FOREST PARK SOUTHEAST – The Board of Aldermen passed on Friday a bill approving the sale of a lot to a group that has developed a garden on the land to honor transgender people who have been killed.
The city land is part of a larger tract at Vandeventer and Hunt avenues that the Metro Trans Umbrella Group has used as a memorial garden since October 2015.
Besides paying $1,250 for the city lot, the group wants to buy other parts of the property now owned by private individuals and improve it.
“We assume that we’ll have to raise some money to purchase the entire property,” said Elaine Brune, board chair for Metro Trans Umbrella Group.
The garden is the only transgender memorial garden in the United States and only the second in the world, Brune said. The first is in Manchester, England.
The idea, Brune said, is “to have a place where the trans community would go and reflect if they wanted to.”
According to the Human Rights Campaign, an average of 22 or more transgender and gender non-conforming people were killed each year in the United States from 2013 to 2019.
At least 26 were killed by gunfire or other means in 2019, the campaign reported.
Ninety one percent were black females, 61 percent were in the south and 81 percent were under age 30.
Activist Jordan Braxton got the idea for the garden when he learned that Plants for Peace STL, might donate trees for such projects. A total of 34 trees were donated for a garden, and money was raised to buy plants for a butterfly garden.
A cedar entrance sign on Hunt made by Jarek Steele includes this quotation from Dinos Christianopoulas, a Greek poet: “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”
As designed by master gardener Monte Abbott, the memorial includes redbud and hackberry trees and a winding path leading to a community circle. Native Missouri plants in the garden are meant to attract butterflies.
Seventeenth Ward Alderman Joseph Roddy represents the area of the memorial and introduced the bill calling for the sale of the land. He laid out the case for the sale at the March 6 Board of Aldermen meeting, and shortly afterward the board voted to give preliminary approval to the proposal.
Roddy said that when he first came up with a plan for developing his ward in an innovative way, he thought that a large number of people would be attracted to a diverse area.
“That of course was the beginning of the Grove 20-plus years ago,” Roddy said. The city has worked hard to sell that concept, he said. The Grove is a short distance north of the garden.
“One of the great things that comes from branding is that you get wonderful people with ideas that are attracted to you,” Roddy said.
That’s what happened with the Transgender Garden, Roddy said.
“We had an underutilized piece of property that was owned by the city,” Roddy said. “It was really kind of neglected, and they approached us about doing that, and certainly I think it reinforced our identity in the neighborhood.”