Equality Virginia’s TIES event puts transgender citizens front and center this fall
Equality Virginia is gearing up for their third annual Transgender Information and Empowerment Summit (TIES) this fall, October 22nd at the VCU Student Commons. The summit is an opportunity for transgender and gender non-conforming people to gather in a safe space, access resources, and form relationships.
“I think now more than ever it’s really important for folks to feel a sense of community, to feel connected and it’s my hope and my intention that TIES can be one of the many spaces that can provide that connection,” said Virginia Lamneck, Program Director of Equality Virginia. Lamneck has been organizing the TIES event since its inception a few years back.
TIES fulfills part of EV’s mission around education for all members of the community and offers a unique chance for transgender people and allies to attend workshops on a variety of subjects, listen to lectures by experts in numerous fields, and speak in a caucus space. Caucuses are informal, open panels where anyone can contribute to the conversation.
“There’s actually no one in charge of that space,” Lamneck said. ”it’s an intentional space where folks can come together and just talk, connect, learn, share resources and get to know each other better.”
The summit has experienced crowds of over two hundred people in previous years, and Lamneck predicts that that number will grow because this year TIES is introducing a youth component to the event.
A group photo from 2014′s TIES event
Equality Virginia is partnering with Gender Spectrum, an organization that specializes in creating gender sensitive and inclusive environments for children and teens, to design a program itinerary for transgender children.
Equality Virginia does not yet have an official itinerary for the summit because they are still accepting proposals for workshops until the end of July. When the speakers and workshops are finalized, they will be divided into tracks to help guide attendants towards the most useful and relevant programs for their needs.
“The vision of this conference is a multi-faceted approach to supporting the transgender community and that’s through ally-ship, that’s through partner support, that’s through parental support, and through peer support as well,” Lamneck said.
There will be a track for transgender youth and their parents, one for transgender adults, another for spouses of transgender individuals, and finally a track for LGBTQ allies.
EV is partnering with a number of advocacy groups to spread the word about TIES and encourages those in need to attend. These “Community Voices” will have tables set up where they can provide resources and promote their services. The James River Transgender Society will host one of these information tables while their representative Keri Abrams, a local transgender activist, will be hosting a workshop on surgeries and surgeons available to the transgneder female population.
“The personal connections you can make are just as helpful as the workshop information, if not more so,” Abrams said. ”And the best thing to learn and understand: you are not alone!”
TIES is the only state-wide event that lends visibility and support to the transgender population of Virginia. In a state where 9 out of 10 people say they know a gay, bisexual or lesbian person but only 1 in 10 know a transgender person, the LGBTQ community of Virginia is focusing their efforts and support on the least privileged and least acknowledged minority among them.
“TIES really does create visibility, it builds community, it creates a safe space for people who may not be able to be as visible as they would like to be or feel safe enough in their own community, they can come here and feel really safe and can be themselves,” said Lamneck.
It’s a deliberately free event because according to Lamneck, Equality Virginia wants to remove as many barriers as possible that prevent people in need from coming to the summit. All LGBTQ people and allies are welcome to attend and contribute to the conversation. To submit a workshop proposal or register for TIES, visit their website here.
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