31 Days 31 Trans Voices | Day 31: Metro Trans Umbrella Group, Advancing Voice and Visibility

To close out our 31 Days 31 Trans Voices series on this International Transgender Day of Visibility 2020 we spotlight a group who epitomizes the meaning of living authentically. Read on.

When it comes to advocacy work and lifting up the transgender and gender nonconforming community, one would be hard-pressed to find an organization with better intent to improve the transgender human experience more than the Metro Trans Umbrella Group (MTUG) in the metro St. Louis, Missouri area.

Founded in 2013, this grassroots organization has survived the manner of change and adversity that has shortened the life of similar community-based groups. But MTUG is different. They continue to grow. Led by Executive Director Sayer Johnson they continue to expand their offerings as quickly as humanly possible to meet their ever-growing client base.

The organization is run by a Board of Directors, one full-time paid Executive Director, a handful of part-time staff, and an as-needed consortium of volunteers. When they say they are “by trans, for trans” they aren’t joking. MTUG welcomes all who fall under the “umbrella term” of trans which includes but is not limited to transsexuals (FtM, MtF), genderqueer, androgynous, agender, intersex, drag, and questioning.

MTUG is the gold star standard for adult trans-centric support. They are for all intents and purposes a bridge to all transgender resources. At MTUG they strive to provide information, support, education, and personal resources to humans identifying as trans or gender nonconforming.

Sayer Johnson | Executive Director Metro Trans Umbrella Group

As one might expect, as the community base widens, the financial needs increase. All activities are offset by donations, grants, and fund drives throughout the year. Resources regularly provided include monthly metro bus passes, document name change assistance, access to the food or toiletries pantry, laundry facilities, information regarding local mental health and medical professionals, a growing trans-centric library, gender-specific monthly support group meetings, and posted open office hours at MTUG’s HQ for sharing space and a fresh-cooked meal with chosen family.

And as if all that isn’t a full plate in itself, there are pop-up events hosted by volunteers or other local advocacy groups at HQ throughout the year.

Check out these other incredible benefits of being part of the MTUG family:

Transgender Memorial Garden

In 2015 the trans community and allies worked side-by-side to turn a vacant lot into the world’s second Transgender Memorial Garden – the first in the United States. The first is in Manchester, England. Through hard physical labor and donations, a sacred space was built where one can stop by to reflect, meditate, or honor those who have been taken from us too soon. The space has been home to a number of memorial events and the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance observance.

The garden was planted with native Missouri plants designed to attract bees and butterflies to the garden. The path and community circle is a reference to a peaceful journey with an uncertain but peaceful destination. Butterflies are a symbol of transformation in the trans community.

The garden property has been generously loaned to MTUG. They are currently in negotiations with the property owner and the City of St. Louis to purchase the land to ensure that the garden has a permanent home.

The Transgender Memorial Garden is located at the corner of Vandeventer and Hunt, Saint Louis, Missouri, 63110.

QTPOC: STL

Any human who self identifies as a person of color (POC) and LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual) is welcome at QTPOC: STL. This branch of MTUG came to life in 2014 as a result of the murder of Michael Brown. Queer and trans people of color realized they had no safe space to talk about their feelings and what was happening in their lives. This group continues to grow and thrive and hosts meetings and events independently and with MTUG.

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Alix’s Closet

MTUG’s free clothing resource was named to honor Alix, a deeply missed member of the MTUG family. Alix had a passion for helping others and would certainly have loved seeing the smiles on the faces of community helped by the offerings of Alix’s Closet. Whether you need every day clothes, business work attire, or are heading out to paint the town, you just might find it here. And don’t forget the matching footwear and accessories to round out your new wardrobe.

The closet is stocked from community donations, occasional seasonal clothing drives, and managed by dedicated MTUG volunteers.

Trans A.M.

Hosted by Executive Director, Sayer Johnson, Trans A.M. brings trans voices to trans topics via video podcasts. They take a deep dive into subjects that effect the trans community and the people that are impacted. Trans A.M. boasts an all trans and ally tech team behind the scenes.

You can check them out via podcast, here: Trans A.M. Podcasts or find the video series on YouTube.

Transcending the Spectrum

This is the seventh consecutive year for the MTUG annual art show and fundraiser. Transcending the Spectrum is the “must see” event of the year. Fill a gallery with original art for sale by trans and GNC artists and throw in some of the best live performances from local performers and drag royalty; who would miss it?

Transcending the Spectrum 7 is supported in part by Dick Blick Art Supplies, Mad Art Gallery, and a grant from the Arts and Education Council for Diversity in the Arts. There is a suggested $5.00 donation at the door, but no one will be turned away due to inability to pay. This is an all ages event. Bring the family!

MTUG Telethon

This annual live event is in its fourth year. It’s 24 hours of non-stop entertainment – a one of a kind extravaganza, if you will! This fundraiser runs from noon until noon and is filled with a top quality group of musicians, artists, interviews, advocates, allies, and volunteers.

The telethon is the principal fundraiser for the organization. This volunteer-run event provides the funding necessary for MTUG to continue providing vital resources to the community and supports their effort to carry out their vision to unite the community and promote trans education and visibility.

Online donations are accepted during the telethon. Any person or organization who wishes to present their contribution live on air should contact MTUG in advance.

Rising above adversity…

The St. Louis area trans community has weathered their share of knockbacks. During the 2019 Pride season a series of events occurred that might have proved catastrophic to the morale of the trans community had they not banded as one and held to their pledge to take care of their own. When common ground could not be met between Pride St. Louis and MTUG regarding the issue of uniformed police participation in the area’s largest LGBTQ+ PrideFest and parade in downtown St. Louis, MTUG disengaged from the festival.

In a concerted effort to care for their own MTUG partnered with the ACLU of Missouri and held the first Trans & Gender Free March in South City St. Louis. The rain may have drenched their bodies, but spirits were shining as they closed out the event with a rally in their neighborhood Benton Park.

Hands were held, voices were raised, and family cared for family. They did what MTUG does best – they celebrated their otherness with togetherness.

To learn more about the programs at Metro Trans Umbrella Group please visit their website.

To support a particular event or group within MTUG, become a monthly sustaining donor, or make a one-time contribution DONATE HERE.

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Terry Willits

Trans Speak's Editor-in-Chief is an international mixed media artist, writer, LGBTQ advocate, coffee snob, dog dad, and FTM transgender - but not necessarily in that order, who practices what he posts. A native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; he now does the writing thing from St. Louis, Missouri. You should check out his work - it's recommended by 4 out of 5 people that recommend stuff.

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