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Demonstrators gather in Springfield, other Missouri cities to kick off Transgender Day of Visibility events

Around Missouri this week, LGBT people and their allies plan to gather in at least four cities to mark Transgender Day of Visibility, celebrated each year on March 31st.

“Celebrating Trans Day of Visibility is about lifting up all of the positive, beautiful parts of the lives of the trans people that we love,” said Rori Picker Neiss in an interview with Ozarks Public Radio earlier this week.

Neiss is an Orthodox Jewish clergy member from St. Louis. Her 11-year-old son is trans. She said she’d be attending a big rally favoring the rights of transgender people that was held at the state capitol in Jefferson City on Wednesday afternoon.

The events come a week after Missouri Senate Republicans approved a pair of bills that ban gender-affirming healthcare for kids under 18 and restrict the ability of trans student-athletes to play in K-12 and college sports.

In Springfield on Wednesday evening, roughly 70 demonstrators took to Park Central Square with signs bearing slogans like "Protect Trans Youth." Here’s advocate Tonya Claiborne speaking to the crowd.

"I know there is a lot of hurt and fear going through our community right now, but I want to focus on the hope that lies within that fear.

"In fact, it is the bigots that are afraid. They are afraid of us. They are afraid of people who know what it means to be marginalized and demonized but yet still have the courage to proclaim to the world, I know who I am and nothing you can do can ever change that."

A recently founded Ozarks group called the Springfield Transgender and Ally Resource Team plans another Trans Day of Visibility event 4 p.m. Friday at The Barley House event venue off I-44.

Gregory Holman is a KSMU reporter and editor focusing on public affairs.