I started my new position as the Accessibility Resources Coordinator at the UUA on March 6, and I get to work for the LGBTQ and Multicultural Programs Team, under the direction of the Rev. Michael Crumpler. As a queer, gender fluid, human rights activist, I was interested in heading to our state capitol in Jefferson City when I heard there was going to be a rally there to protect trans kids. As a blind person, I knew that wasn’t going to be as easy as hopping in my car and driving the 40 minutes from my home in Columbia to the statehouse. It’s important to me to go to rallies, marches, and actions whenever I can, but there’s always the complication of needing to find a ride and a guide, if it’s not an event I’ve helped organize. Being super involved at my congregation, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia, I know our minister well, and thought she might have plans to go to the capitol for this opportunity to advocate for human rights. The Rev. Molly Houshe Gordon was indeed going, and was more than happy to let me hitch a ride and hang by her side at the rally. On the ride down, we spoke together about how angry we were about these attacks by the Missouri legislature, and the need for this rally.
Here in Missouri, we’re no strangers to attacks on the LGBTQ population, but during the 2023 legislative session, they’ve increased in violence. “A total of 34 bills that specifically attack the community are being tracked by both PROMO and the ACLU of Missouri. Almost half of those directly target transgender Missourians either by revoking access to medically necessary, lifesaving, gender-affirming healthcare or banning kids as young as kindergartners from playing team sports” (PROMO).
Molly, her spouse James, and I joined a host of over 700 advocates from all regions of our state. Winding our way through the crowd on the large plaza abutting the capitol steps, I gently held Molly’s right arm above the elbow, as she acted as my sighted-guide. I listened to laughter, shouts, and crying—the energy was beyond palpable. We eventually found our colleagues from Missouri Faith Voices, and our fellow UU’s from St. Louis’s congregations, just before the event officially began.
The rally’s speakers were representative of a variety of genders, ages, and backgrounds. I got to hear Shawn Stokes, dressed as drag queen Akasha Royale, rouse the already excited crowd, as Molly provided me a description of their fabulous attire. A little while later, I, and many around me, were moved to tears while listening to the words of transgender minor Ella Mauzey, who took the stage to describe the persecution and fear being faced by trans youth in Missouri. Two of our democratic lawmakers trying to fight that persecution by the conservative majority also took the stage. They reminded us to contact our legislators as we are able, and that they would keep fighting as long as it was needed.
On our way back to the car, we stopped at PROMO’s table to purchase shirts and stickers affirming trans lives. While my minister drove us home, I could tell I wasn’t the only one who was energized from the rally as I sat in the passenger seat, holding my souvenirs. I found myself turned in my seat, talking with Molly and James about transgender justice in our community, and upcoming elections. Even though my blindness and anxiety disorder make them an extra-chaotic experience at times, since beginning to participate in rallies, direct actions, and marches over 10 years ago, I’ve kept going because of that renewed sense of strength and purpose that fills my veins when I connect with fellow activists who, like me, know we can change the world.
PROMO. Protest for Trans Rights