SF LGBT Center’s purple building is an iconic part of San Francisco’s Market Street. Founded in 2002, the Center’s mission has always been to create a more equitable world for the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. The Center also actively supports businesses and entrepreneurs who are part of the community through its Financial Services department and various programs, such as the Trans Employment Program. Join us as Roberto Ordeñana, SF LGBT Center Deputy Executive Director, shares the story behind the Center and check out our exclusive partnership with this organization for Pride Month.

How was the SF LGBT Center first founded?

The work to create a home for LGBTQ+ people in San Francisco began long before the Center opened its doors for the first time. When Harvey Milk was elected supervisor in 1977, creating an LGBT community center was a top priority. Tragically, his assassination cut short the realization of this idea. Soon after, Harvey’s dream was put on hold for over a decade due to HIV/AIDS. In the late 90’s, we were finally able to revive one of his wishes: creating a safe space that would serve as a beacon of hope during a very difficult time for our community. A number of local community leaders worked to fundraise, build, and open our doors in 2002. Founding members are numerous and included former California State Senator Mark Leno, Dana Van Gorder, Frank Woo, and Jody Cole.

Today the SF LGBT Center connects our diverse community to opportunities, resources, and each other to achieve our vision of a stronger, healthier, and more equitable world for LGBT people and our allies.

Our four priorities are to:
  • Foster greater opportunities for people to thrive;
  • Organize for our future;
  • Celebrate our history and culture;
  • Build resources to create a legacy for future generations.
What sort of programs does SF LGBT Center have to help members of the LGBTQ+ community find employment?

We see employment as a basic right for LGBTQ+ individuals in order for them to increase financial health and build assets over time. The Center created the first LGBTQ+ economic development program in the country and continues that legacy to this day. We now offer a range of services, events, and workshops tailored to support participants’ job searches, to offer networking opportunities with potential employers, and to connect to further training opportunities. Current programs include resume review, mock interviews, workshops, and career fairs.

Additionally, our Trans Employment Program (TEP) is a unique, collaborative program designed to help create inclusive workplaces and jobs for trans* people. TEP provides a wide range of services including: matching participants to trans-friendly employers, job referrals and career coaching; navigating being out at work or transitioning on the job; resume review and managing references; hiring and community events; and legal services. TEP is the first city-funded program addressing economic and employment barriers for transgender and nonbinary community members.

What is the Small Business Program Covid-19 Online Office Hour?

To provide continuous support to the small business owners in our community through this challenging time, our Financial Services team has been hosting weekly office hours for current program participants. For individuals not already participating in the program, the team is also hosting bi-weekly “incubator” sessions, where small business owners can get to know fellow LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs, brainstorm with other entrepreneurs, work on projects, and meet with a Small Business Consultant to answer specific questions.

What sort of things is SF LGBT Center doing to help combat the discrimination in the Black Trans community?

We pioneered the nation’s first LGBTQ specific economic development program in the country, which has a special focus on supporting BIPOC trans and gender non-conforming people in finding and sustaining employment. Our Employment Services team also helps educate employers to create safer, more inclusive environments. 

Our Community Programs team coordinates a wide range of cultural events each year, including hosting gallery exhibits featuring queer black artists, collaborating with partners like Queer Women of Color Media Arts Projects on their annual Film Festival, and robust TLGB Black History Month programming. We also use our public-facing communications channels (like our social media accounts) to help increase education and awareness around these issues.

We also collaborated with the San Francisco Human Right Commission in 2015 to produce the first-ever LGBTQI Violence Prevention Needs Assessment Report, which has helped shaped LGBTQ+ programming throughout the city and beyond. The report documented that physical violence, sexual violence, and harassment were prevalent issues facing LGBTQ+ community members, but support services are overtaxed and often lack an LGBTQ+ specific lens. Additionally, disparities within the LGBTQ+ population suggested that racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and lack of affordable housing options significantly increase risk, but existing services disproportionately catered to the needs of less marginalized sub-groups. For example, providers noted the limited availability of services specifically focused on the Black community, and the limited number of organizations prepared to serve non-English speakers.

How is the Center celebrating Pride this year?

Our overarching goal is to serve as a hub of information, a supportive family, and a lifeline. This year, the Center will focus on recognizing the origins of Pride: born out of riots against police brutality at Compton’s Cafeteria and Stonewall, led by Black and POC trans women and drag queens—notably Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, among others. This year, due to Covid-19, we will help connect participants to others’ events, especially Black-led and focused LGBTQ+ organizations doing vital work for our community.

We are also incredibly grateful for the donation of a brand new mural on our iconic purple building just in time for Pride week. Fnnch, a San Francisco street artist, believes art is for everyone and is creating a new piece for the Center that celebrates both the LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities.

In honor of Pride Month, we have partnered with SF LGBT Center to bring you this special “Pride Edition”of our Hustle Fabulously tee. A portion of the proceeds will benefit SF LGBT Center. Whatever you have to say to the world, say it in your hustle. Actions might speak louder than words, but hustles are bold moves in silence. No matter what end of the spectrum you fall under, discoverGREY is proud to support every color in between.


This article originally published on GREY Journal.