Trans Justice in SF Shelters

By Judith Klintbol & Stine Dieckmann

On Friday, November 20 at 8:30 in the morning, we met at 10th and Mission and marched to the Episcopal Sanctuary homeless shelter to protest transphobia in the shelters and lack of safe housing for transgender people in San Francisco. The action was in honor of the Transgender Day of Remembrance/Resilience. We chanted, “What do want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” “Trans folk say we hare here to stay!” Transgender people in San Francisco have been treated poorly and have had their human rights abused. Transgender safety is a huge problem in the city.

We wanted to show awareness of these problems and demand recognition of rights. Transgender sisters and brothers deserve to be invested in, in ways like having safe access to housing. Often times you hear these horrible stories about how transgender women are misgendered and have no safe spaces in the shelters. Or about being denied access to services based on systemic violence and transphobic staff and blatant disrespect for people’s lives and bodies. End all violence against trans people.

When we arrived at Sanctuary, we stood outside the building and chanted for while, until Kenneth J. Reggio, executive director of Episcopal Community Services, stepped out. We read out loud our lists of demands. Reggio talked to the protesters and came up with a solution. He gave us a date for a spokesperson to come for a meeting on how the shelter can better invest in transgender people. Activist Jasmine McKay reminded the public that “the liberties, freedoms, and respect afforded to cis and non-trans folks seem to be denied to [Black trans women] more often than not. Despite how hard we may work, how docile we may become, or far we may go in our personal lives, we are too often seen as lesser members of society unworthy of respect in many of our day-to-day encounters in society.”

After the parade, our spokespeople met up with the people from Sanctuary and it turned out really great. We got a letter from Ken Reggio, which states that they will meet our demands and that they will start investing in transgender support at the shelters. His letter sounds very promising that things will change. ECS has decided to meet the demands of the Transgender Law Center and will start hiring trans folks for every shift at the shelters. They will create a Trans Inclusion Council focused initially on the experience of people in our shelters (Sanctuary, Next Door, and the Navigation Center). They will also commit to ending anti-trans culture inside the shelter system in San Francisco and ensure safe, appropriate, and violence-free shelter for trans people.