Last night, as a cold wind whipped at attendees holding candles and bundled in transgender pride flags, Elaine Cao made her way to the microphone set up on the sidewalk next to the Transgender Memorial Garden.
The gathering marked the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, which commemorates those trans people who have lost their lives violently in the past year.
"It’s up to us to remember them," Cao told a crowd of roughly 60 people. "It’s up to us to be a family."
But for Cao, Monday marked a separate milestone: Earlier that day, she filed a lawsuit against her former employer, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, alleging that a manager fired her after she came to work presenting as female.
According to her lawsuit, Cao, 24, was hired at the chess center in June 2015. One year later, on June 25, 2016, she showed up to work a trans woman. Cao's manager responded by firing her, the lawsuit alleges.
"I believe I was discriminated against," Cao claims in the lawsuit, "in that my employer took my gender into account and terminated me for gender non-conforming appearance and behavior, and for for transitioning from one gender to another and for for being a transgender individual."