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Op-Ed: Beyond Visibility, Transgender People Deserve Housing, Too

Op-Ed: Beyond Visibility, Transgender People Deserve Housing, Too

Our Trans Home
Gwen Park/San Francisco Office of Transgender Initiatives

#OurTransHome wants homelessness to be a thing of the past for the trans community.

Around the world today, we are observing International Trans Day of Visibility (TDOV) by honoring our community's accomplishments and history of fearlessness in our fight for equality. But home can be an elusive concept for many of us in the trans community.

Many of us have faced family rejection and been forced to leave our homes -- often fleeing violence or emotional abuse. We become migrant, searching across state lines and national borders for a place to start over as our authentic selves. Like many before me, my journey brought me to San Francisco, where I hoped to discover a new place I could call home.

San Francisco is famously a cultural and spiritual sanctuary for our community.

Since the 1966 Compton Cafeteria Riot, our city has been at the forefront of the trans and queer civil rights movement, and few would deny how crucial we've been in the trajectory of this city. In the past 50 years, we have continued to build on that foundation our elders laid for us.

There is plenty to celebrate. In 2017, local Black trans women spearheaded the creation of the city's transgender cultural district. That same year, San Francisco created the Office of Transgender Initiatives, our country's first and only government office working to advance policies and programs to the benefit of transgender, gender nonconforming, and LGBTQ residents.

Here in the Golden City, we also have trans-specific employment programs, re-entry and violence prevention services, youth services, legal support, and gender-affirming healthcare which available to all residents. These things make me proud to call San Francisco home, and to work with a mayor who gave the president a clear message: The trans community will never be erased -- not in San Francisco, not ever.

There is plenty to celebrate, and still more we must do.

Skyrocketing housing and rental markets paired with systemic discrimination has formed an unrelenting barrier between the trans community and housing stability. Even in San Francisco, a longtime refuge for the LGBTQ+ community, trans and gender nonconforming individuals are 18 times more likely to experience homelessness compared to the general population.

As if that statistic were not staggering on its own, it is compounded by the fact that 70 percent of trans and gender nonconforming individuals who stayed in a shelter in the past year reported mistreatment, harassment, or assault. Fully 45 percent of transgender and gender nonconforming San Franciscans have experienced homelessness.

This is terrifying, heartbreaking, and wholly unacceptable.

But we can fix this.

Together we can build housing stability for trans communities and end trans homelessness. The Our Trans Home SF coalition is launching a community-led education campaign accompanied with a community housing assessment, and a Trans Advocacy Day in San Francisco to address this crisis.

The Our Trans Home SF campaign has employed a multi-pronged approach to address trans homelessness and housing instability that includes:

Rental subsidies to support trans and GNC individuals at risk of losing their housing and ensure that we stay housed

Comprehensive organizational development programs targeted to increase trans inclusion and safety in existing shelter and housing programs

Dedicated trans housing programs to address service navigation, emergency housing, and long-term housing stability.

Everyone deserves a safe place to call home. So many of us came to San Francisco looking for a safe harbor; a place where we are recognized, supported, and cherished by a larger community. We are part of the lifeblood of this city, and like everyone else, we deserve a place to lay our head.

We can't rest until all of us have a place to rest.

Join the campaign and learn more here.

Clair Farley is the Director of the Office of Transgender Initiatives and Senior Advisor to the Mayor of San Francisco. She is a human rights advocate who has worked across the country and internationally to promote visibility for marginalized communities.

RELATED | Black Trans Women Created the World's First Trans Cultural District

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Clair Farley