The Missouri GSA Network, in coordination with national organizations like Transgender Law Center and GSA Network, held a #LiftingUpLila rally in Hillsboro, MO to support Lila Perry, a transgender girl under attack in her community. After Lila’s high school supported her in using the girls’ bathroom, a number of parents turned their objections into a national news story and on Monday, over 200 students at Lila’s school walked out in protest of Lila simply being herself at school like other girls. You can also see Lila on The View here.
Below are transcripts of two speeches from the #LiftingUpLila rally – one from Ka’Milla, an 18-year-old organizer with the Missouri GSA Network, and one from Lila Perry, directly addressing her hometown.
We will update this page with pictures and videos from the rally as they come in.
Last month I turned 18 years old. The life expectancy currently for a trans women of color like myself is 35, which means if that is true, over half of my life is over.
My name is Ka’Milla. I am an organizer for the Missouri GSA Network, a network that empowers young people to fight back against homophobia and transphobia in their schools and communities. I am co-founder of a group called The Sisterhood, a group of young trans women in the St. Louis area working to empower each other to not only help one another survive but to go one step beyond and to help each other thrive.
I am here today because I am tired of seeing my trans sisters murdered. I am tired of the way our bodies are put on display and our lives treated like they are owned by everyone that wishes to question them. I am tired of waking up every day worrying if this is my last. The violence against my sisters has got to stop. 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. Last month an event was held to draw attention to these women that were killed and the event was called Say Her Name. I want to read the list of names, and for you to repeat, “say her name.”
Papi Edwards of Indianapolis, Indiana
Lamia Beard of Norfolk, Virginia
Ty Underwood of Tyler, Texas
Yazmin Vash Payne of Van Nuys, California
Taja DeJesus of San Francisco, California
Penny Proud of New Orleans, Louisiana
Bri Golec of Akron, Ohio
Kristina Gomez Reinwald of Miami, Florida
Keyshia Blige, from Montgomery, IL
Vanessa Santillan, from Miami, Florida
Mya Hall, of Baltimore Maryland
London Chanel, from Philadelphia, Penn
Mercedes Williamson, from Alabama
Jasmine Collins in Kansas City
Ashton O’Hara in Detroit
India Clarke, in Tampa, Florida
K.C. Haggard, in Fresno, California
Amber Monroe, in Detroit, MI
Shade Schuler, in Dallas, TX
Kandis Capri, in Phoenix, Arizona
Elisha Walker, in Johnston County, North Carolina
Tamara Dominguez, of Kansas City, Missouri
The reason we say her name is because we cannot forget these women’s lives and the others who have died because of transphobia. We cannot stop the murders of trans women unless we know their names.
The way trans women are treated and killed is only a part of the issue we face as trans people. Young people like Lila and myself are being pushed out of the very schools we have been told we have to attend. The policies and practices that push students out of school and away from their education is real. It holds up the cycle of socialization and stops us from reaching liberation. I am calling schools in Missouri to do better. Whether it’s suspending trans and gender non-conforming students for dress codes or not using restorative practices in discipline I believe we can do better. I am student currently in this system and I believe we can do better. We deserve better.
I want to invite Lila to say a few word and I want to thank everyone for your continued support as we work together to change this world.
Lila Perry’s speech:
This gathering means so much to me, to have everyone here in Hillsboro and to welcome you to my small hometown.
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.
I am also more than that. After coming out, I spent a good part of my time looking up to trans activists like Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, and even Caitlyn Jenner. There is a herstory of strong trans women at the center of the movement for justice. I look up to these women and I also look up to my peers like Skyla and Ka’Milla from the Missouri GSA Network, who are here with me today. Skyla and I have been leading our school’s GSA for the last couple of years – long before it became national news.
I want to thank the 200+ students at my high school who walked out on Monday. I want to thank them because they were able to bring attention to Hillsboro and to my story, which has given me this platform and made it possible for me to be a part of helping and inspiring other trans and gender non-conforming young people. I believe that my school isn’t special. I believe that there are places like Hillsboro all over the county where young people are hurting, feeling alone, and being discriminated against because of who they are. And I believe it’s important, now that I’ve been put in this position, for me to stay strong for all of those young people and for my community.
I am part of a pretty special group in my high school – and I am not talking about the small group of us who are trans. I am part of a group of 3 students who have never missed one single day of school since 9th grade. I am a senior now and education is important to me. I don’t want to be pushed out of school because I know that so many of my trans siblings have been and will be in the future. I believe the students who walked out on Monday didn’t realize what their actions would spark. They didn’t realize that everyone today would be standing here, showing love and lifting up trans students in schools around the state of Missouri because of their actions. We can take their misunderstanding and turn it into a positive.
Currently my name is a hashtag and I bring that up because it’s rare that a trans woman like myself is still living to see that happen. This media moment is going to go away soon. I know that the attention has already left me feeling numb, like it’s not real. This Monday feels like it happened a month ago and my life has probably been impacted by this drastically. I believe it’s important that we celebrate every trans person regardless of whether or not they become a hashtag. When people talk to me and treat me as an equal I feel celebrated. When people listen to my voice and my story without judgement I feel seen and celebrated. When people show up I feel celebrated and those are the kinds of things – recognizing, listening to, and honoring each other – that we can all do for each other daily.
We can do things to change the systems that hold up institutionalized transphobia rooted in misogyny. 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. There are causes I want to ask you to give back to because they mean a lot to me, organizations that put trans people and young people at the center of their our work like Missouri GSA Network and MTUG. If you are a student in a school start at GSA. Create spaces to be brave, take risks, and be bold.
And I want you take these actions today, not tomorrow or next month. Start now. We have a bunch of flyers that say what #LiftingUpLila means. Post them around Hillsboro, download them and post them around your town. Post them in your workplaces and schools. Make visibility happen.
Again thank you for listening. Thank you for lifting me up. Thank for lifting up each other.