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ST. LOUIS, Mo. - The Metro Trans Umbrella Group (MTUG) has partnered with #Plant4PeaceSTL to create what they believe to be the first transgender memorial garden in the United States at the corner of Vandeventer and Hunt in St. Louis’ Grove neighborhood.


Trees donated by #Plant4PeaceSTL will be placed on October 18 - and the group will dedicate the garden on Trans* Day of Remembrance, November 20 - in memory of transgender Americans who have lost their lives to violence.


The idea was born when Leon Braxton, Jr. (a.k.a. Dieta Pepsi) spotted a Facebook announcement from Lewis E. Reed, president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. Reed's post encouraged citizens to plant trees in a neighborhood gathering place - a place of worship, a recreation center or at the tree lawn outside the home.

 

Reed further suggested creating a "peace park" for community reflection - a "memorial row" along a visible route. #Plant4PeaceSTL was inspired by the aldermanic president in the aftermath of Michael Brown’s death in 2014.


"I thought the #Plant4Peace project would be a great opportunity to support our St. Louis transgender community and those we have lost with a memorial or reflection park," said Braxton. "So I contacted Reed's office about my wild idea just to see if it was even possible."


It turns out, it was - and after a brief search, the property sits on a patch of land within the city's burgeoning Grove LGBT neighborhood.


"When I saw Leon’s message, I knew the idea was revolutionary," explained Jarek Steele, MTUG point person for the memorial garden and co-owner of Left Bank Books."
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According to Steele, the site of the future memorial is partially owned by the city, and also by a local business. A corner butterfly garden was previously planted there by Mission St. Louis two years ago, but the plot hasn’t been maintained in some time.


"In what I believe is a breathtaking vote of confidence and support, the city of St. Louis, Mission St. Louis and the local business were completely on board with our idea," said Steele. "Every conversation I’ve had has been wonderfully supportive."


The memorial, with the help of a volunteer master gardener, will be home to several native species of plants that will attract butterflies - an important symbol to the transgender community. MTUG will raise money to pay for additional plants to fill in the spaces. The budget for that is approximately $250-$300.TransGarden3


Additionally, 24 native trees will be planted with a curved path situated among them. The space will be designed as a place of peaceful reflection, but could also serve as a rallying point, a place for ceremonies - or even group activities such as yoga.


Left Bank Books will donate a sign for the entrance, and possibly one bench. #Boom Magazine has also pledged one bench. The yearly maintenance after that will be MTUG’s responsibility, and according to the group, their honor.


Worldwide, one transgender person is murdered every three days. Trans* Day of Remembrance is an annual call to reflect and honor these lives. The garden, built by transgender St. Louisans and their allies, is designed to be a place for quiet reflection, ceremonies and social gatherings.


“St. Louis seeds so many cultural innovations from literature to music to social change. It’s fitting that this community helps lead the way in the fight for transgender rights,” said Steele.


MTUG was formed in 2013 to bring together the community of trans*, gender queer, androgynous, intersex and allies in the St. Louis metro area through community, visibility, advocacy and education.


“I have a vision for radical self-care,” added Sayer Johnson, Executive Director of MTUG. “Our community must use our own valuable resources to lift up and honor the lives of our fellow humans.”


Volunteers are needed to clean and prepare the space in advance of the tree planting on Oct. 18. Volunteers are also needed on planting day to transport and place the trees and other bushes and foliage.


For information about volunteering or donating to the garden, contact MTUG at metrotransumbrellagroup "at" gmail.com or 314-270-2155.


A transgender memorial garden was dedicated in 2013 in Manchester, England.

 

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