ST. LOUIS, Mo. - Around 100 transgender community members and their allied supporters met at Trinity Episcopal Church in the Central West End on Wednesday evening for the Trans and Ally Town Hall organized by The Metro Trans Umbrella Group (MTUG), and the non-profit's Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPOC) group.

The event started with a St. Louis PrideFest recap to discuss members' feelings of mistreatment at the June 28, 2015 parade and festival. Representatives from Pride St. Louis did not attend Wednesday's gathering, however a special Pride Town Hall is scheduled for Wed., July 29 at the Schlafly Branch Library at 7 p.m to serve as an opportunity for all to learn, listen and plan towards future PrideFest celebrations.

The aim of the Trans Town Hall was to discuss the community's vision for the transgender community and their space within the Metropolitan area. To that end, MTUG president Sayer Johnson announced the organization's desire to spearhead The Umbrella Center: A gathering place for trans and queer people and their allies.

"I believe that the local intersectional trans+queer movement needs cohesion," said Johnson. "I believe we need something to bring us together in positive and proactive ways. I believe we need a place to claim space, a place to meet our needs, a common goal filled with meaningful work ending in a safer space for us to call home."

The Umbrella Center will help fill the void of the now defunct LGBT Center of St. Louis, which closed its physical space in April 2014.

MTUG plans on identifying an ADA compliant property along a major public transportation route in South City over the next several months and sees the new Center offering a variety of resources and services - including meeting spaces, a free clothing store, HIV/STD testing, needs assessment counseling, resume and computer classes, counseling groups, and eventually, a shot clinic.

"The trans+queer community is filled with so many folks with so many skills," said Johnson. "I believe with the support of MTUG and QTPOC and our other healthy LGBTQ focused allies we have the ability to make this successful."

The setup structure of the Umbrella Center will be "intentional and intersectional", with MTUG proper overseeing the project. Five committees have been formed (Fundraising and Grants, Volunteer Recruitment and Training, Property Search, Communications, and Programming) and will be led by a transgender person and a queer identified person of color. All are welcome to serve on any committee.

"Yes, this is identity based leadership," said Johnson. "It is time to walk the walk by creating intentional space for emerging trans leadership and leadership of people of color. We have a duty to create the space and empower emerging leadership. The leadership spots will be reserved for identity based leaders. The committee members are made up of all of us because without the love and support and work of our allies we will not be successful."

LGBTQIA community members interested in helping make the Umbrella Center a reality are encouraged to contact MTUG and come to the next Town Hall on Wednesday, August 19 at Trinity Episcopal Church (600 N. Euclid Ave., St. Louis, Mo. - 63108).



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