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San Francisco launches income programme for trans community

The city’s GIFT pilot program sets a new benchmark for tangible inclusive legislation.

San Francisco has become one of the first cities in the world to launch a guaranteed income program designed to protect trans residents.

The Guaranteed Income for Transgender People, or GIFT, will grant trans applicants up to $1,200 per month for 12 months, and will be open to 55 people in total.

In order to qualify for the stipend, individuals must be low-income (no more than $600 a month), and part of transgender, nonbinary, or gender-diverse communities.

Speaking of the stipend, San Francisco mayor London Breed said ‘we know that our trans communities experience much higher rates of poverty and discrimination, so this program will target support to lift individuals in this community up’.

GIFT follows a range of guaranteed income programs provided by San Francisco legislators.

The city also offers the Abundant Birth Project, which subsidises Black and Pacific Islander mothers during pregnancy, and a cash relief program for local artists impacted by Covid-19.

The program’s website states that GIFT is ‘the first guaranteed income initiative to focus solely on trans people and will provide regular, unconditional cash transfers to individuals or households who qualify, according to the mayor’s office.’

Applications for the stipend opened last week, and will close in December. Organisations screening each applicant include the Transgender District, who aim to help trans people find financial security.

By working with LGBTQIA+ organisations, GIFT and the San Francisco government are setting a new benchmark for inclusive legislation – ensuring change is tangible and internal, as well as public-facing.

Applicants will be able to choose from 97 different genders and 18 preferred pronouns on the paperwork. And a community focus is at the forefront of the program.

‘By giving low-income trans people the resources to cover the expenses they deem most immediate and important given each person’s unique situation, we are implementing a truly community-centred intervention to combat poverty’ said Aria Sa’id, president of the Transgender District.

Across the US, trans people face far higher levels of economic instability. A 2020 study by Vanderbilt University found that trans Americans are 14% less likely to complete college and 14% more likely to live in poverty than cis-gender Americans.

In California specifically, the 2015 Trans Survey found that 33% of transgender Californians were living in poverty, while the state’s overall poverty rate is just 12%.

San Francisco legislators have been sure to emphasise the disparities that exist within the trans community itself, too.

Director of the San Francisco Office of Transgender Initiatives, Pau Crego, said’ we [still] see that trans San Franciscans experience poverty at exponentially higher rates compared to the general population.’

‘This is especially the case for trans people of colour, disabled trans people, trans elders and other trans communities deeply impacted by discrimination’ Crego continued.

Backlash to the GIFT program has only solidified its necessity, with the organisation receiving a torrent of hate mail just days after the stipend was announced.

And yet, there were over 2,000 applicants in the first week of GIFTs launch, proving that trans communities are in need of these initiatives.

Regardless of backlash or support, however, GIFT can ultimately inspire other communities to forge similar legislation in their local area. At its core, the program promises to leverage trans individuals out of poverty on a scale not seen before in the US.


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