The fifth annual edition of the conference will feature guests Danica Roem and Amanda Simpson, among others.
GayRVA Staff | April 6, 2018
This Saturday the Ladies and Gents of the Blue Ridge will be hosting their Fifth Annual Transgender Conference in Roanoke, VA. Ladies and Gents of the Blue Ridge Transgender Alliance (LGBR) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded over a decade ago, which advocates for the transgender community of Roanoke and the Southwest Virginia area. They hold monthly support group meetings at the Roanoke Diversity Center, as well as engaging in governmental and health care advocacy and speaking to colleges and other groups to build awareness and support for Southwest Virginia’s transgender community.
“Ladies and Gents has networked with several organizations throughout the past years to collaborate and build the best conference we can,” said Dolly Davis, President of LGBR. For the fifth edition of their annual conference, LGBR is working with the Roanoke Diversity Center and Council Of Community Services, who co-ordinate The Drop-In Center, an organization working to provide HIV and Hepatitis C prevention and health care.
This year’s conference will feature a keynote address from Amanda Simpson, the highest ranking transgender person to serve in the US military, as well as Virginia’s own Delegate Danica Roem, the first openly transgender person to hold state-level elected office in the United States. As part of her talk at the conference, Roem plans to discuss the need for more of such representation in government at the state level and beyond.
“In 2018 I should not be the only out and seated transgender legislator in American history. This is way, way, way overdue. When that is the case, we have got to look at the idea that obviously there has been a systemic problem through 99 years of elected government in Virginia,” Roem said. “That systemic problem is the fact that you have a lot of people who are disenfranchised or feel disenfranchised, and are just now barely getting representation in elected government.”
Roem hopes to offer a sense of empowerment to attendees, to inspire them to find strength in who they are. “I hope [attendees] will feel empowered to pursue whatever it is that their calling is in life without reservation; acknowledging the fear as opposed to just disregarding it, and learning how to figure out how to overcome that fear so that they can pursue whatever it is they want to do, whether it is in elected government or play out on the softball field,” said Roem. ” I hope they can take the message of ‘Be who you are and be that well’ and be able to apply it to their lives and know that no matter what they look like, where they come from, who they worship, or who they love, they can succeed because of who they are, not despite it.”
In addition to Roem and Simpson, other speakers will include Roem’s fellow delegate, Sam Rasoul, who represents the City of Roanoke in the Virginia House Of Delegates, as well as author and LGBTQ advocate Joe Cobb, and gender therapist Andy Matzner. The days events will conclude with a question and answer session with Amanda Simpson and Danica Roem. Davis hopes that this program will inspire a sense of togetherness. “We hope to educate and inspire those in our community, allies, family and friends, and service providers to see the beauty in our community and help bring about positive change,” she said.
Ladies and Gents of the Blue Ridge’s Fifth Annual Transgender Conference will take place on Saturday, April 7 from 9 AM til 4 PM at The Jefferson Center’s Fitzpatrick Hall, located at 541 Luck Avenue Southwest in Roanoke. Tickets are $10 and include a catered lunch; they can be purchased here.
Written by Marilyn Drew Necci and Ash Griffith