Minneapolis city leaders created an official group Friday to advise the City Council and Park Board on matters related to the transgender community.
The new Transgender Equity Council is part of an ongoing city effort to identify disparities and work more closely with community members. The city launched an annual Trans Equity Summit in 2014 and formed a transgender issues work group that same year.
The council established Friday will continue that work but be subject to the city's open appointment process and open meeting laws, said Council Member Elizabeth Glidden, who sponsored the measure.
"We're continuing to get more mature and sophisticated with our commitment [to the transgender community]," Glidden said. "This is not just a flash in the pan or an interest of a particular year. [It's] sustainable, ongoing work."
The formation of the new council comes as two openly transgender candidates — Andrea Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham — are running for City Council.
Having a group dedicated to protecting and addressing issues the transgender community faces can make the city feel more open and welcoming to other marginalized groups of people, said Phil Duran, legal director for OutFront Minnesota, an LGBT advocacy group.
"The formation of this group sends a message to trans folks … that their lives are valued and they're important to the community," he said.
Official transgender advisory groups aren't very common, Glidden said, but more Minnesota communities and cities nationwide are beginning to address transgender issues through outreach or informal discussions.
In California, Karina Samala serves on transgender advisory groups in West Hollywood and Los Angeles. She said advisory groups can help to build trust and address issues such as transgender homelessness and public safety. Samala called Minneapolis' decision to create a council a "big, positive step" for the city.
Glidden said the Transgender Equity Council will meet monthly and is likely to address transgender employment issues, access to public facilities such as bathrooms, and the relationship between the community and law enforcement.
Roxanne Anderson, board chair of the Minnesota Transgender Health Coalition and a member of the city's transgender work group, said the new advisory council gives transgender people visibility and shows that city leaders have prioritized the needs of the community.
"This makes trans bodies and trans lives relevant and part of city planning," Anderson said.
Minneapolis' Transgender Equity Council will be made up of 15 members selected through the city's open appointment process. Applications, which are available on the city's website, are due March 9.
Haley Hansen is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.