October 22, 2020 at 8:08 pm EDT | by Parker Purifoy
Equality Virginia TIES conference draws bigger crowd with virtual format
transgender, Gender Conference East, trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Equality Virginia’s seventh annual Transgender Information and Empowerment Summit (TIES) last week was attended by nearly 700 people, according to the organization.

The four-day conference that featured keynotes and workshops for the transgender community began on Oct. 14. Equality Virginia held this year’s events virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Scheduled events included workshops on health insurance, racial justice and voting rights as well as a free name and gender marker change clinic and a free wellness center visit with trans-affirming mental health or medical providers.

Vee Lamneck, Equality Virginia’s executive director, said the TIES conference was “unlike anything we’d ever seen or done.” 

“With nearly 700 participants, we were able to successfully transition from a one day, in-person conference to a four-day, digital conference without skipping a beat,” they said in a statement. “While nothing will replace meeting face-to-face, the virtual format allowed more people than ever the opportunity to participate while continuing the event’s tradition of empowerment and fostering community.”

An overarching theme throughout this year’s conference was the topic of racial inequality. 

Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, a trans activist and woman of color, was the first of several keynote speakers and reflected on her history of advocating for Black trans women. Aurora Higgs, an LGBTQ scholar and public speaker, led a panel focused on the work of Black trans activists in Virginia. The last keynote speech featured Black trans and non-binary youth from Side by Side, an LGBTQ advocacy organization based in Virginia. 

TIES also included a workshop on the Virginia Values Act, a historic law banning discrimination against the LGBTQ community that went into effect July 1.

The conference also served as a way for attendees to network and socialize with different breakout rooms. 

“TIES helps foster connections with Virginians from all corners of the commonwealth and we’re proud we can still offer the event through a virtual format this year,” Equality Virginia’s Program Director Thalia Hernandez said in a statement before the conference.

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