Mayor Jones signs new protections for St. Louis’ transgender community
The City of St. Louis has acted to give its transgender residents additional levels of protection, following a legislative session in which their access to health care and ability to participate in sports came under attack.
Mayor Tishaura Jones signed an executive order Thursday that her office said established “new practices in key city departments to be more inclusive of diverse gender identities.”
“In St. Louis, everyone deserves to thrive, regardless of their gender identity or expression,” Jones said. “This order sends the message that St. Louis will fight to protect our trans community in the face of bigotry."
The order focuses on providing information about gender-affirming health care and ensuring gender inclusivity in city operations and economic development.
It does not go as far as an action in Kansas City, where the City Council earlier this month passed a resolution declaring the city a “safe haven” for anyone seeking gender-affirming health care. That resolution promised city administrative resources will not be used to prosecute anyone seeking such health care and asked the Kansas City Police Department to take the same stance.
“We wanted to make sure that what we did was concrete and would also stand up constitutionally,” Jones said. “For some who thought we weren’t moving fast enough, we were trying to make sure that we did our homework first, and that what we did would be lasting, and also meaningful."
Jones developed the language of the order with input from members of her LGBTQIA+ advisory board, many of whom attended a roundtable on Thursday to provide their feedback.
Most were complimentary of the steps the administration was proposing and were glad to hear that the heads of affected departments were on board. The focus was on making sure the order was implemented correctly to bring the desired results.
“I’m wondering what the teeth look like and accountability,” said Willow Rosen, the owner of a consulting firm that provides education and support around gender-affirming health care who attended the meeting as a representative of a support hotline for the queer community called SQSH. “We know that when we’re trying to change systems, it’s people. Is there accountability but also support? How do we work towards growth and education in the city?”
Jones said she would develop a timeline for training, both on helping staff make trans people feel comfortable in city spaces and how to deal with confrontations between trans residents and others.
Beth Gombos, an outreach specialist with the Equal Housing Opportunity Council and board member of THISTL, an organization that helps fight anti-trans discrimination in housing, said they were glad to hear the mayor wanted to collaborate with groups that are already doing the work.
“How are you going to empower the organizations you’re going to rely upon to do this work?” they said. “A lot of times, the goals are always in line, however, trans-led and trans-serving organizations don’t always have the staff, the resources, the time available to do their job and collaborate with the city. I’m wondering if there might be ways to economically empower the organizations with folks on the ground."
The mayor’s office promised to keep organizations apprised of funding opportunities.
The executive order follows the passage of a resolution by the St. Louis Board of Aldermen condemning state government attacks on the trans community and pledging support for gender-affirming health care. The St. Louis County Council approved a nearly identical resolution in February, even before the General Assembly acted.
Lawmakers on May 10 sent Gov. Mike Parson two bills aimed at transgender youth and young adults. One bill says anyone under the age of 18 who is not currently receiving gender-affirming care like hormones or puberty blockers cannot obtain access to that care. Another bars transgender athletes from participating on school sports teams that correspond with their gender identity through the collegiate level. It applies to public, charter and private schools. Parson is expected to sign both.
Proponents of the legislation said it protects minors and fairness in sports.
Earlier this month, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey withdrew emergency rules that placed even more restrictions on gender-affirming care, including for adults.