameliorate conditions for incarcerated Japanese Americans, including serving as a hub for the National Student Relocation Council, which recruited college-aged students from War Relocation Centers and helped them navigate the bureaucratic maze of paperwork to gain security clearance, enroll in new schools, and access financial support.38

Under AFSC stewardship, 1830 Sutter Street was the location for numerous gatherings that advanced progressive political and social causes, including the fight for African American and homosexual civil rights. During those years, the building gained two powerful connections to LGBTQ history through its ties to the wartime activities of gay civil rights leader Bayard Rustin and as the site of the first national assembly of a pioneering gay civil rights organization.

Bayard Rustin (1912–87), a national youth engagement worker for the Quaker organization Fellowship of Reconciliation, spent time living and working at 1830 Sutter Street in 1944.39 While there, Rustin helped form a San Francisco chapter of the pioneering civil rights organization, the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE). Already recognized as a compelling leader and expert organizer, Rustin assisted the AFSC's work to draw attention to the rise in discrimination against San Francisco's African American residents, whose numbers exploded as migrants sought WWII defense work in the Bay Area. He boldly addressed racial housing covenants, organized against segregated public facilities, and in an act of solidarity visited Japanese Americans who were incarcerated at Manzanar War Relocation Center.40 Like most gay men of his generation, Rustin was extremely discrete about the settings in which he was open about his homosexuality. As a gay black man with a history of leftist activism, including membership in the Young Communist League, Rustin was a vulnerable target for those seeking to derail his inclusive and intersectional political agenda. Rustin's sexuality was used to thwart his leadership in the African American civil rights movement at numerous junctures. Principally remembered for his central role in organizing the 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom in Washington, Rustin has been reclaimed in recent years as a towering figure in LGBTQ history. As a result of LGBTQ activism, the New York City apartment he [End Page 306] lived in from 1962 to his death in 1987 was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.41 This designation illustrates the possibilities for finding important properties at the intersections of theme studies otherwise organized by ethnicity, race, and sexuality.

The Mattachine Society's 1954 gathering at 1830 Sutter Street is notable as the first annual meeting of a homophile organization in the United States.42 This event occurred during an important moment in the society's development, as a contentious leadership transition took place and the organization's base moved northward from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Founded in 1950 in Los Angeles by Harry Hay and others, the Mattachine Society's conceptual breakthrough was to identify homosexuals as an oppressed minority and then form a group intended to free gay men and women from the internalized oppression that stems from a stigmatized social identity.43

The agenda for the San Francisco convention included a speech by Bernice Engle, research associate at the University of California's Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute, who shared information on the "Sexual Deviation Research Project" she and Dr. Karl Bowman were conducting for the State of California. The project represented a newly liberalized attitude intended to shape future legislation and therapeutic recommendations for people with nonnormative sexual identities.44 An award was given to the University of Indiana's Institute for Sex Research (later known as the Kinsey Institute), which had published groundbreaking studies on male and female sexuality that argued that human sexuality included a continuum of behaviors. For one weekend, 1830 Sutter Street was part of a national network of LGBTQ people and allies working to expand understanding of "nonnormative" sexuality and gender expression. The convention advanced the emerging homophile movement by daring to relocate cloistered discussions in small group settings into more public spaces. Not surprisingly, a building that was home to a series of marginalized groups and which had a record of hosting progressive causes welcomed the Mattachine Society's formative gatherings as a national organization. [End Page 307]

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Bayard Rustin demonstrating with other marchers in Washington DC against incarceration of war objectors, early 1940s.

