Kelly Hamilton, left, and William Copeland
Alex Heuer

What do transgender people have in common with each other? Often, the answer is, not all that much.

On Thursday, two days before PrideFest weekend, “St. Louis on the Air” listeners heard from two local transgender men who have very different stories to tell. The term “transgender man” refers to someone who was labeled female at birth but identifies as male.

St. Louis' LGBT Center had been in negotiations to buy this building, the Grand Oak Hill Community Center, but an anonymous donor backed out of the deal.
Nancy Fowler

St. Louis will not be getting the LGBT Center building its board promised a year ago.

The Center moved out of its building in the Grove area in April 2014 and established an online-only presence. Last June board president Dara Strickland said they were looking to buy a building, thanks to an anonymous donor. That move was to take place in early 2015.

SAGE coordinator Eugene Potchen-Webb (left), volunteer Clarissa Jackson (center) and executive director Sherrill Wayland (right) stand outside SAGE's current offices at 4168 Juniata St. in Tower Grove.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Sherrill Wayland started SAGE eight years ago, in a one-bedroom apartment at the Tower Grove Manor.

Now, the group that helps lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults find housing, healthcare and other services will start to expand their reach, by coming under the wing of the state’s largest advocacy group for the LGBT community, PROMO Fund.  

Beth Finder and Zakary Finder, now 20, at recent St. Charles County Pride planning event
Beth Finder

When Zakary Finder of Lake St. Louis was in middle school, other students taunted him for three whole years for being "different."

“They would say, like, ‘Hey, faggot,’ ‘What’s up, homo?’” he said. “Or, ‘Get out of here, homo, nobody wants you.’”

Missouri Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis
Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Beacon.

Mike Colona is getting his wish. Two months ago, the Democratic representative from St. Louis attended a Senate committee hearing on Senate Bill 237. The bill bars discrimination in Missouri based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

But after the hearing, Colona was upset because he hadn’t seen similar action from the House.

Human Rights Campaign / HRC logo

Missouri has a long way to go to achieve equality for LGBT residents, according to a national advocacy organization.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) issued a report today showing Missouri is among 29 states lacking basic equality standards. The organization gives Missouri particularly low marks in two areas:

Steph James
Jess Dugan

Until her late 50s, Steph James of Maryland Heights lived a life that, from all appearances, looked like the American dream.

Jess Dugan, left, and Vanessa Fabbre
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

When the TV show “Transparent” won two Golden Globe Awards a week ago Sunday, many transgender people felt validated, and a little less invisible.

Andre Wilson, an inclusive health advocate and transgender man, will speak at Washington University in St. Louis on Nov. 13 and 14.
Durrie Bouscaren / St. Louis Public Radio

Andre Wilson lived as a woman for the first 43 years of his life. It was excruciating, he said.

“I lived a life of depression, suicidality. I couldn’t even explain to myself, let alone others, what the barriers were,” Wilson said. “One lives a life of never having access to the core self.”

When Wilson began hormone therapy to transition into becoming a man, everything changed.

Lilly Leyh, left, and Sadie Pierce wait to get their marriage license in November 2014 at the St. Louis recorder of deeds office.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio file photo

After Wednesday's ruling that Missouri's same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional, offices in St. Louis and St. Louis County have begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

But so far, other counties in Missouri have expressed reluctance at issuing their own.

The Recorders' Association of Missouri, an organization that all recorders of deeds are part of, has advised recorders outside of the city of St. Louis not to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

A group of women hug at the St. Louis Recorder of Deeds office after a judge struck down Missouri's ban on same sex marriage.
Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

A judge in St. Louis has ruled Wednesday that Missouri's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Almost immediately, several same-sex couples made their way to City Hall to get their marriage licenses.

"The court recognizes that the freedom to marry is a fundamental right and liberty deeply rooted in the history of the United States," St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison said in his ruling Wednesday. He heard arguments in the case on Sept. 29.

Ron Reed was an exuberant Strawberry Shortcake this weekend in the Central West End.
Emanuele Berry | St. Louis Public Radio

At the annual Halloween costume contest in St. Louis’ Central West End, all the Halloween staples are present. There are superheroes, vampires and men in dresses.

