San Francisco 1st major city to offer 'sanctuary' for transgender people

In a unanimous vote, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors declared the city a sanctuary city for people who are transgender, gender non-conforming, intersex, and Two Spirt, a Pan-Indian term describing people who are neither male nor female. 

"We’re people just like you," said Suzanne Ford, who leads SF Pride and is a trans woman herself.

She’s used to showing courage in the face of adversity when traveling home to Kentucky.

"I have to get my game face on. There are going to be people that hate me," Ford said. "I don’t pass. They know I’m a trans woman, and they may have never said a word to me. They already hate me."

After hearing about other cities like Sacramento and West Hollywood already declaring themselves as trans sanctuary cities, Ford turned to Rafael Mandelman, San Francisco Board of Supervisors member for district eight, who then sponsored the resolution.

San Francisco is the first major city in the country to call itself a safe place for transgender and gender non-conforming people. 

"Harvey Milk said ‘you got to give them hope." Mandelman recalled. "Here are queer and trans people across the country in a lot less friendly places than San Francisco and seeing that people in San Francisco care about them."

The American Civil Liberties Union is tracking more than 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills across the country.

"In Florida, we showed conservative principles work," Florida’s republican governor and former presidential candidate Ron DeSantis said during a nationally televised debate with democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom in November 2023.

Honey Mahogany is San Francisco's director of the Office of Transgender Initiatives.

Her team serves as a link between the trans community and the city, providing resources, including protecting them from ending up homeless.

"We have seen an influx of refugees, not just from other countries, but from other states who are seeking care and seeking sanctuary," Mahogany said.

Tuesday’s vote shows San Francisco is a safe place for those seeking or providing gender-affirming care.

Ford hopes it will educate others, telling KTVU, "Get to know us before you make a judgment."