San Francisco declares itself ‘sanctuary city’ for transgender people

San Francisco has declared itself a ‘sanctuary city’ for transgender and non-binary people  (Alamy/PA)
San Francisco has declared itself a ‘sanctuary city’ for transgender and non-binary people (Alamy/PA)

San Francisco has declared itself a “sanctuary city” for transgender and non-binary people.

The city’s Board of Supervisors unanimously voted Tuesday in favor of the sanctuary status, making San Francisco one of the first major cities in the nation to do so.

The declaration means the city is now officially a place of safety for transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming and Two-Spirit people — an umbrella term used to describe Indigenous and Native individuals who possess both a masculine and feminine spirit — to seek transitioning health care.

“We have seen an influx of refugees, not just from other countries, but from other states who are seeking care and seeking sanctuary,” San Francisco’s director of the Office of Transgender Initiatives, Honey Mahogany, said.

The pronouncement comes as 40 states across the country are considering anti-LGBTQ legislation, nearly half of which targets transgender youth, according to the resolution.

Dozens of states are making moves to limit access to gender-affirming care, with just over 600 bills intended to target transgender rights considered in 2023, according to the Trans Legislation Tracker, while nearly 600 have been considered so far in 2024.

Lawmakers in Tennessee passed a bill in April criminalizing adults who help minors get transgender procedures.

Meanwhile, in Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed a measure banning transgender treatments for minors, though a federal judge recently ruled key parts of that law unconstitutional.

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who represents the Castro — one of the first gay neighborhoods in the country — told The San Francisco Chronicle that the measure was directly inspired as a rebuke to conservative attacks on transgender people.

“A majority of these laws specifically target transgender people, including youth,” he said. “As other cities and states turn up the hate, places like San Francisco need to turn up the love.”

“With this resolution, we are reaffirming that our City has been and will continue to be a sanctuary and a beacon for our transgender and gender non-conforming siblings,” he continued.

Mahogany added that due to an “unprecedented level of attacks” on trans rights and bodily autonomy, “more and more people will be flocking to places like San Francisco.”

“We are already seeing the impact of these policies lead to an increase in demands for services.”

San Francisco has a long history with the LGBTQ community. It has been home to one of the first gay neighborhoods in the country, The Castro District, since the 1960s. It is also home to the country’s first transgender cultural district, known as Compton’s Transgender Cultural District. The district was founded by three black trans women in 2017, including Mahogany, and honors the site of a 1966 riot against police violence towards transgender people.

Sacramento and West Hollywood have also declared themselves sanctuaries for transgender people.