OUTstanding Virginians: Ted Heck
This is the first in our series of interviews profiling Equality Virginia’s 2013 OUTstanding Virginians. The nominees will be recognized at EV’s 2013 Commonwealth Dinner on April 6th. You can find more information about the event here.
OUTstanding Virginian: Ted Heck
Ted Heck’s reaction upon first hearing about his nomination to be Equality Virginia’s OUTstanding Virginian award was surprise, and humblement. To be elected along side people who have served as a role model for him, such as Guy Kinman, was an incredible honor. Heck’s work in a campaign to build violence-free communities, through the Virginia Anti-Violence Project, is one of the stand out reasons for his nomination. In 2011 Heck was honored as one of “30 voices in 30 years” by the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, the state’s lead anti-domestic violence program.
Heck started his journey with advocacy in California before moving to Virginia where he knew he could make more of a difference. Ever since then, Ted’s every waking moment has been dedicated to his vision. A vision that was perfectly summed up in his nomination, calling him “an ardent advocate for increased access to services for survivors who are LGBTQ identified” which cites his dedication to “creating an environment where violence is not the norm.”
He is a founder of the Virginia Anti-Violence Project (VAVP), which he regards as his greatest source of pride. He also has volunteered with ROSMY and the Steering Committee for Richmond’s Transgender Day of Remembrance. From 2007 to 2009, Ted was a board member of Equality Virginia, he is also serving a two-year term as Co-Clerk of Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns, a North American Quaker organization. But Ted’s commitments don’t end with social justice, for the last seven years, he has worked for the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) as an HIV Prevention Contract Monitor.
Ted and his Partner Laura
1 – How did you react when you found out you were nominated?
I guess I was a little surprised..it is pretty cool. I’ve known a couple of other people who were nominated…known of a lot of people nominated…I definitely feel like I stand on the shoulders of giants. I feel humbled. I wouldn’t have been able to do any of the stuff I have worked on or been a part of without the people who have inspired me.
2 – Are Equality events like this important in Virgina?
Yeah, I think so. I think it’s really important for people to have opportunities to get together and sort of celebrate accomplishments and talk about what still needs to happen. And you know it’s an important fundraiser for EV…I think it serves an important function. I think big events like that have pluses and minuses…a lot of times when organizations put on big events like that they don’t make a huge amount from it…also it can be cost prohibitive for a lot of people. People who are most affected by discrimination are not able to attend events like that…But I think the kind of work EV is doing, which is mostly legislative advocacy…it’s a good way to engage people who have more money.
3 – Is there one particular action or step you made that you think made the largest impact for the community?
As far as things I have been involved with…The biggest two things have been…the first statewide survey on transgender health and HIV that was ever done and the data from that and the mobilization effort that went into that actually acted to create more services and more awareness in the state. I think that has been the biggest impact…There is still data being published from that study.
And then in starting the Virginia Anti-Violence Project…the first big project that we had was a statewide survey and assessment of the impact of violence on Virginians…The data we got from that is still helping us to create services and build services for VAVP…doing that project, I don’t think it has had the full impact it is going to have…with a new grant that we have…we are just starting to become a functioning agency that can provide services so I still think there is a lot to come.
4 – What do you hope will happen in VA within the next 10 years for the LGBT community?
It’s slow to watch change happen but it’s actually pretty fast if you look at things historically. I would hope that [in] Virginia…policies within institutions [will] change and become better resources for people in LGBT communities. I would certainly hope that the laws would change– passing Anti-discrimination legislation would be great. It’s really hard to see how those things would take place with the current administration…even when we had more progressive administrations, things don’t change that much…I think, you know, some things happen sort of in the background but they actually have a big impact.
For example, the Department of Motor Vehicles last year changed its policy around who could change the gender marker on their licence and how they could go about doing that…That seems like an obvious policy that makes sense because if people are presenting in a particular gender their license should not out them because that’s a safety problem.
It’s actually a pretty revolutionary change and it has significant impact on how people live…I think a lot of subtle changes happen like that, that actually make a real difference in people’s lives and those kinds of changes make it more possible for people to be authentically who they are…As that kind of thing continues to happen it will eventually percolate into the air…people…when they go to vote, they will choose people who are going to support nondiscrimination, and getting rid of the stupid marriage amendment. I think in ten years I can see those kinds of changes taking place.
5 – And advice for young or up and coming members of the community that want to make waves?
The most important thing is showing up…because you learn a lot from just showing up. I think what helped me most was when I had people who sort of took me under their wing and acted as mentors. And if people want to really learn about how to make changes you need to find a mentor. If someone doesn’t sort of ask you to start doing stuff then ask them…be assertive and… you don’t have to start big. I think it is better to start with things you can more easily do and learn as you go. And also meeting people and getting to know people who are already doing work, that is the best way to learn.
From national protests to grassroots activism, EV’s Day of Action connects local LGBTQ advocates and citizens with legislators on 2/7
“We have reached the point of changing hearts and minds.”February 2, 2017
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