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    Farewell, OTI!


    By Pau Crego–

    As I prepare to leave the San Francisco Office of Transgender Initiatives (OTI) after working there for six and a half years, I am struck by how much stronger our local transgender, gender nonconforming, nonbinary, intersex, and two-spirit (TGNCI2S) communities are now compared to when I started working in this office. Indeed, when I was first hired at OTI by founding Director Theresa Sparks in 2017, I could have never dreamed of the accomplishments that this office has been instrumental in achieving.

    In recent years, the OTI, alongside our office’s Transgender Advisory Committee and Mayor London Breed, has launched courageous initiatives that prioritize some of our most vulnerable residents: the creation of housing programs prioritizing TGNCI2S people experiencing housing instability, a guaranteed income pilot program focused on extremely low income TGNCI2S San Franciscans, and the city’s commitment to address the disproportionate rates of homelessness within trans communities. These historic efforts were made possible thanks to the community’s fierce advocacy, the wisdom of our office’s Trans Advisory Committee, the strong commitment of city leaders, and the hard work of city employees across many departments.

    In addition to helping create these life-saving services, OTI has taken bold steps to increase trans equity within our local government institutions. We drafted, in collaboration with the city’s Department of Human Resources, the city’s 2019 Gender Inclusion Policy to outline the rights and protections from harassment for TGNCI2S city employees. We then wrote, with multiple stakeholders, a similar Gender Diversity and Inclusion policy for City College of San Francisco to codify protections for students and employees.

    We have supported many city departments in developing and implementing their own trans equity policies and procedures, and have trained thousands of city employees on how to engage respectfully with TGNCI2S colleagues and residents. OTI was also instrumental in the city’s initial COVID-19 response, specifically by ensuring LGBTQI+ elders had access to food and basic supplies, and by integrating efforts focused on LGBTQI+ people experiencing homelessness when setting up shelter-in-place hotels.

    Upon reflecting on the past 6+ years, I could not be prouder of the institutional changes OTI has led. My pride in them comes from the belief that institutional change is extremely challenging and slow work, but truly worthwhile. Institutions—especially government institutions—hold incredible power over our lives. They often determine our access, or lack of access, to housing, healthcare, economic opportunities, education, safety, and almost everything else we need to live safe and healthy lives.

    And for communities that have been historically—and currently—harmed and neglected by the same government institutions that are meant to protect us, it is imperative that we change the underlying conditions that lead to these inequities in the first place. For TGNCI2S communities, that means ensuring that we have access to affordable and safe educational opportunities, establishing employment settings that will protect us from harassment and allow us to advance professionally and economically, and creating affordable and safe housing options, as a starting point.

    Given the inhumane levels of violence and hate directed at TGNCI2S communities throughout history, and even to this day by state legislatures across the country, TGNCI2S people have very good reasons to distrust institutions and governments. What we know from our community history, passed down through generations of chosen family members, is that we have had to lean on each other to survive, knowing that we could rarely count on those in power to care or protect us. This is why at OTI, especially in recent years, we have been intentional about deepening trust between TGNCI2S communities and government.

    The long list of our collective accomplishments is a testament to our commitment to advocate and uplift the needs and voices of TGNCI2S San Franciscans by acting as a bridge between community and local government. And I am certain that city leaders, community advocates, and OTI will keep working towards setting the standard for how TGNCI2S people, history, and culture should be protected, celebrated, and nurtured.

    Pau Crego (he/him) is a queer and trans immigrant who has worked towards equity for trans and LGBTQI+ communities for almost two decades, both in the San Francisco Bay Area, and in Spain where he is originally from. His advocacy has included direct services, technical assistance, training and education, program design, and policy change. Crego worked at the Office of Transgender Initiatives (OTI) from 2017–2023, most recently serving as the Office’s Executive Director. He is also faculty in the Health Education Department at City College of San Francisco, and a published author and translator in the field of public health.

    Musings on Trans Liberation
    Published on December 21, 2023