(Courtesy of the Estate of Bayard Rustin)

The AFSC moved out of 1830 Sutter Street in 1960 and the SF YWCA operated the branch until the late 1990s, when they announced plans for the sale of the building. Japantown residents and advocates—who had always believed the building belonged to their community—were stunned by the news. Inspired by the era's campaign for Japanese American redress, a multigenerational group of Japanese Americans led a successful legal struggle to regain title to the building so that future uses would benefit the Japanese American community. The grassroots effort that reclaimed 1830 Sutter Street for Japanese Americans is unique in its successful challenge to the discriminatory legacy of the state's Alien Land Laws passed in the 1910s, which barred "aliens ineligible to citizenship," namely Issei, from owning and leasing property.45

The Japanese YWCA currently is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places under an NPS Underrepresented Communities Grant to San Francisco.46 Ten years ago, the application would have focused exclusively on the building's association with Japanese American heritage and the "period of [End Page 308] significance" would have ended in 1942. Adding LGBTQ associations would extend this period to 1954. A more rigorous assessment of the building's historic significance addressing the powerful associations it holds for multiple communities necessarily must consider conflicting interests, such as the Japanese American community's struggle to regain control of the building. Current preservation policies that minimize the importance of the recent past, however, pose unintended obstacles to fully addressing the Japanese American community's successful struggle to reclaim 1830 Sutter Street in the final nomination. By reexamining the impact of standard preservation policies and practices, and adopting approaches sensitive to the troubled history of race and property relations in American history, it will become easier to protect places that have layers of meaning to multiple groups.

The Tenderloin as a Polyvocal LGBTQ Neighborhood

San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood holds a critical place in the city's LGBTQ history. It is characterized by a concentration of multistory residential buildings erected after the 1906 earthquake and fire that created a dense neighborhood that has served working-class and low-income residents for a century. This affordable housing, set in a neighborhood context that included queer bars, bathhouses, nightclubs, theaters, and bookstores, sustained a lasting LGBTQ presence from the early twentieth to the turn of the twenty-first century. Since the early 1900s, the neighborhood was a locus for sex workers and their clients, and by the 1960s, the Tenderloin was also a place of refuge for runaways, immigrants, released parolees, addicts, and others who were barred from, or couldn't afford, settling in other San Francisco neighborhoods. Transwomen were among this group and were a force in resisting police harassment in the Compton's Cafeteria riot, now celebrated as the West Coast parallel to the Stonewall uprising.47

Part of a local chain, Compton's Cafeteria, still extant at 101 Taylor Street, sits in the heart of the Tenderloin and was considered a relatively safe space for transgender women in the 1960s, who often scraped together a living by working the streets. Cheap residential hotels in the neighborhood were among the very few places that would rent rooms to them. The Compton's riot, which took place over several days in August 1966, is one of a handful of actions against police harassment of LGBTQ people in California and Philadelphia that predate the Stonewall uprising. Understanding these creates a more accurate context for understanding Stonewall not as a singular spark that catalyzed the gay rights movement, but as one in a series of local actions that retrospectively can been [End Page 309] recognized as critical to the emergence of the contemporary LGBTQ rights movement.48

In June 2017, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a resolution establishing the "Compton's Transgender Cultural District," as one of five cultural districts recently created to promote local heritage as a strategy for protecting vulnerable populations from the impacts of hyperdevelopment that have reshaped the city in recent years.49 The text of the Compton's resolution pointed to the LGBTQ America theme study to buttress the district's justification and recited a list of historically significant properties in the Citywide LGBTQ Historic Context Statement reflective of increasingly diverse LGBTQ histories. These places range from the location of speeches given by anarchist Emma Goldman in 1889, to the city's first public discussion of lesbian and gay parenting at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church, to the route taken by marchers in the first Gay Freedom Day Parade in 1970, to sites associated with community responses to the AIDS epidemic.50 However, despite the breadth of queer history pointed to in the legislation's "whereases," the resolution is specifically designed to recognize transwomen, especially transwomen of color, who are leading the process of further refining and developing plans for the district's future.

