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    Mayor London Breed’s First Year in Office Highlights LGBTQ Issues

     What a difference a year can make. It was just last June 5 when a special election was held for mayor of San Francisco, following former Mayor Ed Lee’s passing on December 12, 2017. In a tight race with former state Senator Mark Leno, former District 5 Supervisor and Acting Mayor London Breed proved victorious and assumed office on July 11, 2018. She faces yet another election on November 5 of this year for a full mayoral term. The San Francisco Chronicle forecast earlier this month, however, that “the election’s pretty much over for SF mayor,” given that she faces “no major opposition.”

    As Lenny Kravitz croons, “It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over,” but we are likely at the beginning of a new and potentially lengthy defining era in San Francisco politics, with Mayor Breed leading the charge.

    If the past is any predictor of the future, LGBTQ issues will remain at the forefront of her team’s objectives. Consider, for example, that on January 30 of this year, she presented her State of the City Address from the then newly announced site of the National LGBTQ Center for the Arts and the permanent base for the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. Among other announcements, she went on to introduce Dr. Grant Colfax—previously Director of National AIDS Policy in the Obama White House—as Director of the city’s Department of Public Health.

    At this near year-long point in Mayor Breed’s present term, we decided to track just some of her LGBTQ accomplishments and initiatives over the past 11 months. Special thanks to Clair Farley, Senior Advisor on Trans Initiatives at the City and County of San Francisco, for her help in this endeavor.

    LGBTQ-Related Budget Investments for FY19–20, 2020–2021

    The budget formulated by Mayor Breed and her team calls for $3 million in additional LGBT services as well as ongoing investments in our community. It includes:

    • $2 million for Our Trans Home SF. This funding will create the first program of its kind in the nation that will provide flexible housing subsidies to help trans community members find and keep their housing;
    • Continued support for LGBT homeless youth services through housing, employment and case management services;
    • Establishment of a new Training Officer in the Office of Transgender Initiatives to implement the Executive Directive to track the expansion of gender options on all city forms and to provide trans inclusion training to city employees who work with the public;
    • Creation of an ongoing LGBT Immigrant Fellowship program through the Office of Transgender Initiatives. This fellowship program, piloted this year, prepares LGBT immigrants with the professional development skills that they need to engage with the everyday workforce;
    • Continued support to backfill federal HIV funding cuts and support for the Getting to Zero initiative.

    Getting to Zero

    In 1995, San Francisco had the highest percentage of people infected with HIV in the country, but great efforts have been made and have been successful at reducing this percentage. Today, San Francisco still has one of the largest HIV positive populations in the U.S., with about 16,000 people living with HIV. Through the city’s focused Getting to Zero efforts, however, San Francisco has seen new HIV diagnoses decline by 52 percent in the last 5 years, hitting a record low. Of all people diagnosed with HIV in San Francisco, 73 percent are virally-suppressed, allowing them to have better health outcomes.

    The Department of Public Health has launched Project Opt-In, which is funded by a four-year, $2 million per year grant. Project Opt-In focuses on improving education, outreach and treatment for our homeless population.

    In 2020, the 23rd annual international AIDS Conference will return to San Francisco (and have components in Oakland), which is the place where the disease first emerged on the public’s radar in the 1980s.

    Mayor’s Executive Directive on Expanding Gender Self Identifiers on City Forms

    In the wake of the Trump Administration’s attack on trans and non-binary people this past fall, Mayor Breed issued an Executive Directive to expand gender and self-identifiers on city forms and applications. Trans and nonconforming communities are often forced to make choices on San Francisco forms and applications that do not accurately reflect their gender identity or gender expression. The Executive Directive provides for inclusive administrative forms and applications that represent all gender identities, allowing people to more broadly choose how they self-identify when demographic information is collected.

    Office of Transgender Initiatives

    San Francisco’s Office of Transgender Initiatives is an historic trans-led city government office launched to develop innovative policies and programs that support the transgender, gender nonconforming and LGBT communities. The Office is led by Farley, who previously ran the Economic Development programs at the SF LGBT Center.