One man wearing a little red dress for the night’s festivities was Ron Reed. He dressed as Strawberry Shortcake -- high heels, green and white striped thigh high hose and a wig are all included in the ensemble.

Reed says he likes the attention he gets in the outfit.

Used with permission of Clementines

In 1978, the closet was the only safe place for most gay people in St. Louis. But after Clementines bar opened at 2001 Menard St., local gays found another, less lonely haven.

This week, Clementines announced that it’s closing.

When it opened, there was no such acronym as LGBT. In polite company, gays were referred to as homosexuals, and called much worse in private conversations and during all-too-common street harassment and violence. Sex between two men or two women was illegal in Missouri and many other states.

A box full of LGBT periodicals. These items have been collected as part of the St. Louis LGBT history project.
Emanuele Berry | St. Louis Public Radio

Nearly 40 years ago, Brian Hyland’s song "Gypsy Woman" played on a Jukebox and former St. Louis resident Lee Maynard found his name for performing in drag: Gypsy Lee. It was the first song that came on and someone said that was a great name. Maynard agreed.

When Maynard performed as Gypsy Lee around St. Louis in the 1970s, his standby song was Cher’s "Half-Breed." It’s a song that matched his elaborate costume.

Commentary: 9/11, Ferguson And 'The Normal Heart'

Sep 15, 2014
The exterior shell of the World Trade Center south tower
FEMA | Wikipedia

Some moments in life never lose their power. There are two moments, two short hours, that I will always, ALWAYS, remember. And both came together on the  evening of Sept. 11, 2014.

One memory remains as clear as it can be: the hour watching live TV in my kitchen here in St. Louis as two planes flew into the World Trade Center in the where city I was born and raised in. It was Sept. 11, 2001.

Board president Dara Strickland
LGBT Center

Organizers of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Center of St. Louis plan to open their doors in a new spot by by Jan. 1.

They're looking to buy their own building. The wish list includes a space four times the size of the approximately 2,000 square-foot location they were renting at 4337 Manchester Ave. in The Grove.

From the movie site

St. Louis’ June 28-29 PrideFest may be weeks away, but more LGBT events and performances are coming up in the next few days.

Beginning Thursday night, Stray Dog Theatre presents “Love! Valour! Compassion!" to be staged every Thursday, Friday and Saturday through June 28 at South City's Tower Grove Abbey.

Jess Jiang / St. Louis Public Radio

Michael Sam, the only openly gay professional football player, was introduced at a news conference at Rams Park Tuesday. 

Sam received unprecedented attention for a 249th pick in the NFL draft. He answered questions for nearly half an hour during the news conference. That's much longer than what even No. 2 draft pick, fellow St. Louis rookie, Greg Robinson, had to endure.

scene from the play of oddly costumed actors
Provided by Metro Theatre

Can girls have short hair that isn’t a hairstyle? Can boys try on tutus? In ways both overt and subtle, society often says they can’t, or at least, they shouldn’t.

Wesley Middleton
Provided by Metro Theatre

As Metro Theater’s “Unsorted” debuts for public audiences this weekend, the playwright reflects on the personal difficulties that contributed to her exploration of gender.

When Wesley Middleton was growing up in Macon, Ga., she was shocked to learn that boys and girls had to play by different rules. She chafed under the pink-or-blue scenario.

“I always felt more like a person than a girl,” Middleton told St. Louis Public Radio.

Provided by the couple

While same-sex couples in Missouri ponder the uncertain impact of marrying in Illinois, one St. Louis pair plans to say "I do" across the river as another heads in the opposite direction.

As 29-year-old Kelsi Davis of south St. Louis plans to wed her partner Saturday in Illinois, her favorite romantic movie since the age of 4 is etched in her mind — and on her body: she has a “Princess Bride” tattoo on her hip which includes the film's signature line, "As You Wish."

Sterling Waldman
Provided by Sterling Waldman

For many people, selecting “male” or “female” on their Facebook profile is an easy choice. But for those who identify differently, Facebook now provides 56 gender selections.

Last week, Sterling Waldman of Chesterfield turned 17 and received a perfect birthday present: the option to identify as “genderqueer” on Facebook.

On Friday, Facebook expanded its drop-down menu to offer a “custom” selection of genders that provides more than four dozen options, a cause for celebration for many who identify in a nontraditional way.

