ST. LOUIS, Mo. - Mayor Francis G. Slay and members of the St. Louis transgender community raised the transgender pride flag in front of St. Louis City Hall on Monday morning. 
 
"This is really important to me as mayor and important to the city of St. Louis," said Slay after the ceremony. "This is a message we are sending that our city is welcoming to everyone. We welcome everyone regardless of who you love, regardless of how you identify yourself. This is a city that respects everyone, and again, we're a welcoming community. This is what it's all about."
 
Applause erupted from the crowd as the light blue, pink and white stripes took flight on the light breeze beneath the American flag. St. Louis is only the third U.S. city to fly the transgender flag in front of its city hall. Philadelphia was the first city to fly the transgender flag in 2015 followed by Boston last month. 
 
"It's great to be a leader on important issues that impact our community," Slay added. "And that's why we're here and that's why we're doing it and I just want to thank everybody that's with us today for their participation and for all the contributions  the transgender and LGBT community, generally, brings to our community. We respect and appreciate all of them and all of us in working together to make the city of St. Louis a great place to live for everyone." 
 
St. Louis City Hall has been flying the LGBT pride flag for many years. The iconic rainbow banner will join the transgender flag later today to kick of LGBT pride week culminating with St. Louis PrideFest downtown at Soldier's Memorial, June 24-26. 
 
According to Jaimie Hileman, president of the Metro Trans Umbrella Group, the flying of the transgender flag during pride week should serve as a reminder of the daily struggles transgender individuals face from legislation to violence. Last year more than 20 transgender individuals, most of them transwomen of color, were murdered. 
 
"They will be flying the LGBT pride flag as well and I just want to be clear that anything that's being done to put a focus on the trans community and endemic issues that the community has to deal with doesn't take away from overall pride month or the recognition of the horror and violence in Orlando at all and it's certainly not intended to," offered Hileman. 
 
"That this is happening is really a beacon of visibility and acceptance coming from leadership, as this does, that we the trans people of this region are a welcome and intrinsic part of the St. Louis community and a part of America and equally deserving of the same rights that all Americans should enjoy," Hileman continued. 
 
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