Equality Virginia held its 16th annual Commonwealth Dinner at the Greater Richmond Convention Center on Saturday.
The event raised more than $250,000 for the Virginia LGBT advocacy group, according to Executive Director James Parrish.
Among the attendees were state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas), the first openly transgender person seated in any state legislature in the country, and freshman Virginia Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger. Thirty lawmakers attended the event in total.
Roem spoke at the dinner and discussed LGBT issues locally and nationwide.
“We have had enough. We will not go quietly,” Roem said to a cheering crowd as she spoke about the trans military ban.
At the end of her speech, Roem introduced two trans students who had faced discrimination. One of the students was told his gender identity is a lie and another was excluded from a lockdown drill at her school and “left alone by herself until she [had] a panic attack.”
“It’s not about bathrooms,” Roem said repeatedly.
She emphasized that their stories show “why coming out is still a big deal, why we still need organizations like Equality Virginia, why we march, why we celebrate Pride month.”
“In the face of fear, loathing, and threats, [they] have persevered,” Roem said. “That’s why we march. That’s why we organize, and that’s why we win elections.”
“It was wonderful that Danica was able to use her platform to really shine a light on two trans kids who have been forced into the media just because they’re trying to be who they are,” Parrish told the Washington Blade in a phone interview on Monday.
“It was really meaningful for me that the two kids had that love from over 1,000 people,” he added.
Beyond Roem’s remarks, the night also included a recap of Equality Virginia’s advocacy work during this year’s General Assembly session.
“I did zero in on the fact that the only reason we weren’t celebrating being the first in the South to have statewide protections for LGBT people in housing and public employment was that Speaker Kirk Cox stood in the way,” Parrish said.
With every state lawmaker in Virginia up for re-election in November, Equality Virginia is hoping for new leadership in the House of Delegates to pass those anti-discrimination protections for LGBT Virginians.