Liberal San Franciscans have long been accused of blowing hot air on issues of inequality. NorCal political icons, like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Governor Gavin Newsom, and Mayor London Breed were all vilified for violating COVID precautions, for example, while their constituents struggled. San Francisco’s Pride celebration — one of the longest-running in the country, is routinely criticized for the hyper visibility of corporate tech companies, which skeptics see less as an act of solidarity and more as a calculated public relations move. Our supposed progressive bastion also has some of the highest wealth inequality and homelessness in the country.
The Office of Trans Initiatives, however, is about more than just talk. On Wednesday, the only trans-led and trans-focused office in any city government in the country announced a new initiative to provide necessary data and confront inequities in how the population has been impacted by the pandemic.
Director Clair Farley says projects like this accelerate San Francisco’s ability to meet it’s progressive promise. “I think the fact that we really have a seat at the table where we can say, ‘These are the things that need to be prioritized,’ — I think that helps drive us there faster,” she says.
Called the Transgender Health and Wellness Campaign, the multi-phased initiative will leverage city resources alongside established LGBTQ nonprofits to fill in the gaps in COVID-19 relief not currently reaching the transgender community. To start, the office is announcing a regional San Francisco Bay Area Trans survey to provide region-specific data on health disparities and has assembled a trans-led advisory committee to assess existing services. Later phases of the initiative will focus on budget allocations for new programs and establishing physical community spaces for transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) people. The office plans to report initial survey findings in March.
Because TGNC populations are not counted or identified in a vast majority of COVID-related data, Farley says this information is vital to effectively mobilizing city resources. “There has been such a lack of data since we’re not counted in the census or most federal surveys — even federal COVID data,” says Farley. “We’re hoping that this can help supplement that information, so we can actually have resources prioritized for this community.”
The City of San Francisco has also said it will invest $5 million annually to support trans community services as part of the initiative. Over $2 million has been invested both in the trans and women’s clinic Lyon-Martin Health Services, and in housing subsidies which will supplement 30-50 percent rent for 75-100 trans households per year.
TGNC people have been disproportionately impacted by coronavirus illness and economic fallout from the pandemic nationwide. Pre-pandemic, transgender people were three times as likely to be unemployed while 29 percent lived in poverty. Over the last 11 months, TGNC people have found increased barriers to gender-affirming medical care and legal protections while facing increased physical violence and social isolation. Farley hopes this initiative will give politicians and organizers more insight into how those disparities have affected trans San Franciscans.
“From Compton’s in the 1960s, we’ve been forced to look at the hard realities” says Farley, referring to the trans-led Compton’s Cafeteria uprisings many believe laid the groundwork for the Stonewall riots. “But to invest in community programs when we’re facing a budget deficit — I think that speaks to how we prioritize.”