Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 38 / 21 September 2017
 

Online Extra: Political Notes: Trans program manager sought for Santa Clara County

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Supervisor Ken Yeager. Photo: Jo-Lynn Otto
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As part of a $1 million funding request for LGBT services, gay Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager is calling on the Board of Supervisors to hire a transgender community program manager.

The staff position, at a cost of $151,600, would be one of several added to the county's Office of LGBTQ Affairs and would mirror the role served by the transgender policy adviser on San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee's staff. According to Yeager's office, if the board approves his recommendation, then the South Bay county would be only the second local government entity in the nation to have an employee focused exclusively on the transgender community and its issues.

"Our transgender community is very diverse. It faces complex issues that require expert attention and sensitivity to address," wrote Yeager in a May 10 email to his constituents. "Several of those issues have become apparent during the first year of operation of the Office of LGBTQ Affairs, particularly in the areas of medical care, employment, and mental health services. Transgender residents also face safety and inclusion challenges in local schools, hospitals, housing, and at the county's correctional facilities."

Transgender advocates hailed Yeager's call for the transgender staff position. Aejaie Franciscus, a transgender woman and a former executive director of the Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center in downtown San Jose, applauded Yeager for making outreach to the county's transgender community a priority.

"If Santa Clara County can provide a dedicated transgender community program manager to assist in the creation of effective and appropriate services for members of the transgender community in the areas of health care, education, employment, and housing, I'm in full support," wrote Franciscus, who now runs Carla's Social Club, which provides a safe space in San Jose for the local transgender community.

Cassie Blume, director of LGBTQ programs at Family & Children Services of Silicon Valley, which is a division of Caminar for Mental Health, told the B.A.R. that the county creating a transgender-focused staff position would be greatly beneficial.

"I really believe our community stands to benefit enormously as we cultivate and recognize transgender leadership. We see a huge diversity of gender identities and experiences in our LGBTQ Youth Space and LGBTQ Wellness programs," Blume wrote in an emailed response.

"There is so much important work to do for the safety and inclusion of our trans and gender expansive communities, especially our youth, non-binary folks, and communities of color. It's encouraging that our county is looking to take this step."

In an emailed reply, Theresa Sparks, Lee's senior adviser for transgender initiatives, told the Bay Area Reporter she would welcome having a governmental counterpart.

"That would be great. The need is certainly there in these difficult times," wrote Sparks, who now expects her dedicated office in San Francisco's LGBT Community Center will open sometime during Pride Month in June.

(Lease negotiations between the city and the nonprofit facility for the ground floor space, which has its own entrance separate from that of the center, delayed the planned April opening of Sparks' office. She told the B.A.R. she expects the furniture for the space to arrive this week.)

Second year in a row for $1M

According to California Health Interview Survey data, Santa Clara County estimates that 4 percent of its 1.9 million residents aged 25 or older, approximately 47,000 adults, identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. About 3 percent of adults identify as lesbian or gay and about 1 percent as bisexual.

As for the county's transgender population, the Santa Clara County Public Health Department estimated in 2013 it numbered 3,500 adults based on national estimates that 0.3 percent of the U.S. population is transgender.

This is the second year in a row that Yeager, the county's first and only gay supervisor, has sought $1 million in tax dollars for LGBT services.

Last June, he secured $1,032,087 in the county's Fiscal Year 2016-2017 budget that largely went toward the staffing costs of the county's LGBTQ office and the launching of a Getting to Zero initiative to reduce new HIV infections in the South Bay.

Yeager's funding ask in the Fiscal Year 2017-2018 budget, which begins July 1, includes $816,936 for six new positions to support the Office of LGBTQ Affairs, in conjunction with the related offices of Cultural Competency, Immigrant Relations, and Women's Policy. The new employees would provide technical and logistic support for all of those county offices, which Yeager explained deal directly or indirectly with the LGBTQ community and LGBTQ issues.

The budget request would set aside $175,000 to support the LGBTQ Youth Wellness Initiative, a partnership between the county's LGBTQ office and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Its aim is to promote the health and well-being of LGBTQ youth in the county, and part of the funding would pay for a countywide survey of the population.

"That survey will be used as a baseline and road map for future programs aimed at improving health and well-being in the community," wrote Yeager in his email.

There would also be $5,000 for the county's Equal Opportunity Department to collaborate with the LGBTQ office, as well as the offices of Immigrant Relations and Cultural Competency, on a new implicit bias training program. The funding would cover the costs of complete training packets for participants, including exercises, quizzes, and resources, noted Yeager.

"I am confident that my fellow supervisors will approve all of these programs and continue our county's longstanding commitment to its LGBTQ residents," wrote Yeager, who consulted with the LGBTQ office on the budget request.

While the total ask this year is $1,148,536, Yeager's office estimates it will only cost the county $987,653 to fund the LGBT services, since it will take time to hire for the new positions. Thus, the salary costs will be lower in the first year.

The board is holding budget workshops this week and is scheduled to have the final budget hearings June 12-14. A final vote for the budget is expected on June 16.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/politicalnotes. Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail m.bajko@ebar.com.




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