Farley, head of San Francisco mayoral transgender office, departs

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Thursday December 2, 2021
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Pau Crego, left, will become interim director of the San Francisco Office of Transgender Initiatives following the resignation of Clair Farley, right. Photo: Courtesy Clair Farley
Pau Crego, left, will become interim director of the San Francisco Office of Transgender Initiatives following the resignation of Clair Farley, right. Photo: Courtesy Clair Farley

After four years of overseeing the country's first municipal office dedicated to transgender issues, as well as advising three mayors on various concerns of San Francisco's LGBTQ community, Clair Farley is departing to pursue other opportunities outside of the city. Later this month, for instance, she is expected to begin consulting with a trans-owned provider of telemedicine.

The 38-year-old Farley did not rule out seeking elected office in the future during an interview with the Bay Area Reporter December 2 on her official last day with the city. A trans woman and resident of the East Bay city of Alameda, she noted that there has yet to be a transgender person elected to a state or federal legislative office in California.

"I am still open to exploring what that looks like in the future," said Farley. "California still doesn't have an elected trans representative. We should really be at the forefront of that. We see so many trans folks elected across the country."

Since 2017, Farley has led San Francisco's Office of Transgender Initiatives. First established by the late mayor Ed Lee in June 2016, he hired Farley after the office's inaugural director Theresa Sparks, a trans woman and longtime community advocate, retired. Farley had been working on economic issues for the city's LGBTQ community center.

During her tenure with the trans office Farley has worked to ensure various city departments are collecting sexual orientation and gender identity demographic data of the people they serve, advocated for millions of dollars in city funds for numerous LGBTQ programs, and helped open the country's first transitional housing for trans adults. First opened last January in a rented building near Chinatown, the program has since relocated to a leased three-story building South of Market and houses 14 people.

It is one piece of the city's Our Trans Home Initiative, which has also provided subsidies to keep trans individuals housed in their apartments or homes in the city. The program is one of Farley's proudest achievements as executive director of the trans office.

"The vision and mission of the office is to advance trans and LGBT rights and make San Francisco a model for the rest of the country," said Farley. "It is hard to do that if we can't stay here, live here, and thrive here."

The trans office also created an advisory group of people from the city's trans community to ensure it had a seat at the table at City Hall. Each year the office holds a trans advocacy week for members of the community to lobby various city leaders.

"It's really been an honor to do this work for the city," said Farley, adding that leaving is "really bittersweet." But the constant attacks against trans rights, particularly for trans youth, have Farley interested in addressing trans issues at the national level.

"I am excited to stretch new muscles and continue to grow and be inspired," she said. "I am so honored and appreciative to work with the mayor and city to advance the efforts here locally."

In a statement Mayor London Breed called Farley "a fierce advocate for San Franciscans of all backgrounds and particularly for our transgender residents. Her work has ensured that San Francisco remains at the forefront of expanding LGBTQ rights and policies. I want to thank Clair deeply for her dedication and her guidance. She will be missed dearly, but I know that she will continue to be a staunch advocate for those in need."

Gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman praised Farley for being "a fantastic advocate for trans and nonbinary San Franciscans. It has been a pleasure working with her on Our Trans Home SF, the expansion of the City's SOGI data collection, and other efforts to support the LGBTQ+ community."

Interim leader named

The office falls under the purview of the mayor and city administrator, who will hire a permanent executive director. Serving as the office's acting director will be Pau Crego, 34, a transgender and nonbinary Spanish immigrant hired by Sparks as the office's director of policy.

He more recently has been its deputy director and director of policy and programs. Crego, who joined Farley during the phone interview with the B.A.R., said he is interested in serving in the position on a permanent basis.

"July of next year will be our fifth year," noted Crego. "I would be really honored to continue in the permanent director job and really move forward with the lessons I have been able to gain being with the office for so long."

He has lived in San Francisco since 2008 after moving from Barcelona, Spain to study queer studies at City College of San Francisco on a student visa. He later received a green card then became a U.S. citizen during the Trump administration.

"I was very proud to be a trans immigrant getting my citizenship during the era of Trump. I think it was in 2019," said Crego.

Farley told the B.A.R. that she "strongly recommends" that Crego be hired as her successor. He has been "a strong leader," she added, who has been working behind the scenes on much of the office's programs and policy work.

"He is such a compassionate and strategic leader," she said. "I know he will continue to stabilize the office as we come through COVID and are making sure we come from a place of community. I am really excited they are able to continue the work we started together and think Pau is a really great fit for it."

Crego plans to spend the coming weeks meeting with various LGBTQ community leaders, city officials, and leaders of agencies working directly in the local transgender community. The trans office currently has two other employees, Pax Ahimsa Gethen, the manager of communications and operations, and Shane Zaldivar, the manager of training and education. Early next year a new manager of community engagement will be brought on board.

At the top of his agenda for 2022 will be working with the city's housing and homelessness department on not only reopening the LGBTQ-specific shelter Jazzie's Place but also on plans to upgrade the space. It has been closed since the start of the COVID pandemic and is not scheduled to reopen its doors until sometime next year.

As the office's point-person on the city's SOGI data collection efforts, Crego is also working to improve how city agencies are gathering the information, in particular the public health department that has lagged behind other departments when it comes to collecting the LGBTQ demographic info. He expects to work with Mandelman's office on setting up a citywide working group focused on SOGI data, which will be expanded to include that of city employees and job applicants.

"City government and big institutions are slow and hard to change," noted Crego. "I have been very encouraged by some of the changes we've seen in the past four years and I think that will continue."

Farley had taken medical leave in September due to several long-term chronic health issues she has dealt with being exacerbated and compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. She told the B.A.R. the situation led her "to rethink work, life, stress" and to come to the decision to resign from her city job in order to find a better balance for all three.

"That is so hard to do, so by my leaving, I am trying to lead by example," said Farley. "One thing I am really excited about is the new opportunities I am exploring."

One will be consulting with TransClinique, a trans-owned and -operated business that offers telehealth services that are trans-affirming and offers on demand hormone replacement therapy, noted Farley. She is also looking at other jobs in the private sector and national policy work.

"Going through my own health care challenges, I had a hard time finding trans-affirming care. I feel inspired to continue to be working to advance that," she said. "It is a national service. I will be on the ground floor of that organization, growing it and helping other people to get better access to health care."

Farley added, "I am really excited about continuing what we have done in San Francisco and making sure it is accessible to other communities outside of the Bay Area."

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