Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Transgender Economic Empowerment Initiative Funding Restored: We Need More Programs Like This

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | June 30, 2010 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Gavin Newsom, San Francisco

Unemployment and poverty rates among transgender people are far higher than the national average. In California, the rates are twice as high as the state average.

That makes news from San Francisco especially welcome.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Transgender Economic Empowerment Initiative, which works to assist transgender people in San Francisco to find jobs, was on the chopping block.

More than half its funding was slated to be cut by San Francisco city officials struggling to plug a $483-million budget hole. But an outpouring of community support and impassioned political backing by San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty paid off. The funding was restored.

This is one of the most crucial issues facing transgender people: how to find and keep a decent job. Resources are few and far between. But they are out there. After the jump, more on the Transgender Economic Empowerment Initiative, and another online resource for trans people.

Also according to the Times, a recent study showed that transgender Californians are twice as likely as the general population to possess college degrees, yet their unemployment and poverty rates are twice the state average. Resume gaps due to time off for gender transition, problems with references, and discrimination are among the barriers that people face.

The Transgender Economic Empowerment Initiative program combines legal help, mentoring, assistance with resume-writing and interview skills, and vocational services. It also provides training to employers who are reaching out to ensure that transgender people are welcomed in the workforce.

"We are incredibly grateful for everyone's hard work in making sure that this critical program could continue to help alleviate chronic unemployment among transgender people," said Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, which runs the initiative with the San Francisco LGBT Center and Jewish Vocational Services.

TEEI participants have access to:

* One-on-one job counseling with a vocational specialist in the trans community.
* Full range of our Mentorship from a successful peer professional or ally who can offer both personal support and career networking opportunities.
* A network of local trans-friendly employers looking to hire from the community.
* Employment resources.
* Legal advice on identity documentation and rights in the workplace.

This is the kind of program that can really make a difference in the trans community. Yes, we need laws to cut down on the ability of employers to discriminate, but laws don't give you jobs.

Other services available to participants include one-on-one peer based mentoring, job search planning meetings, a job search skills workshop, legal seminars, and social and spiritual meetings.

Now that's a support network!

We need more programs like this. Time to start cranking up the grant-writing machinery!

Here's another resource available online: Transworkplace, a Resource Network on transgender workplace diversity for HR managers, diversity professionals, lawyers, transgender employees and allies. There are over 700 members on the site, with national job listings, forums for discussions of job-related issues, member blogs, and a transgender work news feed.

I started it last year, and the response was quite immediate, showing the crying need for resources in this area. 400 people signed up the first day after I started it.

As important as ENDA is to combat workplace discrimination, resources that can help trans people find jobs is equally crucial. We should continue to work for ENDA, and similar state and local laws, but we should also devote some of our time and energy to projects designed to help people get the jobs.

If any of you know of other resources, please do tell. Let's all work together on this issue.

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If you live in the Atlanta, GA area and are trans I recommend "Someone Cares." It helps with education, interview skills and more.

I met most of the trans individuals who are part of Someone Cares early in my transition several years ago. They were active in a similar group, LaGender, which was founded and directed by DeeDee Chamblee. I enjoyed participating in LaGender and was inspired by the dedication to overcome adversity demonstrated by its members.

The program director for the trans outreach component of Someone Cares, R.E.A.L./T, is Alicia Newson. She continues this dedication by taking a no-nonsense approach to empowerment of trans individuals.

DeeDee, Alicia and the other people involved in R.E.A.L./T have my respect and my strong recommendation for their never-ending support of the Atlanta area trans community.


The shocking rates of transgender unemployment is one of the things I try to use in talks with Congressmembers and other politicians. When they try to say, "But there's not really a problem..." you can always whip out the statistics and say, "Well, yes, it is."

Chris Daley | July 1, 2010 11:02 PM

Jillian -

great summary of TEEI and the work that local activists did to preserve public funding for the initiative's vital efforts.

I'm always a bit surprised how little the blogosphere comments on successful programs like this (particularly in light of the uncommon combination of private and public funding that supports the initiative). In particular, the work local activists did to keep this program viable in the face of crushing public spending cuts. I would guess (though someone should let me know if I’m wrong) that this program constitutes the largest amount of local and state public funds ever spent on the transgender community outside of hiv/aids funding (and related health programs).

And, for those keeping score, this is one of the programs that Gay Shame was protesting at the Center this past Saturday. Talk about a bankruptcy of ideas on their part.