Sacramento, CA – On September 26th, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law AB 2218 - Transgender Wellness and Equity Fund, authored by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-53), which establishes the Transgender Wellness and Equity Fund within the Department of Public Health for the purposes of funding holistic health services for transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex (TGI) people across California. This is historic for our community and we hope creates a strong legacy of policy change to move TGI communities forward.
Give Us Our Roses Event, asking Governor Newsom to sign AB 2218
Starting January 1, 2021, California will begin the process of establishing the Transgender Wellness and Equity Fund within the Department of Public Health, which will be responsible for creating and allocating the resources for TGI-serving organizations across the state. These resources will be able to be utilized for services such as medical health programs, mental health programs, arts-based programming, and supportive housing specifically for TGI people. Although due to the pandemic, the dollar amount of $15 million attached to this bill was taken out in the legislative process, we are planning on pushing hard to ensure that these resources get to our community as soon as possible. This will be done by working in collaboration with the Department of Public Health, Assemblymember Santiago’s office, and engaging in the State Budget process next year.
Although this effort will be ongoing, the fight for TGI equity here in California has made great strides through the passage of AB 2218. “AB 2218 has given our community hope. In a time where the world is doing the most to tear us down, we are showing that we have power in ways to change this system and get the resources we deserve.” says Michaé De La Cuadra of the TransLatin@ Coalition, “This bill is a form of accountability to California and other states, for years of neglect of TGI people.”
This legislative effort was led by a coalition of trans-led organizations from across the state of California, in partnership with the district representative of TransLatin@ Coalition, Miguel Santiago.
According to bill author Miguel Santiago (D-53) - “This is a critical measure for our transgender community and I thank Governor Newsom for his steadfast leadership in signing AB 2218, California’s TGI community has long faced obstacles in receiving safe, non-discriminatory, comprehensive care, and COVID-19 has exacerbated these existing health care disparities. This bill will help create programs where TGI-identified people can receive safe, competent, and inclusive health care and other social services.”
Until AB 2218, there has not been an effort to allocate resources of this magnitude to specifically support the TGI community across California, and likely the first in the nation. This bill makes history. This bill demonstrates that the TGI community is now a priority and will have access to the care and services this community has always deserved. It will increase TGI people’s health outcomes, livelihood, and the ability to survive. Especially now, in the midst of a pandemic, this bill was necessary.
“We have seen the impact of COVID-19 on transgender communities across California,” said Ebony Ava Harper, Director of California TRANScends. “Transgender communities that were already vulnerable are further disadvantaged due to this pandemic. We are in a state of emergency and AB 2218 is here at the right time. It’s time that California leads by example and shows the federal administration that transgender health equity is a priority in the State of California.”
“AB-2218 constitutes a historic investment in the TGI community,” said Alex Binsfeld, Legal Director at the Transgender, Gender-Variant, and Intersex Justice Project, “though the effort continues to allocate resources to this fund, during a time when TGI competent healthcare is more urgently needed than ever.”
Despite the strong opposition from right-wing, religious, and conservative groups across the country, TGI leaders from across the state worked tirelessly to educate and urge California legislators to vote in the direction of TGI liberation. In the eyes of a transphobic national political climate, this bill shows that TGI people matter and will stand up in the face of discrimination.
“In a time where the current federal administration is pushing to roll back all trans rights, AB 2218 represents a beacon of light for transgender and gender-nonconforming people like myself across California.” Says Khloe Rios-Wyatt, Executive Director of Alianza Translatinx in Orange County.
AB2218 is a signal of hope and more, it is life-saving. TGI people and TGI-serving organizations have fed, housed and protected their own community for centuries, it was about time the state government got on board.
"AB2218 will save lives! When TGI people have resources, we're able to step into our fullest potential and uplift ourselves and each other. This bill plays a crucial role in making sure that our community does not get left behind. Especially, given that we are in the midst of a global pandemic that disproportionately impacts TGI people. We are grateful to see Governor Newsom sign this bill into law and hope that this has a cascading effect and other states follow his leadership. We will continue to fight and advocate for our community because we know our struggle for liberation goes beyond this victory." Says Ezak Perez, Executive Director of Gender Justice LA.
This fund will support the creation of resources and help sustain already-existing services that the TGI community relies on across the state, in rural and urban areas, such as San Francisco and beyond.
"Here in San Francisco, we recognize the importance of dedicating resources so that our communities can develop their own solutions that address systematic inequalities, that is why we are so proud to support the #InvestInTransLives coalition to create the Transgender Wellness and Equity Fund," said Maceo Persson, Director of Communications and External Affairs for the San Francisco Office of Transgender Initiatives. "Everyone deserves to have access to healthcare and wellness programs that respect who they are, and that is why we invest over $5 million for trans-specific programs. We are thankful that California is showing leadership in assuring that TGI people have access to lifesaving care across the state."
The support extended beyond the legislature and among the community as well. This effort was supported by TGI community members throughout the process, many of whom are clients of the participating organizations. From calls to legislators, letters of support, and actions at the Capitol, this was truly a community-led effort.
Resources in Sacramento, CA
"There aren’t many organizations in California that do the critical work that a transgender serving organization can do and that is to reach our community in a way that no other cisgender organization can do. We need equity and it starts with the passing and signing of AB-2218 into California law. We hope and urge our community will step out and show up for future policy endeavors to strengthen our folks to thrive," said Nghia Nguyen, Community Advocacy and Mobilization Coordinator of the Gender Health Center in Sacramento.
AB 2218’s passage is a crucial step to ensuring that TGI people reach health, wellness, and equity in California and beyond. We thank the Governor for his investment in TGI lives.
“Our organization is honored to have led the work and partnered with amazing TGI leaders across the state,” says Bamby Salcedo President/CEO of The TransLatin@ Coalition. “As TGI people it's important that we understand our political power and our political influence, and AB2218 is a sign of the immense possibilities that we can accomplish as a community.”
Michaé De La Cuadra
Manager of Policy and Community Engagement, TransLatin@ Coalition