“It was very exciting to have that happen,” Waldman told St. Louis Public Radio and the Beacon.

Fifty-six Choices Not Enough?

Born and raised female, Waldman always felt different from friends and schoolmates.

“I didn’t really fit in with the girls and I didn’t fit in with the boys,” Waldman said. “I wanted to be both.”

For years, Waldman struggled with the feelings but lacked the language to describe them.

“I didn’t have the words, but I learned the terminology at the end of my freshman year,” Waldman remembered.

Waldman, who prefers the pronouns “them” and “they” to “him, his, her or hers,” has parental support and a community of like-minded people, outside of school and within Parkway Central High.

“In my grade, there are two others who identify as gender-non-binary,” Waldman said.

Facebook's menu also includes "transgender," "trans," "androgynous" and "cisgender," which is another way of saying you identify as the gender you were assigned at birth.

But are 56 choices enough? When it comes to politics and religion, Facebook users don’t have to pick from a list. They can write in their beliefs using words of their choosing. The profile form looks as though you could write in what you want, but it only accepts one of the 56 terms.

Despite the glee over being able to identify as “genderqueer” on Facebook, Waldman knows that not everyone will find the right term to describe such a personal and integral part of themselves.

"I have some friends whose identities are not on that list," Waldman said.

Our preview of the exhibits opening Friday at CAM includes video of artist Joyce Pensato doing what she loves most: playing with paint, and a look at the work of  Nicole Eisenman.

The title “I Killed Kenny” smacks of death in its reference to the recurring demise of the "South Park" icon. But the exhibit's more about Brooklyn artist Joyce Pensato bringing new life to animated characters ranging from Homer Simpson to Mickey Mouse.


Same-sex marriage in Illinois was the cherry on top of the cake of advancements for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the St. Louis area in 2013. But for those who oppose the marriage of two men or two women, it was more of a cherry bomb.

via Flickr/BluEyedA73

Twenty five same-sex couples want to see a quick verdict in their lawsuits regarding the Illinois gay marriage ban.

Attorneys representing the couples suing over the ban asked a judge Wednesday to rule through summary judgment. 

Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois filed a motion Wednesday for a judge to rule quickly in the couples’ favor.

via Flickr/BluEyedA73

Gay rights activists view the recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage as a victory.

In two 5-4 decisions, the Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and effectively put to rest California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage by ruling that its supporters did not have standing to challenge a lower court’s ruling that the measure was unconstitutional.

Tim Lloyd / St. Louis Public Radio

In the rotunda of St. Louis’ City Hall, family and friends erupted in applause during a mass commitment ceremony for same sex couples on Saturday afternoon.

Andrew Shaughnessy is with the LGBT rights advocacy group PROMO and said despite the fact gay marriage isn’t legal in Missouri, that didn’t dampen the mood.

“People are feeling comfortable, they want to live their lives the way they are,” Shaughnessy said. 

The ceremony was part of a weekend loaded with gay pride events in St. Louis that were part of PrideFest  and an alternative event at Tower Grove Park.  

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: When Novak’s lesbian bar opened in 1996, same-sex sex was illegal, marriage equality was unheard of and I was a suburban stay-at-home mom, married to a man.

via Flickr/BluEyedA73

The executive director of the LGBT Center of St. Louis stepped down Monday. Leon Braxton Jr. turned in his resignation after the Board of Directors confronted him about personal uses of the organization's money.

Colin Lovett, the president of the board, declined to specify what the money was used for.

"It wasn't a ton," Lovett, the President of the Board said. "It was less than $5,000. They were personal in nature. And so it's somewhat of a personal in nature, that's all the detail we're able to go into at the moment."

Will Copeland, at left, with his brothers at age 3 and, at right, age 4.
Provided by the Copeland family

The last time transgender teen William Copeland wore a dress was to his aunt’s commitment ceremony. The 5-year-old caved to parental pressure but on his terms: no bow in the back and only for the vows, not the reception.

“Big mistake! Huge mistake!,” his mother Laurie Copeland winces. “Why did he need to wear a dress to a lesbian wedding? They wouldn’t have cared if he’d worn a tux.”

Despite any early missteps, if you could special-order a family for a transgender child, it would be the Copelands of Creve Coeur.