Claims to cultural district status in the Tenderloin and elsewhere in San Francisco emerged not from a process that broadly assessed historic and cultural presence in a neighborhood, or from extensive community consultation, but from a political process that privileged advocates who had the ear of elected officials. Of the six cultural districts created through this process, half reflect priorities of some segment of LGBTQ communities. In addition to the Tenderloin Transgender District, cultural districts focused on LGBTQ leather culture in the South of Market (SOMA) area and LGBTQ culture in the Castro have also been formed.51 This can be seen as a remarkable recognition of the importance of historical and contemporary queer presence in San Francisco's urban landscape. Yet as a means to address critical issues of displacement and gentrification, which was the primary goal of forming the cultural districts, this strategy has inherent limitations. As cultural anthropologist and SOMA leather activist Gayle Rubin points out, prioritizing one group of vulnerable people among several runs the risk of denying the "layering of history and the shared streets of the present."52 Very few neighborhoods in San Francisco can be described as culturally monolithic yet the new [End Page 310] legislation mistakenly celebrates the idea of "one culture to a neighborhood" by mandating that "boundaries of newly established Cultural Districts should be contiguous and not overlap with other Cultural Districts."53

Our purpose in critiquing single-identity practices is by no means to minimize or erase the hard-won gains achieved in representing marginalized communities, but rather to point to strategies that may enable people to present more complete selves at historic places. Histories of transgender women and other marginalized people need to be told with the integrity that comes from having control over one's own narrative. And in the brief history of bringing queer narratives into public visibility at archives, museums, and historic places, the unequal power of certain LGBTQ groups to use their political, social, and economic capital to tell their particular stories has historically privileged middle-class, white, cis-gender gay men. The impulse to base heritage initiatives on the narrowest slices of identity and to organize for change within tightly defined social networks is not limited to this demographic. But the implications of this approach to fighting displacement by establishing narrowly defined cultural districts is troubling in its potential for divisiveness among groups with untapped potential to be allies in preservation and community development, unnecessarily pitting needy groups against one another when public resources could be used to bring different populations into dialogue about their own attachment to place, generating shared projects that adopt an intersectional model.

Preservation has untapped possibilities for inspiring hope based on past examples of alliances that advanced a social change agenda. In fact, the history of the Tenderloin contains moments where disparate communities recognized their common interests and worked together for social change. In the 1960s the neighborhood experienced an influx of economically and socially marginalized people. Urban redevelopment in the adjacent South of Market area, known by some as Skid Row and a home to transient maritime workers, and in the Western Addition to the north, which became a heavily African American neighborhood beginning in WWII, forced residents into the Tenderloin, which was the "last remaining enclave of affordable housing in central San Francisco."54 The resulting increase in population led neighborhood activists to organize for civil rights as well as social and financial assistance. As Christina Hanhardt records, in 1965 homophile activists were among the Tenderloin-based coalition that created the first citywide inclusive police watchdog organization in the United States. Citizens' Alert described itself as a "unique blend of people . . . the Negro, Mexican-American, Japanese, Chinese, Jewish, homophile and religious communities." The organization argued that despite perceived chasms between these groups, racial and religious minorities [End Page 311] as well as "homosexuals and other sex and gender nonconformers" shared a common status as targets for police abuse.55

At the same time that Citizens' Alert was established, members of this coalition of liberal clergy, gay and transgender activists, social workers, and residents organized to "remap the definition of minority groups" in San Francisco in the interest of accessing War on Poverty funds for the Tenderloin. They redefined "disadvantaged minorities" to be far more inclusive than prevailing categories of race and ethnicity to support residents of the Tenderloin disadvantaged by poverty, sexual orientation, and gender identity.56 Tenderloin activists argued that race-based understandings of the city's impoverished neighborhoods obscured other causes and dimensions of poverty.

