As San Francisco’s gig economy grows, so does the city’s need for housing. The Tenderloin district, a historically black and queer neighborhood, becomes prime real estate for the city’s tech workers. Cookie, Janetta, and Ronjah bring you into their world as they fight San Francisco’s housing crisis.

Tender is at once spacious and observational and intimate and familial. Janetta, Cookie and Ronjah tell us so much in a beautiful, impactful and remarkably brief twenty minutes.  

Stephany Ashley, Brilliant Corners

Calling for an end to San Francisco’s housing crisis, three black trans women reveal the precarity that gentrification and rent increases place on their lives.  Janetta is a pillar of the trans community and head of the Trans, Gender-variant & Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP). Ronjah juggles multiple jobs as she dreams of moving out of her single room occupancy (SRO) and into an apartment near the ocean. Cookie searches for housing in a ballooning market that is unaffordable and leaves her homeless. These women take pride in living and working in this pre-Stonewall site of LBGT liberation, yet the spaces they hold dear erode as San Francisco’s housing crisis grows out of control.


Not to be overlooked is Tender, which concerns itself with the day-to-day lives of Black trans women in the Tenderloin, now the site of the Compton’s Transgender Cultural District. In spite of having been shot right here in San Francisco, it came to Virago’s attention through the festival’s ordinary call for submissions. She likes it as a response to the city’s reputation as a “progressive jewel box,” that has all the answers.

“Now we’ve become another neoliberal city that’s fast becoming the whitest city in California,” she says. “So people overlook the fact that in the Tenderloin, there’s still many strong trans connections and lives that are happening within this hyper-gentrification and displacement — and it’s beautifully filmed.” 

Shawna Virago, San Francisco Transgender Film Festival as reported by Peter Lawrence Kane,
Director's Commentary: 

In 2018 I was introduced to Janetta Johnson, executive director of the Transgender, Gender-Variant & Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP). Through her I met Ronjah Earl and Cookie Bivens. All three would become participants in my documentary. Over six months of production all three women allowed me into their homes and into their lives. Trusting me enough to catch glimpses of it on camera. Those glimpses turned into Tender.

I now advocate for black trans women on multiple levels. A year after Tender’s completion I still volunteer my time and services to the non-profit featured in my film, TGIJP. I attend mail night where I write letters of support to transwomen under incarceration. It is an honor to be called a friend by the women of TGIJP and the participants in Tender.