A couple dozen people formed a circle on the South Lawn of the Capitol Saturday afternoon for the second annual Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) by the Mid-Missouri Transgender Support Group.
Cathy Serino, from Linn, the organizer of the TDOR, termed it a rally and candlelight vigil. New and old versions of the turquoise, pink and white flag, which symbolizes the transgender community, fluttered from the construction fencing around the steps of the Capitol. Five small candles in the same color scheme were lit in memory of the two dozen people murdered in the U.S. this year because of their gender identity.
Serino, Nila Rogers from Springfield, Michelle Daytona from Columbia and Spencer Malik from Kansas City took turns offering their takes on life as a transgender person in America. Each expressed varying degrees of fear for their lives and personal safety because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The TDOR movement has been observed nationally since the 1998 murder of Rita Hester, a Boston transgender leader.
The women read the names and brief descriptions of the deaths this year of those two dozen transgender murder victims. None of the victims is from Missouri; one was from Burlington, Iowa, and another from Wichita.
While their names were not uttered at the somber event, President-elect Donald J. Trump, Gov.-elect Eric Greitens and Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, were the subject of concerns verbalized by the group.
Serino is disabled and often lobbies at the Capitol on transgender and related issues, such as Onder's controversial Senate Joint Resolution 39, which Onder calls the religious freedom act. It would have allowed those with sincere religious convictions to deny wedding services to same-sex couples and otherwise protect religious freedoms. Serino and others called it an act of discrimination against the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender (LGBT) community.
Serino worries SJR 39 or something similar will be debated again in the 2017 session of the General Assembly.
Rogers read a prepared text from her tablet; Daytona paced around the circle warning of imminent physical danger; Malik read a lengthy printed, biographical statement; and Serino spoke extemporaneously. Their messages addressed their concerns of what will come when Trump and Greitens, their administrations and the Republican majorities in both houses of the federal and state legislatures assume leadership in Washington and Jefferson City in a few weeks.
The New York Times reported last week "the election of Trump sent panic through much of the LGBT community, which for the first time in eight years will face an administration hostile to its civil rights goals and a president-elect who has expressed a desire to reverse many of its political gains."
That view is shared by those present Saturday, who were gathered in the chilly and gloomy weather outside the Capitol.
Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told the Times, "All across America right now there are millions of people who are terrified" by the Trump victory. However, the Times article reported, "Mr. Trump has no reputation for personal animosity toward gay people, and the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay and lesbian political organization, congratulated him on his victory. He employed gay people in the Trump Organization, spent most of his life in socially liberal New York City and surprised some Republicans this year when he said transgender people should 'use the bathroom they feel is appropriate,' a view held by few others in the party."
The turnout at the Capitol Saturday did not reflect the vast concern Keisling suggested. Indeed, Serino expressed appreciation for the small group that did gather, noting it was double the size of those who attended the first rally last November.
"This annual event highlights the continued hate and violence that the transgender community faces on a daily basis," Serino said. "2016 has been yet another record-breaking year for the murder of transgender people in the U.S., and with the changing political environment, these records will probably continue to be broken."