Equality Virginia’s Transgender Information and Empowerment Summit aims to support Virginia’s trans community this weekend
With the successes of marriage equality in the last year, those from the often neglected “T” part of the LGBTQ spectrum have a chance to get informed and network at this weekend’s Transgender Information and Empowerment Summit (TIES).
The second annual gathering, organized by Equality Virginia and hosted here in Richmond, features a full day’s worth of meetings and workshops to help trans folks here in the Commonwealth and beyond.
“We receive many calls from people all over the state looking for support and resources,” said Virginia Lamneck, EV Program Director, and event coordinator for TIES. She said everyone from parents of trans youth to regular trans people looking for support would reach out from around the state so creating an event like this seemed like a no-brainer when it started last year.
“[People] wanted to make sure that their child can safely access the correct bathroom at school, to people transitioning later in life and looking for resources as they apply for new employment,” Lamneck said of the concerns she’d hear.
Last year’s event attracted hundreds of LGBTQ people and showed how important such an annual meeting around these issues is.
With the success of last year’s event, Lamneck said she started planning the 2015 event as early as May of this year.
“Last year’s TIES conference made me very aware of and very humbled by the number of people across the state who are tirelessly, and often without very much recognition, working to address the needs of the trans community in Virginia,” she said. “A major highlight of last year’s event was getting to know activists across the state and having the privilege of working with them to develop a conference that brought more visibility to the community, strengthened existing relationships, and created new opportunities for connection.”
Lamneck hopes to replicate that success this year even as many of the issues faced by trans people in Virginia haven’t gotten much better.
“The good news is that there’s more visibility now for the trans community than ever before,” she said. “More employers know that they need to have a policy in place to support employees if they transition on the job. More principals realize that they need to have a policy that ensures that all students are able to safely use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. More transitional housing programs are creating policies ensure equal access for transgender people seeking resources.”
She called these changes “major and life-saving,” even if they are slow to arrive around the state – but she believes when people come and learn more about these issues, and bring that information back home, it can make waves.
“Increased visibility for the trans community relies on trans individuals and allies coming out and coming together, especially for an event like this,” she said.
This year’s line up includes talks for the parents of trans youth from local psychologist Dr. Lisa Griffin about “Navigating Life With Your Trans* or Gender Expansive Child,” “Honest Answers for Trans Teens” with Pediatric Endocrinologist Dr. Elyse Pine, “What Keeps Me Up at Night?,” a round table discussion for parents hosted by PFLAG MD’s Trans Parents Forum Facilitator Catherine V. Hyde.
Opportunities for those living as transgender include “Coming Out: A Journey of Disclosure” by Hampton Roads transgender Veteran Donna Price and Thomas Coughlin, staff psychotherapist and transgender health advocate at Whitman-Walker Health Clinic in DC, “The Politics of Passing” by local transgender advocate Natalie Gates, and a talk around MTF and MTF surgeries hosted by Dr. Kathy Rumer, a leading aesthetic and reconstructive plastic surgeon from Philadelphia.
The talks listed above are a small portion of the day’s events, check out the full schedule here!
While all the information sections can be helpful, Lamneck thinks the opportunity for local trans and other LGBQ folks to meet and network is one of the most important parts of the day.
“TIES is just the venue – it’s the people participating in the day who are making the impact,” she said. “As people are able to come together and stand up for themselves and each other, significant and noticeable change is created.”
Everyone from the LGBTQ and ally spectrum is invited to attend this weekend’s event, just please register here as space is limited.
“We are living in a time of increasing visibility for our trans community, but with that has also come more violence directed at the most vulnerable,” said EV’s Executive Director James Parrish. “This conference serves to bring trans people, their partners, families, and allies together to not only access much needed resources, but to build a stronger community together and make Virginia a more trans inclusive and safe place to live and work.”
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