    San Francisco has invested over $2 million annually in transgender programs and services across the city from workforce development efforts, to health services, to research, to education programs for incarcerated community members. The city has continued to invest in and support Transition Aged Youth (TAY), working to get more young LGBT folks off the streets, and introduced the country’s first transgender district, the Compton’s TLGB Cultural District.

    The Office played a role in increasing access to educational opportunities by advocating for and working with the City College of San Francisco to develop a preferred name policy that respects a student’s name regardless of their legal name change status.

    The Office also worked with the other city departments to implement an All Gender Bathroom Policy, and to implement SB 310 (Name & Dignity Act), SB 179 (Gender Recognition Act), SB 396 (Transgender Work Opportunity Act) and SB 239 (Modernization of HIV Criminal Law).

    In conjunction with the Sheriff’s Department and community-based organizations, the Office supported new policies around housing, strip searches, and the preferred name and gender identity for transgender people in jail. 

    LGBT Senior Housing Project

    95 Laguna is the second phase of a senior housing project at the location, and with the passage of Mayor Breed’s neighborhood preference legislation and extensive outreach, LGBT seniors had priority in the lottery. Like 55 Laguna, these two projects are intended to provide affordable housing primarily, but not exclusively, to LGBT seniors.

    12X Prohibition

     In 2016, the Board of Supervisors—including then President of the Board Breed—passed legislation prohibiting city-funded travel to states with anti LGBTQ laws as well as contracts with companies headquartered in those states. This policy is now codified in Section 12X of the Administrative Code and is tracked by the Office of Transgender Initiatives. This list currently includes Oklahoma, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Alabama and Texas. South Carolina was added in April 2019.

    Open to All

    On March 12, 2019, at a press conference at Harvey Milk Plaza, Mayor Breed declared that San Francisco is Open to All. Open to All is a nationwide public engagement campaign to build awareness and understanding about the importance of protecting people from discrimination—and to defend the principle that when businesses open their doors to the public, they may not refuse to serve someone because of who they are.

    The campaign was launched to focus attention on the Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case that went before the U.S. Supreme Court. While the court’s decision in that case affirmed the importance of nondiscrimination laws, it did not end the discrimination that so many Americans still face every day. The laws in most states still do not explicitly protect LGBT people from discrimination—and discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, religion and disability still happens far too often. March 12, 2019, marked the one-year anniversary of the decision.

    The national campaign is being spearheaded by Movement Advancement Project (MAP). Founded in 2006, MAP is an independent, nonprofit think tank that provides rigorous research, insight and communications that help speed equality and opportunity for all. The campaign is supported by a wide array of more than 200 civil rights and racial justice organizations; LGBT organizations and community centers; health advocates, disability advocates and faith organizations; and other groups. The total coalition currently includes over 2,000 businesses, including Gap Inc., Marriott International, Levi Strauss and Co., Yelp, Lyft and over 1,500 small businesses.

    The San Francisco Open to All campaign is the first major campaign of its kind, and includes:

    • 500 interior bus advertisement panels;
    • Radio ads through KMVQ, and KOIT;
    • A digital ad campaign;
    • Joint Op/Ed by the Mayor and Supervisor Mandelman supporting the nationwide campaign;
    • National press release;
    • Billboard space;
    • Window decals at small businesses across San Francisco;
    • Board of Supervisors’ resolution;
    • Merchants from all over San Francisco, and in every Supervisorial district, have signed the pledge and have window decals in their storefronts. Merchants have been provided with a toolkit that will enable them to utilize social media to amplify the Open to All message.

    Locally, the campaign is funded by the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, which celebrates the vitality and beauty of the San Francisco Bay Area and its diverse people and cultures. Guided by the values of fairness, equality and opportunity, they work to confront injustice and some of society’s most difficult issues.

    Trans Housing Navigation and Violence Prevention Program

     Funded by the city and run by the Trans Activists for Justice and Accountability (TAJA) Coalition, the Trans Housing Navigation and Violence Prevention program provides ongoing housing navigation orientations while surveying trans and gender non-conforming community members on the barriers to accessing housing programs and shelters. The program provides trainings to housing providers on improving inclusion and safety for trans and gender non-conforming community members. The program also includes violence prevention services and leadership development for trans women of color. The program was launched in January 2019 and has been renewed via funding for FY 19–20.

