By Olivia Wynkoop, Bay City News
Original article was published March 23, 2023. View the original article here.
The San Francisco Community Health Center officially opened a new service facility specifically for transgender and gender non-conforming people in the city’s Lower Polk neighborhood Tuesday.
Labeled the Trans Thrive facility, the 8,000-square-foot space on Pine Street is the first stand-alone facility of this size in the city dedicated to improving the lives of trans people.
Health center organizers envision the space to not only be a service center for resources like counseling or STD testing and treatment — it is meant to be safe place for the community. The space has snacks, a clothing closet, a computer lab and plenty of space for social events.
The facility at 1460 Pine St., just six blocks away from the health center’s main clinic, also has two drop-in spaces for adults and young people, two counseling rooms, two conference rooms, a kitchen, a shower and laundry services.
Program coordinator Alejandra de la Vega said she is looking forward to not only continuing to provide resources like employment resources and medical care for her clientele, but also hosting cultural events like Taco Tuesdays and lotería, which is a similar game to Bingo. She mentioned that she is the first and only Latinx trans woman working in the Trans Thrive program.
“We have a lot of different cultures here, and it is really important to have people who represent those communities,” de la Vega said. “For me to be here, it’s a great start for that, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.”
For the past 15 years, the health center’s Trans Thrive program has provided a suite of services to the trans community, including behavioral and medical health care, support groups, individual case management and employment resources.
The center wanted to turn the Trans Thrive program into its own facility after it conducted a community assessment in 2022. After prompting listening sessions, surveys and interviews with its clients, organizers found that many of the people using its services were disproportionately affected by poverty, unstable housing and lack of employment opportunities.
Addressing a clear need
Senior strategy advisor Tatyana Moaton, who conducted the assessment, said there was a clear need for people to receive services and care from professionals who are also part of the trans and gender-non-conforming (TGNC) community.
“Addressing these inequities requires a comprehensive and integrated approach that also acknowledges and combats the violence, stigma and discrimination our TGNC community faces on a daily basis,” Moaton said.
Trans Thrive sponsor Gilead Sciences said that too often trans people face barriers to receiving care. Darwin Thompson, the public affairs director of Gilead, said this facility will serve as a central resource to address the disparities that trans people across the nation frequently encounter.
“Gilead is proud to invest in these organizations like the San Francisco Community Health Center, and will continue to support the health and wellness and safety of the trans community,” Thompson said.
Supervisor Rafael Mandelman and board president Aaron Peskin were also in attendance at Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, and both made remarks regarding the facility opening at a time when anti-trans legislation is making rounds across the U.S.
In just this year, legislators in 33 states introduced over 300 bills that put trans rights at risk, like banning gender-affirming care.
“We know that trans folks need a lot of help right here in San Francisco, and we have a ton of work to do,” Mandelman said. “As the senior gay on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, I strongly believe that none of us are free ’til all of us are free.”
Peskin added that he is proud of organizers for quickly opening the facility.
“It gives me hope that the city’s initiative to end trans homelessness in a very short period of time is achievable and realistic,” Peskin said. “We are delighted by your work, we want this to be a thriving facility, and City Hall is here to help and have your backs.”
SFCHC chief executive officer Lance Toma said the opening of this facility should serve as a bold reminder that trans people “will always have a place of belonging in our community.”
“We must and will fight any and all backlash and stand firm in the unassailable truth that the TGNC community has the right to live healthy, joyful, and productive lives,” Toma said.
Residents who want to access Trans Thrive services can visit the center during its drop-in hours Monday to Friday from 2-4:30 p.m.