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San Francisco Declares Itself a Transgender Sanctuary City

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A person waves a pink, blue and white transgender flag among a crowd of people in San Francisco.
A person waves the Transgender Pride flag at Dolores Park during San Francisco Pride's Trans March on June 28, 2019.  (Sruti Mamidanna/KQED)

San Francisco supervisors on Tuesday declared the city a sanctuary for transgender people, joining Sacramento and West Hollywood as the first cities in the U.S. to do so.

Long home to a prominent LGBTQ community, the city is now officially a place of safety for transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming and Two-Spirit people — an umbrella term used to describe Indigenous and Native individuals who possess both a masculine and feminine spirit — according to the declaration.

“We are reaffirming that our city has been and will continue to be a sanctuary and a beacon for our transgender and gender nonconforming siblings,” Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who introduced the resolution, said in a statement.


The pronouncement comes as 40 states across the country are considering anti-LGBTQ legislation, nearly half of which targets transgender youth, according to the resolution.

The Human Rights Campaign reports that as of May, gender-affirming care bans affect youth in half of the United States. In Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, and Texas, state attorneys general have demanded access to patients’ medical records to investigate their care, according to the resolution.

California is one of 13 states, plus the District of Columbia, that have shield laws protecting access to transgender health care. California’s Insurance Gender Nondiscrimination Act also prevents health insurance plans from discriminating against transgender patients by denying access and coverage for certain treatments.

San Francisco’s largely symbolic sanctuary resolution reiterates the city’s commitment to protecting access to gender-affirming care and protection for its providers, in line with the state.

“With the unprecedented level of attacks we are experiencing on trans rights and bodily autonomy, more and more people will be flocking to places like San Francisco,” Honey Mahogany, the director of San Francisco’s Office of Transgender Initiatives, said. “We are already seeing the impact of these policies lead to an increase in demands for services.”

San Francisco is the largest city in the U.S. to make such a declaration. It is also home to the first legally recognized transgender district in the world, which Mahogany helped create. Along with Janetta Johnson and Aria Sa’id, Mahogany founded Compton’s Transgender Cultural District, an eight-block zone in the southeastern part of San Francisco’s Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods, in 2017.

The district is located around Compton’s Cafeteria, the location of the first documented uprising of queer people in the U.S. in 1966, three years before the Stonewall Riots.

Breonna McCree, the current co-executive director of the Transgender District, said that the city has been a place for the transgender community to “live, play and thrive” since the 1940s and ’50s.

“This decision kind of just brings everything home for me because San Francisco is home for us,” McCree said. “San Francisco has been thought of as a safe space for the trans community for a while, and I think this [resolution] sends a message to the rest of the country that we will take care of our trans and nonbinary people here.”

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