A few years ago, Marrisa was living a life she described as “isolating” in Montana, where she had been coping with substance abuse. Determined to find a better life for herself as a transgender woman, she sold her car and moved to San Francisco in search of a supporting queer community that would embrace her.
At first, things didn’t go as planned for Marrisa. She was rejected for jobs because she was transgender. Rent and bills piled on, and she was forced to take out a loan just to keep herself afloat.
Full of resolve, Marrisa did not give up. She came to the SF LGBT Center and, with the help of our Trans Employment Program staff, she improved her résumé, attended our weekly job club programs and took part in our LGBTQ Career Fairs. She landed a job and now has a successful career, a good living situation, and is on the path to building a life she always envisioned for herself.
Marrisa’s story in not uncommon.
It is painful to tell you that there are thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people living in the Bay Area who are unemployed, or underemployed and not making a living wage. While many in our community are prospering, many also face significant challenges rooted in bias and lack of acceptance. Our community is tremendously diverse, and homophobia and transphobia intersect with racism, gender bias and economic challenges that keep many on the margins, particularly when seeking employment and economic stability. I am proud to tell you that the SF LGBT Center is working hard to help them.
Every year, our Economic Development program works with more than 3,000 people, helping them to purchase their first home, find affordable housing, improve their credit, manage debt and, for many, find rewarding career opportunities. Our LGBTQ Employment Program helps job seekers to improve their résumés, cover letters, online business profiles and interview skills.
We also provide opportunities for the community to network and learn new job skills, such as coding and software development. The Trans Employment Program—the first-of-its-kind in the country—is designed to help create inclusive workplaces and jobs for trans and gender non-conforming people across all industries. Its #HireTrans mass transit campaign to educate the public on the challenges trans jobseekers face while searching for employment is currently being featured on SFMTA Muni buses, trains, and platforms, and on BART platforms.
One of the most important events for our job-seeking clients is our free LGBTQ Career Fair, attended by more than 600 jobseekers and more than 40 Bay Area companies from industries such as technology, banking, hospitality, retail, media and communications, government and transportation, among many others. The next fair is Tuesday, April 25, at the San Francisco offices of LinkedIn.
The career fair offers jobseekers the opportunity to connect with employers who value diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Participants meet recruiters, receive career and résumé consultation, and obtain a professional headshot for free. Recognizing the particular set of biases that transgender people face, in 2007 the San Francisco LGBT Center launched the Trans Employment Program, the first city-funded program of its kind, and the first such program in the country.
The team works to help create inclusive workplaces and jobs for transgender and gender nonconforming (GNC) people. It provides a wide range of services including employer support, training human resources staff on employment and benefit best practices, providing advice on navigating being out at work or transitioning on the job, mentoring, and legal services. Earlier this year, the Trans Employment Program also launched the #HireTrans campaign to encourage employers to hire transgender and GNC people.
Marrisa demonstrates the resolve and strength representative of our community’s history. It took incredible courage for her to come out, leave everything behind and move to San Francisco. We are proud that every day we support many like Marrisa, connecting them to the critical resources they need and setting them on their path to thrive.
We can all be part of creating change. If you need work, schedule a consultation with us, attend our programs and take part in the career fair. All of our community services are free! If you are an employer, contact us to take part in the career fair and ask us about our training and volunteer programs. If you are employed, give back and take affirmative steps to create a safe and supportive work environment for all LGBTQ individuals and people of color.
We have made incredible progress. We have won marriage equality and the right to serve openly in the military. Our brave youth are coming out at younger ages and in bolder ways than ever before. Let us make sure that no one, especially the most vulnerable in our communities, gets left behind on our path to full racial and socioeconomic equality for all.
Clair Farley is the Director of Economic Development at the SF LGBT Center.