A Year of Trans Victories

S.F.’s trans and gender non-conforming community has waged and won some pretty major battles since last year’s Pride.

Founders of the Compton’s LGBT District. (Photo: Jessica Christian)

It’s been a rough few years to bea transgender or gender non-conforming person in the United States. In the past year alone the Trump Administration has banned transgender people from the military, loosened rules to allow homeless shelters to ban trans folk, and rolled back laws preventing gender identity discrimination in health care services. At the same time, physical violence against transgender people — particularly trans women of color — continues to proliferate at a distressing rate.

While coverage of these hate crimes and failures of our federal government is important, there are also a lot of battles being successfully waged by trans people that mainstream media sources often overlook. San Francisco in particular has led the charge in the past year, from providing better support for homeless transgender folk to making sure transgender people have a seat in City Hall. Here are just a few of the successful trans-led efforts that have occurred since last year’s Pride.

$3M for Trans-Specific Housing and Shelter Services

San Francisco is home to the only city-funded, trans-led Office of Transgender Initiatives in the nation, and Director Clair Farley knows what her community needs: housing. Studies show that transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals are 18 times more likely to experience homelessness than their peers, and in a city with a major housing crisis, that means they’re disproportionately living in their cars, with friends, or on the street.

But earlier this year, Farley and her team pitched Our Trans Home SF, a multi-pronged budget ask that would set aside $1 million for rent subsidies, trans-competent training for shelter staff, and services for LGBTQ youth. In May, Mayor London Breed tripled that amount, allocating $3 million toward their efforts.

A Transitional Home for Trans Youth

Months before Breed allocated $3 million to housing efforts for transgender people, Larkin Street Youth Services quietly opened the first city shelter specifically for unhoused trans and gender non-conforming youth. It’s small — the six-bed facility is housed in a Victorian in the Haight — but it’s a beginning. A safe, gender-neutral home that provides an alternative to the street is a model the city should be duplicating in every neighborhood, and Larkin is leading the way.

Trans Flags in the Compton’s TLGB District

The first transgender district in the nation was approved by San Francisco back in 2017, but it’s just starting to become obvious to passersby. The area encompasses some of the Tenderloin, a couple blocks of Mid-Market, and extends down Sixth Street to Howard, honoring the rich history the area holds in providing both refuge and a battleground for trans rights. In 2019, the city began painting transgender flags on light poles around the neighborhood. Eventually, every pole in the district will be adorned, letting everyone who visits know exactly who is welcome here.

Securing a Future for El/La Para Translatinas

San Francisco’s only trans Latina organization is located in the historic Redstone Building, a hub for labor organizers and nonprofits. Last year, the building’s owner announced it was for sale, terrifying residents and visitors that they’d soon lose their refuge — a space where they can eat, speak Spanish, connect to services, and find community. But this spring, the Mission Economic Development Agency stepped in, and MEDA is now in talks to buy the building and preserve its tenants. The deal isn’t 100-percent done, but advocates are optimistic.

And that’s not the only good news from El/La — this year they hired their first trans Latina executive director. Nicole Santamaría stepped into the role in May, after years of running grassroots efforts to support LGBTQI folks in El Salvador and abroad.

Running for Office

In November, not one but two openly transgender candidates ran for San Francisco School Board — a first. Neither Mia Satya or Martin Rawlings-Fein won a seat on the board, but they followed a national wave of transgender hopefuls who are seeking elected positions. And while City Hall has yet to elect a transgender supervisor, it did gain Honey Mahogany in November’s election, when she was hired to work in District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney’s office.

There is a lot of work to be done to both protect and lift up our city’s transgender residents, but it’s hard to deny that it’s been a pretty good year. Which begs the question: What will next year bring?

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