Felicia Elizondo

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Felicia Elizondo
Felicia Flames at Transform California launch.jpg
Felicia "Flames" Elizondo speaks at a Transform California launch event.
Born (1946-07-23) July 23, 1946 (age 74)[1][2]
Known forLGBTQ activism

Felicia "Flames" Elizondo is an American transgender woman with a long history of activism on behalf of the LGBT community. She was a regular at Gene Compton's Cafeteria in San Francisco during the time of the Compton's Cafeteria riot, a historic LGBT community uprising.[3]

Early life[edit]

Assigned male at birth in San Angelo, Texas, Elizondo struggled with bullying, molestation, and gender identity issues.[2][3][4] Her father, a sheepherder, died when she was three years old.[2] From the age of five, she knew that she was "different".[2] At age 14, she moved to San Jose, California with a gay man, and began to spend time in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco in her teens.[5]

At age 18, Elizondo joined the U.S. Navy and volunteered to serve in the Vietnam War, thinking she would either get killed or come to terms with her gender identity: "If the military doesn't make me a man, nothing will."[4][5] After serving in Vietnam for six months, she confessed that she was gay. She was interrogated by the FBI, and dishonorably discharged in 1965.[2][4] She later successfully petitioned to have her discharge changed to honorable.[2]

Elizondo speaking at an August 2016 event in San Francisco

Activism and career[edit]

In the 1960s, Elizondo was a patron of Gene Compton's Cafeteria in San Francisco, where the Compton's Cafeteria riot, an LGBT community uprising, occurred in 1966, three years before the Stonewall riots in New York City.[3] She is featured in Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton's Cafeteria, a 2005 documentary co-directed and produced by Susan Stryker and Victor Silverman.[3][6]

Elizondo transitioned to female in 1974, while working as a long distance operator.[2][5] She has worked at a number of other jobs, including receptionist, clerk, and nurse's aid.[2][5] She was also a sex worker for a time.[2][7] She has performed as a drag queen for charity, and at gay clubs under the name Felicia Flames.[4][8]

Elizondo was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1987.[2][5] She has worked for non-profit organizations, including P.A.W.S., Shanti Project, and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, that seek to improve quality of life for people living with serious illnesses.[8] She has contributed panels to the AIDS Memorial Quilt, and helped raise funds for non-profits including Project Open Hand and the San Francisco LGBT Community Center.[3] As a Latina, she has worked with other transgender women of color to combat racism in the community.[9]

Elizondo moved to San Francisco permanently in 1991.[2] In 2014, she worked with San Francisco supervisor Jane Kim to get the 100 block of Turk Street renamed to Vicki Mar Lane in honor of her late friend, drag performer Vicki Marlane.[10][11] In 2016, she again worked with Kim to rename the 100 block of Taylor Street to Gene Compton's Cafeteria Way.[12] Elizondo appeared at a number of events in 2016 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Compton's Cafeteria riot.[13]

Elizondo served as the lifetime achievement grand marshal in the 2015 San Francisco Pride Parade.[3][8]


  1. ^ "Testimonies: Trans Lives Matter". First Congregational Church of Oakland. June 14, 2015. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Interview with Felicia Elizondo [6/29/2007]". Veterans History Project. American Folklife Center. June 29, 2007. Retrieved August 30, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Sayed, Khaled (June 25, 2015). "Elizondo revels in lifetime of service". Bay Area Reporter. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d "Two community leaders to be honored at SF Pride parade". KTVU. June 23, 2015. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d e Bajko, Matthew S. (April 24, 2014). "Transgender women reflect on a lifetime of change". Bay Area Reporter. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  6. ^ Pasulka, Nicole (May 5, 2015). "Ladies In The Streets: Before Stonewall, Transgender Uprising Changed Lives". NPR. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  7. ^ Hotchkiss, Sarah (July 21, 2016). "The Night That Trans Women Rioted for Their Rights at a Tenderloin Cafeteria". KQED. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  8. ^ a b c Nahmod, David-Elijah (May 2, 2016). "With 50th Anniversary Approaching, Trans Activist Seeks Recognition For Compton's Riots". Hoodline. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  9. ^ Bajko, Matthew S. (April 25, 2014). "Ethnic Transgender Women Reflect on a Lifetime of Struggle and Change". New American Media. Retrieved August 30, 2016.
  10. ^ Meronek, Toshio (May 2014). "Trans community gets a public face" (PDF). Central City Extra. Retrieved August 30, 2016.
  11. ^ Williams, Kale (April 23, 2014). "S.F. block named for trans icon Vicki Marlane". SFGate. Retrieved August 30, 2016.
  12. ^ Bajko, Matthew S. (May 19, 2016). "Political Notebook: SF honors transgender history with street naming". Bay Area Reporter. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  13. ^ Hopkins, Brittany (July 25, 2016). "Tenderloin, GLBT Museums Host Events For 50th Anniversary Of Compton's Cafeteria Riot". Hoodline. Retrieved August 29, 2016.

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