In most cities with War on Poverty programs, racial poverty fit neatly in the guiding black-white binary; San Francisco's multi-racial population pushed program administrators toward a more complex, yet still racially defined, set of projects addressing "poverty pockets" in neighborhoods that were predominately African American, Latino, and Chinese.57 Detailed research by advocates for Tenderloin funding convinced the San Francisco Economic Opportunity Council, which administered federal War on Poverty funding, that poverty-defining factors should be expanded beyond the legacy and persistence of racial discrimination to also include individual isolation and social marginalization rooted in more varied causes.58 Tenderloin activists might have argued that economic factors should be the sole criteria for War on Poverty funds, which would have ensured their participation in the program. Yet their insights into the complex roots of poverty helped them to convince leaders in poor neighborhoods of color that the allocation for San Francisco should address needs in the predominately white Tenderloin. Their success led to what historian Susan Stryker describes as "a singular accomplishment in the history of US progressive politics": the first successful multiracial gay-straight alliance for economic justice."59

Possibilities for cross-community alliances in San Francisco's new cultural districts recently emerged in the South of Market area when city planning staff looked closely at a commercial building at 83 Sixth Street via the Property Information Map's inclusion of LGBTQ sites. They discovered that the modest structure housed the SIR (Society for Individual Rights) Center, the nation's first gay community center, from 1966 to the late 1970s, and later served as the Filipino Senior Center.60 The building sits in the overlapping area of two of the city's new cultural districts, the Compton's Transgender District and SOMA Pilipinas, developed to highlight [End Page 312] the Filipino presence in the South of Market area. Extensive planning with stakeholders is intended to build bridges between advocates for the two districts and lay the groundwork for alliances that support more inclusive approaches to preservation action.

Recommendations and Conclusion

Applying the single lens of gender, race or ethnicity, sexuality, or any category of social analysis to the practice of historic preservation risks misrepresenting the layered histories of place and forecloses possibilities for political mobilization across identity lines in the interest of fostering greater social cohesion. Intersectional places, especially those that illustrate moments when communities worked together to bend the arc of history toward justice, are especially important sites for public historians in this moment, when we are so painfully aware of divides between communities and deepening disparities. There is great power in highlighting examples of places where the usual boundaries of race, class, religion, and other social categories have been overcome to forge new alliances to advance social justice.

LGBTQ historic sites tend to be places where multiple stories coexist and remain to be told, in part because of the temporal, hidden nature of many historic queer activities. Additionally, as for most marginalized communities, multiple claims to place exist at LGBTQ sites because most LGBTQ people and organizations were tenants, not property owners. These histories are among the many important American stories that took place in "borrowed" spaces, not purpose-built structures; consequently they do not readily convey their significance through lasting architectural details and generally share their importance with other occupants and users.

Our experiences working in the fertile ground of LGBTQ preservation, as well as on a series of "single lens" preservation planning studies of places associated with Asian American, Latino, and women's history, suggest several arenas for change in policy and practice, as well as new priorities for investment in particular historic properties.

1. Prioritize public investment in historic places of significance to multiple groups

Increase public investment in places of historical significance to multiple communities with the goal of creating plans for preservation and interpretation that build bridges among stakeholder communities. Much work remains to be done to identify places important in the history of individual communities. However, expanding our attention to sites that have overlapping, layered, and sometimes conflicting meanings to different communities opens new possibilities for engagement among and between them as they reconcile their historical relationship to one another in the context of a particular place. Gay bars that were sites of sociality and solidarity for white men, but which promoted racial exclusion for people of [End Page 313] color, hint at the possibilities for more layered interpretations that encompass multiple perspectives. Historic places where acts of solidarity occurred across racial and other lines offer inspiration and hope for future cross-community alliances. Done well, the work of engaging multiple stakeholders in the preservation planning process for intersectional sites can build capacity for a more democratic and inclusive preservation movement in the future.

2. Revise existing thematic studies and individual landmark nominations to address associated themes and issues of intersectionality

Amend previous studies with new information that expands and recontextualizes existing work. A simple example of this strategy would be to fold the chapters from LGBTQ America that focus on Latino and Asian Pacific Islander history into existing online theme studies for those respective populations. Revisit already designated historic sites to more fully research additional areas of significance, preserve associated features and objects, and more robustly interpret their meanings.

