APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – Appleton is an area now known as an accepting community for all LGBTQ+ people.

The city cemented its place in the history books when the community elected the first openly transgender official in the entire state.

Vered Meltzer took office as the Alderperson for District 2 in Appleton back in 2014.

“I was the first transgender person, openly out transgender person to be elected to public office,” said Meltzer. “It feels like you’re in this building with a huge line of people all lined up and you’re the one holding the door open for all of them. So I feel like it’s a combination of responsibility and honor.”

Local organizers said Appleton is growing as more LGBTQ+ organizations such as Diverse and Resilient come to the city.

Reiko Ramos, the Youth Advocate at Diverse and Resilient said, “LGBTQ people have always been a part of history and always been a part of our communities whether we’ve always acknowledged that is the case. And it’s just important to remember that we may be talking about this now but it’s nothing new.”

Businesses across the area are stepping up for the community by marking themselves as a welcoming business with a pride flag or in the case of one bar on College Avenue raising $10,000 dollars to help people legally change their name and gender.

Ben Mollen, the owner of Dr. Jekyll’s said, “Some of our most stallworth regulars were trans people and we just wanted to give back a little. The world can be hard enough why not try and help out when you can?”

And while activists of the past have made Appleton the community it is today many say there is still work to be done.

Helen Boyd, a Gender Studies Lecturer at Lawrence University said, “Create more community and also word that this is a welcoming place where someone who’s LGBTQ friendly will have a great business.”

You can learn more at a virtual panel held by the Fox Cities Book Festival by clicking the link below.