An online petition to honor a famous deceased transgender performer by naming a street block in San Francisco in her honor has garnered close to 300 signatories.
As the Bay Area Reporter noted in January, an effort is underway to designate the 100 block of Turk Street in the city’s Tenderloin neighborhood after Vicki Marlane, who died in 2011 at the age of 76 due to AIDS-related complications.
Born Donald Sterger in Crookston, Minnesota, Marlane started out as a traveling circus performer before settling in San Francisco in 1966. She underwent sex reassignment surgery in the 1980s.
Prior to her death Marlane hosted a popular drag revue show at the gay bar Aunt Charlie’s, which is located on the 100 block of Turk between Jones and Taylor. It is also where a plaque embedded in the sidewalk commemorates the Compton’s Cafeteria revolt by transgender people that occurred in August of 1966.
Last summer the B.A.R.‘s Political Notebook reported on efforts by the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club to honor Marlane and suggested renaming that block of Turk as Vicki Marlane Way. Initially, Milk club members had planned to petition the city to officially call that portion of the street Vicky Mar-Lane.
But in recent weeks the club decided it would be easier, and less of a bureaucratic battle, if the street signs on that segment of Turk were altered to merely include Vicky Marlane in parenthesis under the word Turk. The decision came after several Milk members met with District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim, who represents that part of town at City Hall.
Kim, who has yet to fully endorse the proposal, reportedly advised the Milk club member’s on how to navigate the easier route on street naming. As the SF Weekly noted this week, Kim’s move to change Lech Walesa Street, due to the former Polish leader’s anti-gay remarks, is no easy task.
“We met with her, and she has told us how to proceed,” said Milk club member Sue Englander, who is helping to spearhead the street naming campaign. “I wouldn’t say it is a formal endorsement (by Kim). She is facilitating it. Her office said it is really hard to just change the name of one block.”
By just adding Marlane’s name to the street signage, it would not impact the mailing addresses for any of the homes or businesses on the 100 block of Turk. In the past the cost of changing street addresses has proven to be an obstacle to gaining wide support for renaming one of the city’s thoroughfares.
It has been done before, such as when a segment of 16th Street was renamed after drag queen and former gay bar owner Jose Sarria. The only thing located on the block, however, was the Castro’s public library, and the renaming easily passed through City Hall.
Backers of the push to honor Marlane believe they can get it passed by choosing the simpler route of altering the street signs. In April they will be going door-to-door along Turk Street to gather support from residents and merchants.
“It is a much simpler process to get it through the Department of Public Works,” said Englander. “The people who wanted Vicky memorialized are satisfied with this.”
The hope is to unveil the new signs sometime in August for the 47th commemoration of the Compton’s Cafeteria riots.