3. Allocate adequate resources to document properties with layered histories and engage multiple constituencies

Recognize that work that attends to multiple constituencies does not come cheap at the research and community consultation phase. Identifying and documenting sites associated with social and cultural history requires additional resources in order to realize more robust and accurate representations of their significance. Capturing and conveying multiple stories is simply more effort, which is rarely funded. Most efforts are deeply underresourced, operating with skimpy budgets and compressed timelines that don't allow for adequate consultation with relevant stakeholders and research.

4. Enlist cross-disciplinary knowledge to illuminate intersectional approaches to CRM

Public agencies often rely on skills of architectural historians to accomplish projects that need insights of grassroots groups and scholars with expertise in the social history of communities who are attentive to the diversity of experience present within any seemingly homogenous group. There is also work to be done to integrate valuable insights from other disciplines and professions such as cultural anthropologists, geographers, archaeologists, and environmental scientists, among others.

5. Prioritize interpretation within preservation planning

Documentation, and even landmark designation, of places important to communities whose histories have not been given pride of place is only part of the necessary work. Developing powerful and sustained ways to make the histories of those sites available and relevant to people today is just as crucial. Even best efforts to steward [End Page 314] historic sites can be incomplete if their stories are inaccurately conveyed or not told at all. The premise that physical structures can tell their own stories is embedded in the National Register and National Historic Landmark Programs, which suggest that buildings and other properties that meet high standards of integrity can "speak" to present-day visitors. Yet, the reality is that historic places, especially those that we understand as intersectional, cannot communicate their historic significance without interpretation or educational programs that inform the public.

In all of these ways and more, taking intersectionality seriously means rethinking how our work as preservationists—searching for the tangible remains of previously overlooked aspects of American history—can be transformed by an awareness that people cannot be reduced to a single identity, even as thematic studies bring new attention to silenced voices that deserve to be heard. Few communities exist entirely apart from connections with others and few historic properties gain significance and meaning from their connection to a single group. For these reasons, preservation work premised on recovering the heritage of individual groups is likely to leave behind members whose lives don't fit either prevailing or normative patterns within an underrepresented group. By applying a single lens approach to issues of community and identity, our work unintentionally reinforces preset conceptions and misses important opportunities to foreground the very heterogeneity of Americans who have been reduced to a single, often stigmatized identity. Embracing intersectionality is critical to advancing widely shared objectives to make historic preservation an instrument of social justice by attending to issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion.

At each stage of preservation work, there are opportunities to rethink our assumptions about the lives of people who constitute communities. Concrete decisions such as those about period of significance and character-defining features driven by too narrow an agenda erase certain voices and elements of place that matter. Scholarship premised on notions of intersectionality has consistently revealed the complexity of identities, but it remains for preservation policy and practice to translate these insights into core practices: framing studies, designing consultation processes, engaging the widest range of community members and other resources in identifying places of significance from their perspective, and establishing priorities for preservation action that honor diversity within community by considering sites with rich layers of meaning to more than one constituency. [End Page 315]

Donna Graves

Donna Graves is an independent historian/urban planner based in Berkeley, CA. She develops interdisciplinary public history projects that emphasize social equity and sense of place. Her involvement in projects that weave together local histories, preservation, art, and community participation began with her tenure as executive director of The Power of Place, which received national acclaim for its groundbreaking work in interpreting the history of downtown Los Angeles through urban design, historic preservation, and public art. Graves served as project director for the Rosie the Riveter Memorial and has been instrumental in establishing and developing California's Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park. Graves was director of Preserving California's Japantowns, a statewide effort to identify and document what remains of the many pre-WWII communities destroyed by forced removal and incarceration. She recently co-authored (with Shayne Watson) a citywide study of LGBTQ historic places in San Francisco and co-authored a chapter for the National Park Service's LGBTQ America: A Theme Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer History (2016). Recognitions for Graves' work include the Vernacular Architecture Forum's first Advocacy Award, the National Park Service's Home Front Award, the California Preservation Foundation's Excellence in Historic Preservation Award and the California Governor's Historic Preservation Award. In 2009–2010 Graves was a Loeb Fellow at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design.

