ST LOUIS, Mo. - Transwoman Melanie Severs attended the Rally for Trans Rights: Visibility With Our Voices on Nov. 19 to show support for her community. She said she feels it is important for people to show up and rally to lift up transgender voices who cannot.


“I know trans feminine people in the crowd that have, and I have been there, a feeling like ‘I don't have a voice’ or not liking my voice enough chant at a rally,” Severs said. “Other people who feel more confident in themselves need to be the ones that speak up even louder with us.”


The rally was held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. outside St. Louis City Hall. Organizer Leon Braxton introduced the event in response to a new Health Department proposal that would define gender as biological sex at birth.


Ten speakers followed Braxton with speeches, spoken word and songs. Speakers included the co-founder of the Metro Trans Umbrella Group (MTUG), a advocates group for transgender rights in St. Louis, as well as transgender-identifying individuals around St. Louis.


Braxton said she organized the rally to provide people with an outlet for their voices to be heard.


“We're no longer going to hide,” Braxton said. “We're going to come out in the open and live our authentic lives.”


Speakers addressed LGBTQIA+ topics such as visibility, health and safety. Jay-Marie Hill, a cultural organizer and musician, spoke at the event and performed their song “Here, Queer & Staying.”


Hill said they hope attendees learned from speakers how to speak up when they face discrimination at work, school or in the healthcare system. They said they play their music at rallies to move people to action in a unique way.


“Your voice lasts longer when you're at a protest and the song makes your voice stronger,” Hill said. “It felt really good to have people know my lyrics. That’s a beautiful thing.”

Madison Pearce said she attended the event to show support. She said she hopes the rally draws attention to the issues transgender people are facing, specifically issues with healthcare.

“I think when you bring a group of people together, it's bound to get attention,” Pearce said. “It’s bound to create a feeling of community.”


Pearce said she often goes to rallies and hopes people felt pride for attending. She said she feels coming together in a setting such as a rally helps social activists validate their work.


LadyAshley Gregory, Metro Trans Umbrella Group (MTUG) board member, spoke at the event about her work as an ally to the transgender community. She said it is important for allies to stand up and defend those who are transgender.


“Do not be complacent,” Gregory said. “Hear and believe their stories. Donate and give for their needs whenever possible.”


Hill said they hope allies who attended the event realized that transgender people were fed up with the way they are being treated. They said they hoped allies would leave with a better understanding of how hard it is to identify as transgender.


“As you grow in your allyship, we need you to hear that you to be taking direction directly from us,” Hill said. “You have to talk to us. Listen to us.”


Braxton said she felt pleased with the amount of people that came out for the rally. She said at one point, an employee in City Hall came out to tell her they could hear the rally clearly during their meeting.


Braxton said she hopes the rally motivated people to get out and join the movement.


“Don't let life pass us by,” Braxton said, “Let's get out there. Let's get involved, and let’s get ahead.”


Hill said it was important to protest outside City Hall because institutions need to do a better job of protecting transgender rights. They said they want people to recognize they are not just rallying without reason, and protesting directly in front of City Hall reinforces that they expect the city to look out for their ability to live and thrive.


“The city government is one institution that we expect to hold our needs as sacred and real,” Hill said. “So I think being in front of City Hall reminds people that we're not just over here on the corner. We expect the city to do better.”


Severs said when planning the rally, she worried  City Hall employees and allies would see their event as just a one day occurance. She said being transgender, this is her life every day, and she hopes showing up often will help others see her reality.


Severs said while she knows the rally will not solve all problems facing transgender people, she hopes it brought people together.


“People are talking,” Severs said. “People are connecting. People are going to arrange more things to happen. They're going to extend their friend circles and just feel safer in the world.”


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