Budget cuts hit transgender jobs program

April 30, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO--More than 50 people from the transgender community and their supporters turned out for a San Francisco Human Services Commission meeting on April 22 to stop a proposed cut of all city funding to the Transgender Economic Empowerment Initiative (TEEI).

TEEI currently helps transgender San Franciscans find and retain decent jobs through workshops, job search support, legal assistance and mentoring. TEEI also works directly with employers to address issues of gender identity bias in the workplace.

This is the first program in the country designed to address transgender unemployment, a much-needed service considering that 75 percent of transgender people in the San Francisco Bay Area do not have full time employment. According to TEEI, "Across California, transgender people experience unemployment and poverty at twice the statewide average."

One TEEI client testified, "I have been fired for being trans, not hired for being trans, and harassed by coworkers. This service is essential. We should be part of the mainstream, part of the fabric of society."

Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, added, "One in five trans people in San Francisco are homeless and working in the street economy. I cannot count the number of people we've lost to the streets and to suicide due to lack of employment. We have to do better than this in San Francisco."

Many people spoke to how crucial TEEI is in addressing the economic injustice and workforce discrimination that the transgender community faces by helping 125 transgender San Franciscans find employment to date.

The San Francisco Human Services Agency, which funds TEEI and many other social and family services in the city, is facing $12.6 million in cuts. Among those cuts were eviction defense services for the elderly, job placement for homeless adults and kinship services for grandparents and other relatives raising family members' children to keep them out of foster care.

Dozens more people turned out to protest cuts to those programs, including grandparents who utilize Edgewood Center for Children and Families, which treats severely disturbed children and supports relatives caring for these kids.

Considering the depth of cuts that everyone in the room was facing, there was a real shared attitude that none of these programs should be cut. Members of the Human Services Commission board agreed, and didn't vote to approve the cuts. Board member Anita Friedman stated, "We have to make it clear to the mayor's office we are against making cuts to preventative services to the underserved."

Unfortunately, lack of approval from the commission doesn't mean these cuts have been stopped, and they will now be put to the city board of supervisors and Mayor Gavin Newsom. Continuing organizing and building solidarity to keep the Transgender Economic Empowerment Initiative and other city social services is necessary, as budget cuts continue to reach across oppressed and exploited groups to pull everyone down.

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