KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City's leaders are making sure the city's transgender community is seen, heard and recognized for the accomplishments.
The city hosted its first ever forum Friday night at the WWI Museum and Memorial supporting International Transgender Day of Visibility.
"It's sure a weird time to come out as trans in America," said Will Sharp, an attendee at the event. "But I feel really fortunate that I live in Kansas City."
KCMO Mayor Quinton Lucas said the event is a step in the right direction.
"So what I think this says to everyone in our community is that we do care," he said. "I think this is an answer to perhaps what we hear, which is hate, from Jefferson City or Topeka from some legislators. What you're hearing from us is love, respect, appreciation."
A panel of advocates spoke, including Admiral Rachel Levine, the highest ranking trans person in the federal government and the US Assistant Secretary for Health.
"Today as you know is transgender day of visibility and that means hope," she said. “We have to stand up together right here in Kansas City and right here in Missouri.”
The panel, and the support it represents, means a lot to KC trans supporters like Kip Ellis.
"To know that our city representatives have our back, that is really reassuring," Ellis said. "I have faith in people and that if people really do at the end of the day want the best for their communities and so if we can just show that we are a part of the community."
Advocate Merrique Jenson says it's a double-edged sword. She says increased visibility has increased the targeting felt by trans Kansas Citians, but they aren't backing down.
"Trans people are just a quote 'easy punching bag' but we're actually very fierce, very resilient and so they have another thing coming thinking that we're going to go back in the ground and hide," she said.
Mayor Lucas hopes KC can set an example for the rest of the region.
"Here in Kansas City, I hope that we can be that example, blue dot in a red sea that says no matter who you are, where you are, where you live in Missouri or Kansas, wherever you're watching from, you have a place nearby that cares about you," he said.