More than 100 people joined in support of Missouri transgender
high-schooler Lila Perry Friday at the #LiftingUpLila rally
at the park in her hometown of Hillsboro.
While some news reports,
such as that of St. Louis TV station KTVI, emphasized transphobic bystanders' responses on Twitter, in actuality, counterprotests at the #LiftingUpLila rally were minimal. The rally was peaceful and the police who were present did not report any actionable disturbances.
The #LiftingUpLila rally focused on more than transgender students' right to use the bathroom that comports with their gender identity. The speeches of the adolescent leaders put Perry's struggle into the context of the national disenfranchisement of transgender people, including the harassment and violence that gender-variant people routinely face.
"I am here today because I am tired of seeing my trans sisters murdered. This year alone in the United States over 20 deaths of trans women have been reported, and 17 of those have been trans women of color. I want to read the list of names, and for you to repeat, 'say her name,'" said Ka'Milla McMiller, an 18-year-old organizer with the Missouri GSA Network, who led participants in prayerfully calling out the names of transgender murder victims from across the United States like Tamara Dominguez of Kansas City, Mo
Perry expressed gratitude to her supporters. "This gathering means so much to me, to have everyone here in Hillsboro and to welcome you to my small hometown," she told the crowd, according to a transcript provided by the Transgender Law Center." So this one time a girl goes to the bathroom and the next thing you know national press show up. And that girl is me."
In her speech, Perry pointed out that she and peers like Skyla Thompson of the GSA at Hillsboro High School were involved in LGBT advocacy long before the national media descended on her hometown.
Perry closed her speech with a call to stand up against discrimination."We can do things to change the systems that hold up institutionalized transphobia rooted in misogyny," she said. "I am calling on you to do more than just show up right now. I am calling on you to act. If you have someone in your life like the people who walked out on Monday, who you know are unfamiliar with trans issues and experiences, then today is the day to give them a call, get in conversations with them and grapple with the issues that have been brought up through this experience. If you identify as trans or gender non-conforming and you haven't told anyone, haven't felt safe enough to tell anyone, I hope for you to have the courage to be able to do so someday in your time. Create spaces to be brave, take risks, and be bold. Make visibility happen. Thank you for lifting me up. Thank for lifting up each other."
Watch the KTVI report below.