Theresa Sparks is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission. With it's storied history of more than 45 years, the San Francisco Human Rights Commission is one of the oldest human rights public agencies in the United States. Groundbreaking concepts such as domestic partnerships, equal benefits and transgender health access have all begun with iniitial discussions among individuals associated with the HRC. Theresa is also past president of the San Francisco Police Commission, the former CEO of woman-owned, multi-million dollar, retailer Good Vibrations, and one of the most prominent female transgender activists in the nation. Her many professional accomplishments include being a member of the Emeritus Board of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, a Vietnam-era veteran and a trained engineer. She has also served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Horizons Foundation, a community based LGBT philanthropic organization, and has been nationally recognized for her long standing commitment to human rights and public service.
Theresa was born, and spent her childhood living, in Overland Park, Kansas, a community outside of the Kansas City metropolitan area. Born male, Theresa knew early on that her gender and biology were at odds and began expressing her gender identity through secretly cross-dressing, an impulse she would resist later in adolescence. Despite her natural inclinations, Theresa successfully lived and outwardly presented as a man through her college years at Kansas State University, where she initially studied chemical and mechanical engineering. She then went on to serve her country with the United States Navy during the Vietnam War while stationed at the Fleet Intelligence Center, at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and later the USS New, a WWII-era destroyer. Later, Theresa went on to start-up and successfully grow several waste management, environmental services, alternative fuel and recycling companies, and patented two recycling techniques during this time.
Theresa got married in the early 1970's and, together with her first wife, had three children, two sons and a daughter. After nine years of marriage, Theresa finally revealed her gender dysphoria to her wife. They separated and divorced shortly thereafter. Sparks later remarried, but after a similar disclosure, that marriage ended in divorce as well.
Sparks underwent many years of difficult therapy, and even electric shock treatment, to try to suppress her femininity before deciding at last to embrace her gender self-identity. "It's an unusual condition, but not an unnatural one", she said later. "You eventually come to terms with the realization that the only way you can finally live in peace is to change your physical appearance so others will see you the same way you have always seen yourself."