augusta free press news

Equality Virginia to host conference for transgender Virginians, allies

equality virginiaEquality Virginia will host the sixth annual Transgender Information and Empowerment Summit (TIES) on Saturday, Oct. 19 at the University of Richmond.

TIES provides free resources such as legal assistance and health consultations as well as 40 diverse workshops covering topics ranging from employment to advocacy, and parenting to wellness.

According to a 2017 study by the Williams Institute, about 39,000 Virginians identify as transgender. This number is likely an underestimate as government agencies do not gather data on gender identity. Transgender is a broad term that can be used to describe people whose gender identity is different from the gender they were thought to be when they were born.

TIES brings together hundreds transgender and gender diverse individuals, spouses, families, youth, and allies for the day-long event. “This conference is built upon a foundation of unity. No matter your gender identity, you are welcome,” said Vee Lamneck, Deputy Director of Equality Virginia. “There is something for everyone at TIES, and we hope that whether you are trans yourself, or you know someone who is, you will find support, connections, and community with us at TIES,” Lamneck continued.

Coming out as the gender that aligns with one’s internal knowledge of self helps transgender people live freely and authentically. However, transgender people often struggle with social acceptance and access to the medical and legal steps that may be part of their transition. To address this lack of access, TIES connects attendees with affirming health and legal professionals to learn about and discuss options for transitioning.

Afton Bradley who is the Care Coordination Manager at the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood said, “As a medical provider and a trans individual myself, I see TIES as a crucial event. The conference brings together trans people and providers for the opportunity to learn from and engage with each other in a state where resources are limited. I have personally faced many obstacles finding trans-affirming care, and I feel privileged to be able to start that conversation or be the first contact for someone else’s journey.”

In addition, transgender individuals can register for free legal assistance to change their name and gender marker on identity documents. “I am gratified that the legal clinic has been able to provide help to as many clients as it has,” said Bary Hausrath, a Richmond lawyer and member of the Virginia Equality Bar Association. Hausrath went on to say, “in too much of our Commonwealth, the resources trans folks need are scarce or wholly absent, putting lives in jeopardy. TIES connects individuals and families with the resources they need, and empowers them with the information and advocacy skills needed to fight for change.”

In addition to resources and workshops, TIES offers attendees the unique opportunity to meet with and share ideas and experiences with transgender individuals and allies from all over Virginia and surrounding states.

Sara Simone, who has attended every TIES conference and is a long-time member of Equality Virginia’s Transgender Advocacy Speakers Bureau said, “As a trans woman of color myself, perhaps most important to me is networking, sharing experiences, and creating long-lasting friendships with other trans sisters and brothers in our community.”

The significance of personal connection is especially important for parents of trans family members.  “TIES is an essential place for families to connect with so many other parents and caregivers, and to know they are not alone while they do the emotional work of learning more so they can be accepting and truly supportive of their transgender loved one,” said Shannon McKay, co-founder of He, She, Ze, and We, a Richmond-based support group which provides information and resources for family members of gender expansive individuals.

Virginia law currently does not include statewide protections against hate violence or discrimination in employment, housing, or public accommodations based on gender identity.  These types of protections are crucial as in recent months, the Trump administration has targeted transgender Americans and announced plans to erode several key protections at the federal level.

To learn more or register for this free conference, visit