Riot Party: Transgender celebration's third edition

  • by J.L. Odom
  • Tuesday August 22, 2023
Share this Post:
A moment from the 2022 Riot Party
A moment from the 2022 Riot Party

It's Transgender History Month in San Francisco, 31 days of trans remembrance, joy and pride in a city home to the first nationally recognized Transgender District and the location of the 1966 Compton's Cafeteria riot.

San Francisco is also the birthplace of the trans-centering Riot Party, which returns for its third year on August 27 in celebration of the 57th anniversary of the riot. Created by Transgender District founder and former executive director Aria Sa'id, the festival gives center stage to trans, gender nonconforming and queer performers.

The Transgender District's executive associate Aubrey Davis  

"She [Sa'id] thought that this event would be a great way for us to showcase trans artists and talent ... and we're just trying to continue that," explained the Transgender District's executive associate Aubrey Davis in a phone interview with the Bay Area Reporter.

But while Riot Party 2022 brought in performers from throughout the U.S., the 2023 lineup draws strictly from the Bay Area.

Said Davis, a trans woman, "This year, since we have new management and new executive directors, we're trying to aim it more toward the local community."

She added, "Of course, we care about all of our organizations outside of San Francisco, and we want to make sure that they are also getting noticed and have more opportunities like we are getting here. We're doing things outside of the festival to create that with them."

Sa'id had announced her departure as ED in April 2023; she exited in August 2023. In an August 1 media release, the Transgender District's Board of Directors announced Breonna McCree and Carlo Gomez Arteaga as the nonprofit's new co-executive directors.

With new leadership comes a different approach to the Riot Party as well as a different venue, moving from The Hibernia on Jones Street to Kapwa Gardens on Mission Street.

"We're trying to focus more on community, so that's why we have all the local drag queen and king performances," Davis shared. "We want to make sure that they're showcased out here and getting noticed, making it more like a kind of backyard barbecue moment for the community."

Papi Churro (photo: Vita Hewitt)  

Oakland-based drag king Papi Churro regularly performs in The Edge's "The Monster Show," has taken the stage many times at Oasis and was a contestant in San Francisco's annual Drag King Contest. But it will be his first time performing at Riot Party, and he's excited about the opportunity.

"I'm just a regular hottie that dresses up like a boy and is sexy, but at the same time very aware of political issues that affect our community," he said about his drag in a phone interview.

Papi Churro, who is Two-Spirit, infuses cultural references in his drag performances to educate, inspire and connect with others. He appreciates living in an area that celebrates his Indigenous heritage and identity.

He shared, "The Bay Area has been really good to me in regards to that, featuring a lot of my work, asking me to come and perform, understanding that Two-Spirit people are a presence here. We're celebrated, which I really appreciate."

On Aug. 27, Papi Churro will take the same stage as Peaches Christ and other standout drag royals including SF Drag King of the Year 2022 Helixir; self-described Brazilian Bombshell Barbie Melanie Sparks; trans designer Kipper Snacks; Latinx and nonbinary drag queen Per Sia of "Drag Story Hour" and Mia Munro, with a steady stream of music courtesy of DJ Kkingboo.

These performers, representative of the diversity within the Bay Area LGBTQ community, have what it takes to get a crowd cheering, dancing and celebrating trans history in the trans-supportive present.

Riot Party takes place on Sunday, August 27, 12pm—5pm at Kapwa Gardens, 967 Mission St.

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.