Center plans for transvisibility, Soiree events
by David-Elijah Nahmod
The LGBT Community Center is preparing for its inaugural Transgender Day of Visibility event next week and looking ahead to next month when it will celebrate its 12th anniversary.
The trans visibility event is a celebration of transgender lives, said Clair Farley, the center's associate director of economic development and a trans woman. The Transgender Day of Visibility was created a few years ago in response to the lack of LGBT holidays celebrating trans people, with the only well-known event being the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which mourns the loss of trans people to violence and does not always acknowledge and celebrate living members of the trans community.
This is San Francisco's first year participating.
The center and the Transgender Economic Empowerment Initiative will hold a program at the center, 1800 Market Street, Monday, March 31 from 5 to 8 p.m. Speakers will include Ayme Kantz of Wells Fargo, Antonio Zeledon of Larkin Street Youth Services, Mia Tu Mutch of LYRIC, Carolyn Laub of GSA Network, Kris Hayashi from the Transgender Law Center, and Farley. Nikki Calma will emcee.
The center, Trans:Thrive, and the Shine Study are starting its transgender visibility program a few days early with an appearance by best-selling trans author Janet Mock Friday, March 28 but tickets sold out in eight hours. Due to limited capacity, the event continues to be free but the center has ended online registration.
The center's anniversary party, Soiree, is set for Saturday, April 5 at City View at Metreon. Tickets are available. Last week staffers talked about the center and the birthday party.
"It's an exciting time for the center," said Roberto Isaac Ordeñana, the center's director of development. "We're celebrating our 12th anniversary. The center is important: we connect people to each other, we provide services to the most vulnerable."
He pointed out that up to 70 percent of transgender people are unemployed or underemployed, while many LGBT youth are homeless.
The center works toward alleviating these issues, and has in fact accomplished much in that regard.
"As the land of hope and opportunity for many in the LGBT community, San Francisco is not without its challenges," said Rebecca Rolfe, the center's executive director. "Soiree allows us to celebrate how far we've come, but it's also an important chance to band together and help those in need."
Angel VanStark, 21, is a center success story. Once homeless, the young man's radiant smile shows how happy he is with the changes that have come into his life. Now working in the tech industry, he's moving into his first apartment. VanStark now sits on the center's board of directors, and is the District 8 representative on the San Francisco Youth Commission.
"I faced a lot of challenges in regards to identity and finding community," he said. "I came to the center's employment fair. I got college credits and a job through the program. The center is the center for making sure youth and transgender people are employed, and for making youth and people of color recognized."
VanStark remains involved with the center so he can pay it forward.
"The center has provided me the unique position where I can talk about these issues and people listen," he said. "Being given this opportunity has enabled me to relate to multiple communities and to help people. I feel inspired to make sure everyone is represented."
VanStark and Ordeñana described some of the specific services the center offers to youth: HIV testing, crisis support, self defense education, budget counseling, assistance in finding housing, and more. Anyone can stop in and apply for service.
"Youth ask us how they can get involved and make it more youth supportive," Ordeñana said. The center, he noted hosts an average of 200 events per month, with 70 active community partnerships.
Farley talked about how trans people face employment discrimination even in a liberal city such as San Francisco.
"Ninety percent of transgender people are discriminated against in the workplace," she said. "When I came to the city I didn't understand why I couldn't find work. I was so busy fighting discrimination, I didn't know where to go."
But like VanStark, she found help at the center.
"The dialogue is changing," she said. "There's been a big change in the media."
Farley wants that dialogue to be about solutions. Through her office, she works with trans people to help them achieve their dreams. This includes a program with the Transgender Law Center to help people who are transitioning in the tech field, where, she says, there are more transgender workers than people may realize.
"The big thing in tech is moving forward," said VanStark. "You cannot have those conversations unless you have diversity."
Funds raised at Soiree will help provide services at the center. Ordeñana promises there will be good food and drink, a jazz tribute to the San Francisco Beat Generation, a silent auction, performances from Veronica Klaus and The Klipptones, and much more.
"The center's budget is $2 million per year," he said. "This event raises $150,000 for the center. The proceeds support center programs."
Soiree takes place April 5 from 6:30 p.m. to midnight at City View at the Metreon, 135 4th Street. Tickets are $95, with VIP tickets going for $150. For more information, visit www.sfcenter.org.