We weren’t political advocacy organizations.
We couldn’t legally take political positions.
The Transsexual Counseling Service ran under the aegis of and was funded with War on Poverty funds from the EEOC.
The National Transsexual Counseling Unit which Jan and I ran was an extension of Reed Erickson’s non-profit Erickson Educational Foundation.
We were service organizations, smaller in scope than what be came the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center, but a service center nonetheless.
I had been a radical, for a period of time I described myself as a revolutionary. I was following the dictum issued by Huey P. Newton, when he told us we needed to serve the people of our communities and affect non-violent change through the political process.
Jan was a Sociology major at San Francisco State, who viewed the office as both a place to do field research and to help other sisters.
The roots of our organization were in COG, which had grown out of the Compton’s Cafeteria Riots. Some said COG stood for “Conversion, Our Goal”, others said it meant “Change, Our Goal.”
Either way the main mission of our organization was to help ourselves and our peers get through the process of changing sex. We served young T to F people almost exclusively, due to that being the demographic that originally developed from the Compton’s riots. While the people we were seeing were still mainly young and of a similar age demographic they tended to be more middle class and better educated than the people who had rioted in 1966.
We were well aware our organization wasn’t representative of the spectrum of people who were getting SRS from the Stanford Program. We went to the group sessions and met the older sisters who had established careers and were often married to women and parents.
Some us envied those sisters because they had careers and stable lives in suburbia, whereas many of us had our educations abruptly terminated and wound up struggling for survival after being told to get out by our parents.
In many ways Jan and I took our cues from organizations that had helped runaways in the Haight Ashbury during 1967’s “Summer of Love.”
When people wrote to us telling us of their plans to come to SF we told them what they needed to bring.
We taught them how to get ID, who to see to get hormones. We told them where to get their applications for the Stanford Program, when to call and who to ask for.
We acted as a mail drop for a few.
We found people, someone who would let them crash at their place until they could get a place of their own.
We told people how to dress and act when they saw a Doctor.
Some people were very ready to be angrily confrontational with Doctors who were as progressive as they came and who were eager to help.
We didn’t give people a script. We told them to tell the truth to the doctors. That the doctors were willing to help.
We encountered a few seriously mentally ill people. One was very threatening and seemed on the edge of losing it, others were suicidal or had serious psychiatric problems. We tried to talk those people into going to see actual professionals.
We helped people connect with sensitive people in both the welfare and employment offices.
We had lawyers and friendly bail bonds offices we could refer people to.
Mostly though we listened and offered our own experiences. Shared what we knew and learned from what others had to offer.
And after our time of doing it was up we passed it on to the most competent of our friends who was crazy enough to take over the responsibility.
By the time the office closed in 1974 Dr. Brown and a bunch of vultures had come to town. Reed Erickson had moved on and grants were drying up. I was living in Los Angeles by then and my successor Leslie had her SRS.
Times had changed and so had the sisters coming to San Francisco, our office with its particular services had become some what of an anachronism.