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Empowerment Summit Connects Gender Diverse Residents With Local Resources

The TIES Summit hosts over 50 organizations from throughout Virginia with the goal of connecting transgender and gender non-conforming people with health, education and legal resources.
The TIES Summit hosts over 50 organizations from throughout Virginia with the goal of connecting transgender and gender non-conforming people with health, education and legal resources. (Courtesy: Equality Virginia)

This story was reported by intern Alan Rodriguez Espinoza.

The nonprofit LGBTQ advocacy organization Equality Virginia continues its annual Transgender Information and Empowerment Summit (TIES) at the University of Richmond this Saturday.

The summit will host over 50 organizations from throughout Virginia with the goal of connecting transgender and gender non-conforming people with health, education and legal resources. 

Vee Lamneck, Deputy Director of Equality Virginia, says TIES was started in 2014 as a way to give transgender residents “more information, more resources and a place to come together in community.”

“It’s just so important being able to build those relationships, have those conversations,” Lamneck said. “I can’t tell you about the numerous relationships that people have built, the questions that people have been able to ask simply by being in the same room with other trans and gender diverse folks.”

Lamneck says TIES will feature about 40 workshops this year on issues such as voting rights, health insurance, suicide prevention and transition-related care. TIES is collaborating with the Transgender Assistance Program (TAP) to provide a clothes closet service at no cost.

“[TAP] wanted to provide folks with the opportunity to access clothes that they might feel uncomfortable shopping for in a store,” Lamneck said. “Being able to access clothes that align with your gender identity in a safe and affirming environment is really valuable.” 

The event will also offer free legal clinics where gender non-conforming individuals can gain legal guidance on subjects such as name and gender marker changes. Attorney Bary Hausrath works through the Virginia Equality Bar Association to provide the legal clinic service at TIES.

“We do as much as we can for the client, giving them what they need in the time allotted,” Hausrath says. “Generally what it looks like is at the end of the clinical appointment, the client will walk away with notarized documents ready to submit to the court.”

Hausrath says the administrative process for updating one’s identity documents is “cumbersome for folks who are not familiar with the legal system,” but to not undergo this process can have big implications.

“If you get pulled over, or if you want to go vote, or if you need to open a bank account, or if you need to get a job,” Hausrath says. “In any of these circumstances, having identity documents that correspond with who you are and how you express your gender expression is essential for folks who desire to pass seamlessly through society without anybody questioning their right to be in a particular place and so forth.”

Medical personnel will be present to offer free and rapid HIV testing. Representatives of different faith communities will also be in attendance.

“Just because you’re transgender doesn’t mean you can’t also be a person of faith,” Lamneck says. “And a person of faith can be welcoming and affirming of the transgender community.”

TIES will also present workshops for allies of the transgender community who do not identify as transgender themselves.

“TIES is a space for transgender folks, but also for friends and partners, family members, parents and allies,” Lamneck says. “This is a really great space for allies to educate themselves about what it means to be transgender.”

The TIES conference will take place on Saturday at the Robins School of Business from 9 am to 5 pm.