Gail Dubrow

Gail Dubrow is Professor of Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Public Affairs & Planning, and History at the University of Minnesota. Her research on places significant in the history of underrepresented groups has been the basis for theme studies, context documents, National Historic Landmark nominations, and other projects intended to make preservation an instrument of equity, diversity, and inclusion. She is the author of two prize-winning books: Sento at Sixth and Main, with Donna Graves, and Restoring Women's History Through Historic Preservation, coedited with Jennifer Goodman, and is a contributor to recent National Park Service theme studies on LGBTQ Americans and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage. She is currently writing a book, Japonisme Revisited, that reimagines the American craze for all things Japanese from the standpoint of immigrant architects, landscape designers, carpenters, and gardeners from Japan who created and maintained the built environment of Japonisme over the course of the twentieth century. This project has been supported by fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Huntington Library, and the Smithsonian Institution.


1. Megan E. Springate, ed., LGBTQ America: A Theme Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer America (Washington DC: National Park Service, 2016),

2. Those seeking sound introductions to the concept of intersectionality might the following sources useful: Mary Romero, Introducing Intersectionality: Short Introductions (Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2018); Patricia Hill Collins and Sirma Bilge, Intersectionality (Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2016); Ange-Marie Hancock, Intersectionality: An Intellectual History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016); Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Vickie M. Mayes, and Barbara Tomlinson, "Intersectionality," Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race 10, no. 2 (Fall 2013): 303–12; Catherine A. Mackinnon, "Intersectionality as Method: A Note," Signs 38, no. 4 (Summer 2013): 1019–30; and Leslie Mccall, "The Complexity of Intersectionality," Signs 30, no. 3 (Spring 2005): 1771–1800.

3. Kevin P. Murphy, Jennifer L. Pierce, and Jason Ruiz, "What Makes Queer Oral History Different," The Oral History Review 43, no. 1 (April 2017): 17.

4. Kimberlé Crenshaw, "Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Policies," University of Chicago Legal Forum 1989, no. 1 (1989): 139–67. Other feminist scholars of color such as Patricia Hill Collins, bell hooks, Gloria Anzaldua, and Cherrie Moraga are credited with expanding Crenshaw's thesis. Collins and Bilge, Intersectionality; Hancock, Intersectionality: An Intellectual History; Crenshaw, Mayes, and Tomlinson, "Intersectionality"; Mackinnon, "Intersectionality as Method"; and McCall, "The Complexity of Intersectionality."

5. For a brief discussion related to historic preservation, see Andrea Roberts, "When Does It Become Social Justice? Thoughts on Intersectional Preservation Practice," Preservation Leadership Forum (blog, National Trust for Historic Preservation, July 20, 2017),

6. "National Register of Historic Places," National Park Service website,

7. Donna Graves, The Legacy of California's Landmarks (Sacramento: California Cultural and Historical Endowment, 2012), 36–37,

8. Raymond W. Rast, "A Matter of Alignment: Methods to Match the Goals of the Preservation Movement," Forum Journal 28, no. 3 (Spring 2014): 13–22.

9. California Department of Parks and Recreation Office of Historic Preservation, Five Views: An Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California (1985), The longevity of this approach is shown by the recent major initiative undertaken by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the "African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund" (see National Trust for Historic Preservation website, Beginning in the 1970s, prompted by gaps in the coverage of African American history at the time of the nation's Bicentennial, NPS began a handful of studies focused on remedying oversights, particularly related to African American history.

