Reporting from San Francisco — — An economic empowerment program for transgender people has been saved from extinction in last-minute budget negotiations.
The Transgender Economic Empowerment Initiative has served as a model for a similar program in Los Angeles and inspired cities nationwide to create job fairs targeting the transgender community. More than half its funding was slated to be cut by San Francisco city officials struggling to plug a $483-million budget hole. But an outpouring of community support and impassioned political backing by San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty paid off.
Mayor Gavin Newsom restored nearly half a million dollars in funding to the program Wednesday, among $2.5 million of reversals in cuts to public health, mental health, family and employment service programs, said spokesman Tony Winnicker, noting that "with unemployment still unacceptably high in our state, it's a priority to preserve employment and jobs programs with a strong record of helping people get back to work."
According to a recent study, transgender Californians are twice as likely as the general population to possess college degrees, yet their unemployment and poverty rates are twice the state average. Resume gaps due to time off for gender transition, problems with references, and discrimination are among the barriers that people face.
The program combines legal help, mentoring, assistance with resume-writing and interview skills, and vocational services. It also provides training to employers who are reaching out to ensure that transgender people are welcomed in the workforce.
Although California law protects transgender people from workplace discrimination, federal law does not. San Francisco has long served as a magnet for transgender people, yet in a recent survey a fifth of respondents said they had ended up engaged in the street economy.
"We are incredibly grateful for everyone's hard work in making sure that this critical program could continue to help alleviate chronic unemployment among transgender people," said Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, which runs the initiative with the San Francisco LGBT Center and Jewish Vocational Services.