EV’s first transgender summit attracted, empowered and informed hundreds
“I am here because information for the transgender community is really hard to come by,” said Connie Rice, down from Northern Virginia for Saturday’s Virginia Transgender Information and Empowerment Summit (TIES), held in Richmond.
“Even though in some respects, I’m done with my transition, I think it is really important to be here to support the community and to learn more about what’s going on in the movement,” said Rice, excited to make contacts, talk about medical care and health insurance, and the broader political trans-movement.
“It’s all really important to people who are transgender.”
This state-wide TIES event was the first of its kind for us at Equality Virginia, and it’s a project we’re quite passionate about. While marriage equality and wider known LGBT issues continue to make national headlines, there is concern from the community that the “T” is sometimes left out of the broader conversation.
Not if we have anything to say about it.
About 200 people from across Virginia, and even beyond the commonwealth, attended Saturday’s event, held in Virginia Commonwealth University’s commons space, taking up several meeting rooms as well as one of the large auditoriums.
In addition to offering seminars and workshops for transgender individuals, significant others, parents of transgender youth, and advocates, Virginia TIES offered an opportunity for transgender individuals and advocates to come together in support of each other and for a more inclusive commonwealth.
“We are overwhelmed with the turnout for this summit,” said James Parrish, executive director with Equality Virginia. “We are so grateful for all our sponsors, presenters, and community partners for working with us to make this day possible.”
The daylong event covered topics including: health care and insurance,coming out, parenting transgender children and teens, advocacy. There was also an onsite Summit Resource Center which gave conference participants the opportunity to meet individually with representatives from Enroll Virginia who provided guidance signing up for insurance under the new ACA guidelines.
Additionally, Whitman-Walker Health and the National Center for Transgender Equality trained and coordinated with local lawyers from the Virginia Equality Bar Association who provided name and gender marker change services.
“Many people need access to resources that are provided here, and some people who want to get more involved in activism can connect with others who want to do the same,” said Mara Keisling, founding executive director of National Center for Transgender Equality. Keisling is no stranger to trans-issues, and her efforts nationwide have contributed to victories at congressional hearings in DC, the passage of ”transgender-inclusive federal legislation,” and changing guidelines for the state department when it comes to changing gender markers on passports.
“This summit is a community building tool and is a way to be there for each other and to be here with each other,” said Keisling who kicked the summit off with a warm welcome to participants and gave an overview of where the movement currently stands.
While many folks picked up some great info and made some good connections for the future of their transition, a feeling of pride was felt throughout the event – being part of the first transgender conference here in Virginia meant a lot to people.
“I grew up in the Midwest where there was never anything like this,” said Aydan O’Connor who came up from Ford, VA, to present and attend.
O’Connor called the day an empowering and touching experience, and thanked EV for holding the event saying he hoped it “marked the beginning of a movement for transgender individuals where we will no longer be scrambling for information about ourselves, and where we, as a community, will be better able to stand up for our rights.”
Thanks to those who came out this past weekend, EV was thankful to work with numerous national and community partners and proud towork with such outstanding people as we move Virginia forward together.
Equality Virginia is the leading statewide, non-partisan advocacy, outreach and education organization seeking equality for LGBT Virginians. EV believes in a truly inclusive Commonwealth where all are equally welcomed and valued, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
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