LGBT activists and supporters met at Unity Temple on the Plaza in Kansas City Saturday to promote positivity for local transgender residents.
More than 50 people attended the event, which featured poetry, songs and experiences from more than a dozen speakers about the struggles and strengths of Kansas City's transgender communities. The gathering capped off Transgender Awareness Week, a national effort to raise awareness about transgender identity.
Ash R. Allee is a transgender man and one of the driving forces behind the event. He says that putting together a diverse group of presenters was one of his top priorities.
"That's the whole point: coming together as a community so that we're not acknowledging differences and then ostracizing people, but celebrating them," Allee said. "I really hope that [transgender] people in Kansas City realize that they have community, resources and people they can relate to."
Transgender performer Korea Kelly, who goes by the stage name Korea Cavali, told audience members that maintaining confidence in the face of adversity has helped her throughout her life.
"As trans people, we have to hold our heads up," Kelly said. "If you don't carry yourself with respect, nobody's going to give it to you. You have to go out and get it."
Oak Park High School Homecoming Queen Landon Patterson was one of the featured speakers. She's been launched into the national spotlight in recent months, but says her transition has been a great source of happiness in the last few months.
"I've really learned that we are our own worst enemies sometimes," Patterson said. "I talked myself out of coming out for a year. I had known my whole life, but I just kept putting it off because of myself."
The event was co-organized by the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project, PFLAG KC and the Kansas City CARE Clinic. The groups also held a day of remembrance Friday for transgender people who have been killed or committed suicide in 2015.
Cody Newill is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @CodyNewill or send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.