Friday, May 7, 2010

Why Gavin Newsom Shouldn't Kill the Transgender Economic Empowerment Initiative

There's a unique program in San Francisco called the Transgender Economic Empowerment Initiative (TEEI). And while the program might not be well known outside of the City By the Bay, it certainly could be a model program for cities looking to promote safe and welcoming work places for transgender individuals.

The overall thrust of the program is to help transgender individuals find stable jobs that provide a living wage, benefits, and opportunities for advancement. Hard to disagree with a mission statement like that. But the TEEI does a whole lot more. In collaboration with several other organizations, the TEEI works with employers to create safe work zones, as well as work within the broader community to advance transgender rights. They hold job fairs, run classes for transgender individuals looking to improve certain skills (like resume writing, for example), and help make sure that transgender employees know their rights. And that's covering something particularly important, given that transgender employees are much more likely to face discrimination on the job.

But sadly, despite the great work that TEEI does, it faces a huge slash in its funding by the city of San Francisco. Though it survived what many consider a first round of budget cuts, Mayor Gavin Newsom has up until June 1 to decide whether or not to keep city funding for the TEEI. If TEEI loses its funding from San Francisco, it will lose upwards of 50 percent of its annual budget. That would cripple almost any organization, and TEEI is no different.

That's why it's time to put pressure on Mayor Newsom to keep the TEEI afloat, and to make sure that it can continue the great work it's doing in the city. San Francisco needs it. And so do the rest of us, who can look at the TEEI as a national model for advancing transgender rights and ending workplace discrimination.

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