10. "Telling All American's Stories," National Park Service website,; "Cultural Resource Challenge Report," National Park Service website,

11. Stephanie Toothman, telephone conversation with Graves, February 6, 2018.

12. "Underrepresented Community Grants," National Park Service website,

13. Gail Dubrow, "Lavender Landmarks Revisited: Advancing an LGBTQ Preservation Agenda," in Petra Doan, ed., Queerying Planning: Challenging Heteronormative Assumptions and Reframing Planning Practice (Surrey, England: Ashgate Publishing, 2011).

14. Gail Dubrow, "The Preservation of LGBTQ Heritage," LGBTQ America, 5-39-40.

15. "What Can You Do to Get Involved in the LGBTQ Heritage Initiative?" National Park Service website,

16. Intersectionality refers to the overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination, disadvantage, and advantage created by social categorizations such as race, gender, and class as they are experienced by individuals and groups. Kimberlé Crenshaw is widely credited with first outlining this perspective in her article "Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color," Stanford Law Review 43, no. 6 (July 1991), 1241–99.

17. Megan E. Springate, "A Note About Intersectionality," LGBTQ America, 7–18.

18. National Park Service, LGBTQ Theme Study guidelines, February 2015.

19. Megan E. Springate, telephone interview with Graves, December 21, 2017.

20. Pauli Murray Family Home, National Park Service website,

21. "Pauli Murray Center," Duke Human Rights Center Pauli Murray Project website,

22. San Francisco Planning Department, "Landmark Designation Work Program Discussion," February 21, 2011,

23. Damon Scott with Friends of 1800, Sexing the City: The Development of Sexual Identity Based Subcultures in San Francisco, 1933–1979 (San Francisco: Friends of 1800, 2004), The Friends of 1800 is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the architectural heritage of San Francisco with a special interest in the identification and recognition of issues and sites important to LGBTQ history and culture.

24. Donna J. Graves and Shayne E. Watson, Citywide Historic Context Statement for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer History in San Francisco (San Francisco: San Francisco Planning Department, March 2016). The LGBTQ Historic Context Statement was funded by a grant from the city's Historic Preservation Fund Committee, with fiscal sponsorship from the GLBT Historical Society.

25. Toward the end of the project, Graves and Watson established a partnership with the national oral history collecting project, StoryCorps, which had a recording station at the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library. A workshop called "Our Stories" gathered video interviews with elders and youth. One of the challenges presented was how to utilize and share these recorded interviews. Digital technologies have reduced barriers to gathering people's memories in audio and video format, but without expertise and funding to edit the recollections and a platform to share them, the potential of these resources has yet to be tapped.

26. Graves and Watson, Citywide Historic Context Statement, 155, 191, 255.

27. Ibid., 261

28. Ibid., 203, 260, 345.

29. The Women's Building website,

30. Sushawn Robb, Mothering the Movement: The Story of the San Francisco's Women's Building (Denver: Outskirts Press, Inc., 2012) is a detailed history of TWB from a participant's perspective.

31. Ibid., 43.

32. Periodization in women's history that foregrounds the suffrage movement as "first wave" and the post-WWII women's movement as "second wave" feminism has been rightly criticized as erasing such ongoing struggles for equity by women in the labor movement and women of color in their respective communities.

33. Daphne Spain, Constructive Feminism: Women's Spaces and Women's Rights in the American City (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2016), 51.

34. Roma Guy, personal communication with Graves, August 11, 2015.

35. The Women's Building was designated San Francisco Landmark #178 in 1985 for its significance as a community facility during the tenure of the German American and Norwegian American communities. The nomination for TWB can be found at

36. Graves and Watson, Citywide Historic Context Statement, 137.

37. Donna Graves and Page & Turnbull, Inc., "San Francisco Japantown Historic Context" (San Francisco: San Francisco Planning Department, 2011).

