During Pride month in June, Jupiter Peraza had a thought.
Observances like Black History Month have made strides in recognizingsocietal contributions, of which transgender people have also made plenty. Why isn’t there a Transgender History month?
“(Transgender Awareness Week) is a very special week, but it’s a week that’s sort of eclipsed by a sense of grief and loss which I think does not do justice the joy and celebration and happiness we should be instilling,” said Peraza, director of social justice and empowerment initiatives at the Transgender District, a cultural organization in the Tenderloin. “It’s important to let trans people know that their future is bright, they have potential, they come from lineage of revolutionaries, change-makers, trailblazers. When you remind people of that, it breaks barriers.”
She wrote a draft of a proclamation in June, worked on it with the Transgender District Director Aria Sa’id, and brought it to the Office of Transgender Initiatives, which advises Mayor London Breed. Relatively quickly, San Francisco officially recognized August as Transgender History Month — the first of its kind in the country — on Tuesday. The declaration marked the 55th anniversary of the Compton’s Cafeteria Riots, catalyzing transgender activism that preceded the 1969 Stonewall riots.
It was the first major partnership between the Transgender District and the Office of Transgender Initiatives, two relatively new entities working to advance the wellbeing of transgender people in San Francisco. They worked on some testing and vaccine efforts together but were able to pull off a historic marker within just a couple of weeks of teaming up.
“I think this is a great new chapter,” said Clair Farley, executive director of the Office of Transgender Initiatives. “Even though we’re part of the community, we’re also part of government. As an office, we want to make sure we’re grounded in the work the community is doing and elevate that.”
The City’s budget approved this summer included funds to create an LGBTQ senior tele-mental health program, acquire a site for an LGBTQ museum, and pilot a guaranteed basic income program specific to trans residents over the next two years. The Office of Transgender Initiatives brought the income pilot to Breed as the Transgender District sent out cash payments to trans people nationwide during the pandemic, working on similar efforts separately.
“Our transgender community has a rich cultural history in this city and is so important to our diverse identity,” Breed said. “San Francisco has been and always will be a place where everyone can seek refuge, sanctuary and safety.”
Since then, leaders in other cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago have expressed interest in exploring a similar pilot. Farley and Peraza hope the same goes for Transgender History Month.
“Having a moment to really reflect on the resilience and strength of the community and how we overcame obstacles and challenges in the past can help us really remember the strength we can utilize moving forward,” Farley said. “If we’re only talking about the problems, we forget those legacy makers we stand on that got us to this point. It provides the opportunity to develop new leaders.”
Peraza noted that trans people have shaped social-cultural movements that have shaped the country and world into a more inclusive society. Instead of honoring trans leaders after they pass, like Felicia “Flames” Elizondo, San Francisco can recognize and better support the work of today’s leaders.
On Tuesday, that included Cecilia Ching, Camille Moran and Tamara Ching. Honey Mahogany, a legislative aide in City Hall who became the first transgender leader of any local democratic party when San Francisco’s Democratic Party selected her as chair in June, also spoke.
“We are so grateful we were able to have this opportunity to work with the Office of Trans Initiatives, which is the first office in the U.S. that is dedicated to the trans community,” Peraza said. “It’s more important that we come together that is for joy and to celebrate and also lay the path forward. This entire collaboration serves as a reminder that when we are together, when we are unified, we can do absolutely anything.”