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St. Louis trans, gender non-conforming community reacts to Trump memo, details how to be an ally

(L-R) Elaine Brune, LadyAshley Gregory and Jay-Marie Hill expressed concern over the Trump administration's potential decision to limit the definition of gender.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio
(L-R) Elaine Brune, LadyAshley Gregory and Jay-Marie Hill expressed concern over the Trump administration's potential decision to limit the definition of gender.

Over the weekend, the Trump administration drafted a memo that would narrowly define gender as “a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth,” according to the New York Times.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked about various efforts by local organizations that are bringing awareness to the rights and presence of trans and gender non-conforming (TGNC) individuals. According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, there are around 25,000 transgender or gender non-conforming people in the state. 

Joining the conversation were Jay-Marie Hill, Transgender Education and Advocacy program coordinator for the ACLU of Missouri, Elaine Brune, board chair of Metro Trans Umbrella Group, and LadyAshley Gregory, board member and lead organizer of Queer and Trans People of Color at Metro Trans Umbrella Group.

Hill, who is gender non-conforming, said they woke up to the announcement from the Trump administration Sunday morning “incredibly disappointed.” Gender non-conforming is a term used to describe a person who does not conform to the gender binary.

“The first thing I thought was that this is just another assault on our community that’s already handling a lot every day,” Hill said, describing various discrimination practices transgender people face, such as accessing proper healthcare and lack of job opportunities.

Brune added that the proposal “doesn’t have any sound scientific basis to it.”

“… And seeing folks that have transitioned, have identified as gender non-binary, to see what would happen to their mental health, it would be devastating.”

Gregory said over the years, as an ally to the TGNC community, she’s been able to see more people living more authentic lives with the clothes they want to wear and gender identities they want to present, citing more visibility of transgender activists, actors and actresses in media.

But she expressed concern that taking away recognition and civil rights of trans and gender non-conforming people limits them from living authentic lives.

“Visibility is important and with that visibility comes a form of comfort for many folks who probably normally weren’t used to seeing people who identified the same way that they identified in public,” Gregory said.

How to be an ally

The Metro Trans Umbrella Group has eight active support groups that serve about 150 people a month to help meet social and emotional needs of TGNC people, Brune said, who is also gender non-conforming.

“Just be accommodating to people, everybody is human. Be generous with yourself and open up your space to folks you don’t know about and listen to them – really listen to them,” they added.

The ACLU of Missouri recently conducted a statewide "10 Days of Trans Demands" campaign and published its "Trans-Ally Toolkit" to encourage allies of transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) Missourians to come out in support of TGNC lives and safety.

Hill said another goal of the campaign was to expand on the narrative of TGNC people.

“We set the stage for people to be joyful as we seek these protections,” they said. “Things are very difficult and there is a lot of discrimination, but there is this aspect of our lives that kind of gets muted out, [and that] is our aspect of seeking joy and being full people.”

Gregory emphasized that it is not solely the responsibility of TGNC people to help spread awareness and acceptance.

“I just really want people to hold themselves accountable to see what they can do to help the trans community: to acknowledge pronouns that people have, to take the time to do the research … take the time to ask questions, to take the time to speak up and not over trans people when they talk about their experience,” she explained.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Alex HeuerEvie HemphillLara Hamdan, and Xandra Ellin give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.