38. Minutes of American Friends Service Committee, Northern California Section, March 14, 1942, staff files in collection of American Friends Service Committee, San Francisco, California (hereafter AFSC); Brian Niiya, ed., Japanese American History: An A-to-Z Reference from 1860 to the Present (New York: Facts on File Inc., 1993), 250. The Student Relocation program used the upstairs bedrooms and offices of the YWCA building, while the auditorium became a "beehive of activity" as one AFSC member recalled, filled with boxes, wooden crates, card tables and desks. Memories of Bill Stevenson in transcription of "Ongaeshi Dinner, March 17, 1995," p. 5, AFSC.

39. Letters from Rustin during this period show his return address as 1830 Sutter Street, indicating that he stayed in the upstairs dorm rooms that also hosted conscientious objectors and others passing through San Francisco sheltered by AFSC. Graves is grateful to historian and Rustin biographer John D'Emilio for sharing information from his archives. John D'Emilio, electronic communication with Graves, January 10, 2018.

40. John D'Emilio, Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2009), 40–55.

41. "Bayard Rustin Residence," National Register of Historic Places website,

42. Graves and Watson, Citywide Historic Context Statement, 139. An earlier gathering described as a convention was held in Southern California in November 1953, but the program for the San Francisco gathering describes it as the "First Annual Convention." Mattachine Convention Program, May 15–16, 1954, folder1, box3, Donald S. Lucas Papers, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society, San Francisco, California.

43. John D'Emilio, Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1940–1970 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 58.

44. Bowman and Engle also recommended treatment, such as castration, that we recoil from today. Langley Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute, Final Report on California Sexual Deviation Research (San Francisco: 1954); Susan Stryker, Transgender History: The Roots of Today's Revolution (New York: Seal Press, 2017), 58–65; Jennifer Terry, An American Obsession: Science, Medicine, and Homosexuality in Modern Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), 325–26.

45. Bill Ong Hing, "Rebellious Lawyering, Settlement and Reconciliation: Soko Bukai v. YWCA," Nevada Law Journal 5, no. 172 (Fall 2004). The building became permanent home to Nihonmachi Little Friends, a culturally rooted preschool, which continues to operate in the facility today.

46. Graves helped city planning staff conceptualize the application to foreground the diverse histories of civil rights struggles found in San Francisco's urban landscape. In addition to the Japanese YWCA, National Register nominations are being prepared for Glide Memorial Church and the Gran Orient Masonic Temple, a fraternal lodge and mutual aid society for the Filipino American community.

47. Historian Susan Stryker uncovered the little-reported rebellion and produced the award-winning documentary film, Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton's Cafeteria (co-directed by Victor Silverman and Susan Stryker, 2005).

48. Stryker, Transgender History, 84–87.

49. San Francisco Board of Supervisors, "Resolution No. 239–17: Establishment of Compton's Transgender Cultural District," June 13, 2017. The other cultural districts approved so far include Japantown, Calle 24, Latino Cultural Corridor, SOMA Pilipinas, and the Leather Cultural District.

50. San Francisco Board of Supervisors, "Resolution No. 239–17: Establishment of Compton's Transgender Cultural District,"

51. The other cultural districts focus on Japantown, the Latino community in the Mission neighborhood and Filipinos in South of Market. Joshua Sabatini, "SF Expands Cultural Districts to Include SOMA's Gay and Leather Community," San Francisco Examiner, May 1, 2018.

52. Gayle Rubin, telephone interview with Graves, May 6, 2018.

53. San Francisco Board of Supervisors, "Ordinance amending the Administrative Code to create a process for the establishment of cultural districts," May 15, 2018,

54. Stryker, Transgender History, 92.

55. Christina Hanhardt, Safe Space: Gay Neighborhood History and the Politics of Violence (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2013), 41, 68.

56. Martin Meeker, "The Queerly Disadvantaged and the Making of San Francisco's War on Poverty, 1964–67," Pacific Historical Review 81, no. 1 (February 2012): 21.

57. Ibid., 34–36.

58. Ibid., 41–42.

59. Stryker, Transgender History, 93.

60. Graves and Watson, Citywide Historic Context Statement, 152.

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