SACRAMENTO, Calif. —  In February 2020, Francesca Dixon came out as a trans woman to her wife and kids.

For more than 60 years, she legally identified as male, but always knew her true identity.

“I’ve always known what I was, even as a toddler. My first trauma was getting my head shaved when I was a year old,” Dixon said.

Dixon says decades of being in the closet was mentally draining. It got so bad that a few months before coming out, she said she reached a point where she wasn’t able to function and was having suicidal ideations.

“I reached the end of the line,” Dixon said. “I couldn’t wear that mask anymore.”

Dixon’s family did not receive the news of her coming out well. She says she was kicked out of her home and hasn’t spoken to her three kids or ex-wife in almost three years.

After spending over six decades struggling with not being able to be her true self, Dixon says she lost everything in the span of two weeks and had to restart her life.

She was on the brink of homelessness before being accepted as a resident at Lavender Courtyard in Sacramento. Dixon says Lavender Courtyards has been a godsend.

“Coming here, having this place — it’s a safe environment. There are a lot of LGBTQ community members here. It changes the game completely.”

Lavender Courtyard is the first and so far the only housing complex designed for LGBTQ seniors in Sacramento. Housing availability is a problem for all seniors in the area, and the problem is only magnified for LGBTQ individuals, explained Koby Rodriguez, director of programing for the Sacramento LGBT Community Center.

“In Sacramento, we’re not seeing a lot of availability for affordable housing. We’re not seeing a lot of availability for senior housing. So all of those are compounding factors,” Rodriguez said. “Then, when you throw in LGBT housing, there are only 53 units in this whole county for LGBT folks, and that’s the Lavender Courtyard.”

The planning of Lavender Courtyard began in 2015, and residents were able to move in starting in May of this year.

Sacramento County has one of the highest amount of low-income seniors who struggle with rent in California, according to a UCLA study.

“Often times we forget there’s a person behind these statistics and a person behind these struggles,” said Rodriguez. “And for LGBT folks in particular who are looking for senior housing, sometimes it means they go back into the closet because they might be reliant on someone else to accept them or to be in a community that may not be accepting.”

When the application opened for Lavender Courtyard, Rodriguez says hundreds of people applied for a spot, highlighting the need for similar types of affordable housing complexes.

“It is time now to plan for the next phase of this type of housing here in Sacramento. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard of any new plans for senior housing,” Rodriguez said.

As for Dixon, she is fully aware of the importance of inclusive housing. She’s glad to be one of the 53 residents, but knows more need to be in development.

“I think this place is a new start for a lot of people. It handles one of the basic needs for everyone: shelter. It changes everything.”

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