    Furthermore, in partnership with the Mayor’s Office and the Office of Transgender Initiatives TAJA has launched the Our Trans Home SF coalition to provide rental subsidies to support community members who are at risk of losing housing and to support participants in securing new housing. The program includes housing navigators and a citywide trans housing plan to address the homelessness and housing instability crisis affecting the trans and gender non-conforming (TGNC) communities in San Francisco. 

    TGNC people in San Francisco are 18 times more likely to experience homelessness than the general population. (Over 15 percent of TGNC San Franciscans are homeless, compared to 0.85 percent of the general population.) Almost one in two TGNC people in San Francisco have experienced homelessness sometime in their lives.

    The $2 million budget investment funds a two-year pilot program to provide housing subsidies for 75 transgender households per year. These investments will prevent evictions and stabilize tenancies for some of San Francisco’s most vulnerable residents. This pilot program is an extension of Mayor Breed’s commitment to addressing homelessness and housing instability for the LGBTQ community and Transitional Age Youth (TAY).

    In October 2018, Mayor Breed announced the launch of the Rising Up Campaign, which aims to provide housing and jobs for 500 TAY and 450 at-risk TAY. Nearly half of the homeless youth in San Francisco identify as LGBTQ and 30 percent of homeless adults identify as LGBTQ.

    Additional Activities Related to the LGBTQ Community

    Over the past year, Mayor Breed has:

    • Appointed a number of LGBTQ Commissioners and department heads citywide;
    • Broken ground at Eagle Plaza, a new focal point for the Leather Community that she helped to spearhead;
    • Observed Trans Month with a flag raising;
    • Participated in the 2019 Pride kickoff and flag raising.

    The aforementioned is just a partial list of Mayor Breed’s LGBTQ-associated work these past 11 months. How you feel about all of this could relate to many factors, including political leanings and your present personal situation. For those who were Ellis Act-ed at some point during the past several years and lost their longtime San Francisco home, for example, it may be hard to have faith in any of the city’s leaders. It is also still too early to determine the actual effectiveness of many of the new initiatives and other programs.

    Mayor Breed is off to a running start, though, with daily packed schedules and an earnestness to solve numerous longstanding problems in what has been her home for 44 years—she will celebrate her 45th birthday on August 11. Her charisma and power are palpable, as is her genuine affection for the LGBTQ community. Members of our San Francisco Bay Times team will never forget the year when our Pride Parade contingent wound up side-by-side with that of the then Supervisor, awaiting the turn on Market Street. Her contingent featured a bevy of buff go go dancers, but all eyes were on electrifying Breed (video of this 2013 contingent is at https://bit.ly/2KGIJf4 ). She had only been a supervisor for 6 months at that point.

    Breed inspired confidence then, as she does so now. Although the following words concluded her State of the City Address in January, they also seem appropriate for June Pride: “I hope you believe with me. That you hold your head high and take pride in our city and what we can do together. Because we are San Francisco! We will meet our challenges. We will light the way.”

     


    About Our Cover

    For this June 2019 Pride issue of the San Francisco Bay Times, we feature Mayor London Breed. She is proudly holding an historic Rainbow Flag that was handcrafted by Gilbert Baker in 2003. Baker (1951–2017) made it that year to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the flag’s creation in 1978. The commemorative flag was later gifted to the Mayor by the Gilbert Baker Estate. (In 2003, for Key West Pride, Baker also made a 1.25-mile-long gigantic flag that stretched across Key West from the Gulf of Mexico to the Florida Strait.)

    We thank Mayor Breed, Art Director Debra Walker and photographer Chloe Summer Jackman-Buitrago for making this Pride cover possible. Please also join us in congratulating Jackman-Buitrago and her husband on newly born Alonzo Barack Buitrago! He entered the world just before the scheduled photoshoot with the Mayor, already showing a knack for strategic timing.

    Speaking of timing, now is the perfect season to read the recently published Gilbert Baker memoir, Rainbow Warrior: My Life in Color. He was such a creative, generous and sweet soul. Baker refused to apply for a trademark for the Rainbow Flag, thereby essentially gifting his now iconic creation to the world. For more information about the book and Baker’s legacy, go to https://gilbertbaker.com/