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Equality Virginia, the commonwealth’s top LGBT rights organization, will host VIRGINIA TIES (Transgender Information and Empowerment Summit) on Oct. 4, a summit bringing together more than 200 local transgender people, national and local activists, LGBT allies and experts to talk about the various issues affecting the transgender community.
The summit, which will take place at Virginia Commonwealth University, will feature various workshops, discussion panels and presentations, with one specific track geared towards transgender people, including workshops on gender confirming surgery, coming out, gender presentation, and navigating health insurance. Another track will have specific programming for parents of transgender youth, and another will feature a workshop for significant others, a session on advocacy for nondiscrimination, and a panel on ending the ban on transgender military service.
“The transgender summit is a first-of-its-kind event in Virginia, and is a way for transgender Virginians — and their parents, friends, teachers, healthcare providers, and other allies from across the spectrum — to come together to support and empower Virginia’s transgender community,” said James Parrish, the executive director of Equality Virginia. “this summit offers a range of presentations and workshops geared not only for transgender individuals, but also for parents and other advocates of transgender equality.”
Participants in the summit will also have the opportunity to attend 30-minute private consultations with mental health and medical professionals. Members from Enroll Virginia, an organization focused on expanding access to health insurance, will provide guidance on signing up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, and Whitman-Walker Health and the National Center for Transgender Equality will be coordinating with lawyers from the Virginia Equality Bar Association to provide services related to name and gender marker changes.
“This is our first time putting together a statewide summit like this, and I am thrilled to say that interest in the summit has exceeded our expectations,” Parrish said. “It is going to be an informational and exciting day, and I’m glad that so many people will be able to access the great resources that will be available.
“In addition to offering valuable resources and information, the summit shows that there is mobility toward a more transgender-inclusive commonwealth,” Parrish added. “It will take a lot of work, but I’m confident that we will reach a day in Virginia where nobody is treated differently or discriminated against because of their gender identity.”
Donna Price, a Hampton Roads transgender resident and former Navy servicemember who will be leading a workshop on coming out at the summit, stressed the importance of bringing together members of the transgender community to build support systems.
“Living an authentic life is the most freeing personal decision that I have ever made,” said Price, who previously wrote a blog post for Equality Virginia detailing her coming out process. “Having lived closeted and alone, in fear of what the disclosure of my true self would bring, I have learned that the only way to resolve our fears is to confront them and deal with them. Gathering with like-minded people with whom I have similar life experiences is both affirming and confirming of the truth of our nature.“
VIRGINIA TIES will take place on Oct. 4 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the second floor of the Virginia Commonwealth University Commons, 907 Floyd Ave., Richmond, Va. For more information, visit equalityvirginia.org/transgender/summit.
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