We know joy when we see it.
On Wednesday night, we saw tears of joy at the Missouri State Capitol, as the Missouri Non-Discrimination Act (MONA) successfully passed out of a house committee for only the second time in two decades.
This joy is far too infrequent in Missouri.
Every day, I see embattled, hunched shoulders in my community. Tired sunken faces. A sadness in their steps. The weariness that lives in their bodies was put there by people who constantly question their worth and incredible nature, simply because of their sexuality or gender presentation.
As a trans & gender non-conforming person living in Missouri, I see daily how my weary community grapples with depression, doubt, and a lack of joy due to lack of acceptance. We are actively locked out of building the lives we want because of how local society treats, employs, and houses us. The things we endure in attempts to maintain our health, attend school or work, or even simply walk down the street make it difficult to grow and completely thrive in Missouri.
It should not be lawful to harass or discriminate against people simply for the way they dress or carry themselves.
And this is all because Missouri won’t enshrine protections for LGBT folks in its laws.
Twenty years ago, the Missouri Non-Discrimination Act (MONA) was introduced in the Missouri Legislature. MONA adds sexual orientation and gender identity to Missouri’s Human Rights Act, which currently prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations for other protected categories, including race, sex, and national origin.
This year we had to fight to even have MONA heard in committee. This bill has been introduced for twenty years, to no avail.
And while Wednesday night was a historic moment to be grateful for, we must keep pushing for more.
We are deeply thankful for our bi-partisan sponsors, Rep.Tom Hannegan and Rep. Greg Razer, and to the countless allies in Jefferson City and around the state who stand up for full equality. We see them. We stand with them and we support them.
We also share their disappointment. In 2018, it feels like we should be further along as a state when gender non-conforming, queer and LGBT lives are on the line.
This year turned out to be, once again, about public education instead of bill passage. This year was about our community, once again, being vulnerable and exposed, forced to ask for equality rather than assert our inherent worth.
While we count the very quiet defeat of multiple anti-LGBT bills as victories, it is not enough.
We must unapologetically always push for more than being the last and least considered.
We know many lesbian, gay and bisexual Missourians are targeted, and this is unacceptable across the board. We are acutely aware, though, that our trans and gender non-conforming friends and family are barely able to be a part of society because of a lack of protections, and a culture that allows it.
This year’s MONA hearing shows us that we must tackle this issue inside and out of the legislature, by telling our stories, being unapologetically ourselves, and celebrating our lives and communities.
Let us make our voices heard in the months ahead, so that come the start of the 2019 Missouri Legislative session, we have shifted and exposed local culture and expectations to the point where our elected officials know we will not be silenced. We will fight for our own.
Our lives hang in the balance.
For those Missourians who identify as transgender or gender non-conforming, we encourage you to fill out this survey. We will use the results to make sure our legislators know the unacceptable conditions and issues our community is up against. You should also feel welcome to attend one of our upcoming Community By the Cup events, happening throughout the state. Jay-Marie Hill (they/them), Coordinator for the Transgender Education and Advocacy Program is eager to meet you and help make sure your story and experience are heard.
- June 18, 6-8p in Springfield, Big Mama’s: 217 E Commercial St, Springfield, MO
- June 25, 5-7p in Kirkwood, Location TBA
- July 2, 5-7p in Chesterfield, Location TBA
- July 9, 5-7p in Columbia, The Center Project: 515 Hickman Ave, Columbia, MO
- July 16, 5-7p in Lee’s Summit, Location TBA
Check on our ACLU Social Media and the ACLU TEAP website for updates and resources.