Editor's Note: This article has been updated to clarify which organizations hosted the conference. 

Equality Virginia held its annual Transgender Information and Empowerment Summit on Saturday at the E. Clairborne Robins School of Business, a conference intended to connect transgender people and allies to medical and legal resources, host educational workshops and provide a sense of community.

Equality Virginia is an organization advocating for equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Virginians. Equality Virginia has held the conference annually since 2014. The group hosted about 500 attendees at this year's event, TIES media contact Cameron McPherson wrote in an email. 

The business school was open to conference attendees from 9 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. 

Lee Dyer, associate director for LGBTQ campus life, said that Mickey Quiñones, dean of the business school, extended full support and resources to the Office of Common Ground and TIES throughout the event planning process, as did the business school's faculty and staff and the University Police Department.

“We were really about the mission and vision of TIES,” Dyer said. “One of the things I’d say that’s been really great about the university is that things have been about trans inclusion. When TIES was looking for a venue that could serve more people, we have the campus here that has a plethora of things, so we got with them and created the partnership so we could bring it on campus.”

About 40 workshops were offered at the conference focusing on different aspects of trans life, ranging from microaggression training for allies to racial justice to trans voting rights. 

The conference had a number of on-site legal, medical and cultural resources and organizations available for attendees. These resources were provided by more than 40 organizations, including the Virginia Equality Bar Association, Planned Parenthood, American Civil Liberties Union Virginia and Diversity Richmond. 

A TIES lounge dedicated to people of color was set up in the T.C. Williams School of Law, which was led in part by Shades of Pride. Additionally, UR students ran a Youth Corner for adolescents and young adults.

Vee Lamneck, deputy director of Equality Virginia, said that TIES gave the trans community the opportunity to explore options that they may not have been exposed to.

“Often there are a lot of barriers to trans folks being able to access those services in a safe and affirming environment,” Lamneck said. “And so that’s an opportunity for folks, in a really low-key and informal way, to have a consultative conversation with someone that’s non-diagnostic, it’s simply a conversation with a trans-affirming provider.”

Sam Burns, a UR junior who worked as an Equality Virginia intern last summer, led a workshop titled, “POC-Inclusion in LGBT Groups: Moving to Action.” She discussed ways that LGBTQ+ organizations and companies could become actively anti-racist and cultivate an accepting environment for people of color.

“Some people may not realize how bold it is,” Burns said. “The assumption of TIES is that trans people are human beings, and therefore they deserve to be treated as human beings and have the same opportunities and resources that everyone has. So, TIES means giving people the resources they need to be themselves, and that’s something that is not accessible for everyone.”

Lamneck said that while the tangible resources available at TIES were extremely important, the sense of community the conference provided may be the most valuable aspect of the event.

“I had another conversation with a young trans person who had been here for five minutes and said that this was the first time in his life he had been around so many other trans people, and how incredibly moving and powerful that was for him,” Lamneck said.

TIES was planned in part by Tara Casey, a professor at the law school and director of the Harry L. Carrico Center for Pro Bono & Public Service, which is a program of the law school that connects its students with members of the greater Richmond community in need.  

Four UR organizations helped facilitate the conference: the LGBTQ+ Coalition, Shades of Pride, Common Ground and LGBTQ Campus Life. 

The LGBTQ+ Coalition and Shades of Pride are both LGBTQ+ student-run organizations, with Shades of Pride serving students of color who identify as part of the community.

Common Ground is a UR office focused on inclusion and equality for students of all backgrounds and experiences. LGBTQ Campus Life, a program run by Common Ground, focuses on UR students who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community.

LGBTQ students and allies seeking resources should visit the Office of Common Ground in Tyler Haynes Commons Room 325 or visit lgbtq.richmond.edu.

Contact news writer Lauren Guzman at lauren.guzman@richmond.edu.