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Politics & Policy

Amid nationwide wave of anti-trans attacks, one SF supervisor steps up

San Francisco is world-famous as a haven of LGBTQ+ safety, but incidents of transphobia are hardly rare. | Arun Nevader/Getty Images

In light of the massive and ever-growing wave of anti-trans legislation sweeping the country, one San Francisco supervisor is stepping up to affirm the city’s place as a bulwark of inclusivity for LGBTQ+ people—particularly the young.

Supervisor Dean Preston will introduce a resolution at Tuesday’s meeting of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors that urges elected representatives, schools and youth-serving institutions to protect queer and trans people from hate and violence.

Citing San Francisco as a “vibrant hub of queer culture” and a “globally recognized source of inspiration for resistance, freedom and respect” for the LGBTQ+ community, Preston’s resolution affirms the right to medical care and the need for schools to be protective spaces. 

As the supervisor for District 5, which contains the Tenderloin, Preston represents much of the footprint of the city’s groundbreaking Transgender Cultural District.

Each of the other 10 supervisors will co-sponsor the resolution, Melissa Hernandez, Preston’s legislative aide, told The Standard.

SF City Hall was lit up with Trans Pride-colored lights to celebrate Pride weekend on June 25, 2022. | Brian Feulner for The Standard

While largely symbolic, it contains a few specific provisions. Notably, it calls for the swift implementation of the Queer Transgender Parent Advisory Council that the San Francisco Unified School District initially approved in February, and for the district to ensure compliance with the California School Success and Opportunity Act.

Jupiter Peraza, a political strategist and trans advocate in San Francisco, helped draft the resolution—as did a number of trans youth themselves. Calling it a stepping stone for social programs for the trans community, Peraza expressed hope that San Francisco can execute Mayor London Breed’s stated goal of ending transgender homelessness by 2027, and expand a guaranteed-income pilot program for trans people

“I also want to see SF be the leader for trans youth and youth-serving institutions,” she said. “There should be no reason why trans youth attending SF schools should not have access to the proper restrooms, or have no way of having their voices heard in the decision-making process.” 

Preston’s resolution is in keeping with California’s assertive political posture. As much of the country embraces reactionary politics, California has taken steps to strengthen its commitment to reproductive rights, while in San Francisco, a political battle over fentanyl dealers who are reportedly undocumented immigrants may lead to a reaffirmation of its sanctuary city status.

District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston speaks at a rally outside City Hall on Feb. 28, 2023. | Michaela Vatcheva for The Standard

San Francisco may be a beacon for LGBTQ+ acceptance, but it is not immune from transphobia. An accompanying press release to Preston’s resolution cites a recent incident at the Cheesecake Factory in which a trans woman, Lilly Contino, was accosted by a woman who referred to herself as a “TERF,” or trans-exclusionary radical feminist. Contino, a well-known community advocate, was streaming while eating at a table with her dog, Howard Nugget, and while the aggressor remained off-camera, her rant was captured on video.

Although the episode went viral, Contino confirmed to The Standard that no one from the restaurant reached out to her afterward. This level of vitriol was unprecedented for her in San Francisco, she added, but low-level discomfort can be all-pervasive.

@lillytino_

A self-identified TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) threatened me at the @cheesecake factory. I happened to be streaming at the time and caught the encounter on camera. This happened at the Union Square location in San francisco

♬ original sound - lillytino

“I get looks on the street, all the time, every day—especially in touristy areas,” Contino said. “People give me the ‘I don’t approve’ face.”  

In spite of the restaurant’s silence on the matter, she received messages of support from numerous celebrities, including Kathy Griffin, Billy Baldwin and Vanessa Carlton. 

“It was pretty distressing—and, in a broader sense, very scary,” Contino said. “It speaks to the rising tide of transphobia in the United States. Words at the top create action from the bottom.” 

By that, Contino was referring to conservative politicians nationwide who have singled out the transgender community, particularly young trans people. And for Peraza, the sentiment goes both ways. Preston's resolution is particularly timely, as March 31 is the Transgender Day of Visibility, a day meant to counter the dismaying prevalence of transphobia with uplifting narratives.

“Trans people should get accustomed to thinking positively and curate our future in spite of everything around us,” Peraza said. “It’s a reminder we don’t tolerate hatred and violence, that we stand strong against anything or anyone that diminishes the beauty and power of trans people.”

Astrid Kane can be reached at astrid@sfstandard.com