ST. LOUIS, Mo. - The autumn winds blew chilly and cold, but they were no match for the hundreds of hand-held candles - nor the warm glow of the production lights of "I Am Cait" - as St. Louis observed the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance on Friday.

The evening saw the dedication of the first-in-the-nation Transgender Memorial Garden in the Grove neighborhood, and subsequent candlelight march, and TDoR Memorial Service at Metropolitan Community Church of Greater St. Louis (MCCGSL).

Members of the St. Louis and national transgender, LGBT, and ally community, along with Caitlyn Jenner and her cast filming season 2 of the E! Entertainment reality show, gathered at dusk for the dedication of the garden planted on Oct. 18.

"The change in the movement is palpable, the energy at both events reminded me why I do this work," said Sayer Johnson, executive director and co-founder of Metro Trans Umbrella Group (MTUG), co-sponsor of both events. "I am so proud to be a part of the transgender community and I am specifically proud to be in a community with trans folk from the Metro area. The garden is a space of hope - but nothing but faith and community and hard work. We will grow."TDOR152

The memorial, with the help of a volunteer master gardener, is now home to several native species of plants that will attract butterflies - an important symbol to the transgender community.

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

Indeed, the evening was replete with spirituality, reverance, and community.

"We didn't know what to expect from "I am Cait's" presence," said MTUG president Jaimie Hileman. "We were pleasantly surprised at how it all turned out TDOR153and it was a great counter-point to have the storied trans advocate Kate Bornstein speak at the dedication. We kept it unique to our community and very St. Louis."

Immediately following the dedication was a candlelight march through the Grove LGBT gayborhood led by Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPOC), culminating with the TDoR service at MCCGSL. The latter Jenner also attended.

"There was a very specific intent to this year's TDoR service," explained Hileman. "We wanted to acknowledge that this year has seen more trans murders than any other, but also acknowledge that it has seen the most advancements."

Rather than holding the traditional TDoR service reading the names of the dead with the ringing of a bell to mark their passing, organizers wanted to share specific information about the individuals whose lives were lost .TDOR151

"They are more than chalk outlines on the ground," said Hileman. "This was a very different TDoR, because rather than just the reading of the names, we wanted to remember them for the people that they were and in the process take some of that power back."

Jenner, the former 1976 Olympic champion and reality television star who came out as transgender this spring, did not speak at either event, but could be seen visiting with attendees.

The St. Louis Transgender Memorial Garden dedication was organized by Leon A. Braxton, Jr., Jarek Steele, MCCGSL and MTUG. The 11/20 St. Louis TDoR Service was organized by MCCGSL, Zion UCC of Florissant and MTUG.

TDoR was started by trans advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. The vigil commemorated all the trans people lost to violence that year and began an important memorial that has become the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. From 1999 forward, the service has continued, spreading across the world. A hallmark of the service is the reading of the names (where known) of all of those who have been murdered since the previous year.

St. Louis has one of the oldest traditions in the nation commemorating TDoR, with the roots of its 2001 founding including collaboration with LGBT and trans rights pioneer Sylvia Rivera. This year almost 300 trans lives have been lost to violence across the globe. 

Click here for more area TDOR events.



Members of the St. Louis transgender, LGBT and ally community observed the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR)...

Posted by Boom Magazine STL on Friday, November 20, 2015

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