Last Saturday evening, nearly 80 people from throughout Hampton Roads attended the Norfolk Transgender Information and Empowerment Summit (TIES) Pop-UP held at the Slover Library in Downtown Norfolk. Attendees were able to meet and network with other trans and gender diverse neighbors, learn about employment readiness, find out how storytelling can be an effective advocacy tool, the problem of homelessness among the trans community, obtain mental & medical health consultations, rapid HIV testing, and get legal support.
Central to bringing Equality Virginia‘s TIES Pop Up to Norfolk was trans community fixture De Sube. She has been active in the Hampton Roads and Virginia’s trans community for over 25 years, starting with Virginians for Justice, the precursor to Equality Virginia. Locally, she founded the Gender Expression Movement (GEM) support group, was a staff person at ACCESS AIDS Care/LGBT Center of Hampton Roads and currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Transgender Assistance Program of Virginia (TAP). TAP Virginia was a co-host of Saturday’s event and has been involved with Equality Virginia’s TIES event from the beginning.
Sube led a workshop on homelessness but remarked that at the Norfolk TIES Pop Up, the resource fair and legal services were by far the most popular aspects of the event. She specifically mentioned Hampton Road’s has a large active and retired military community, as many attendees sought information about name/gender change and how to address the military’s DD Form 214, a.k.a. “Discharge Papers and Separation Documents.” Having the correct name on this form before leaving the military is important. Upon reflection, Sube would not make many changes to the Norfolk TIES Pop Up event, other than to find more attorneys willing to give pro bono legal advice. She said that due to the positive reception, there will be another TIES Pop Up in Hampton Roads next year.
How TAP Virginia Works
Sube told OutWire757 that TAP Virginia, while headquartered in Hampton Roads, is active statewide and is focused on training and educating a network of volunteers to help raise awareness about the issues facing transgender Virginians. TAP Virginia also actively assist trans persons that are homeless, threatened or abused find shelter, therapy and even jobs.
“There are no safe shelters for trans persons in Virginia, especially faith-based shelters,” Sube said. She said that staff at many of the hotlines and homeless shelters are not properly trained to address the unique needs of transgender persons. Compounding this is a lack of bed space at many shelters, forcing many transgender persons onto the streets. She did point out that locally, Samaritan House, the YWCA and the LGBT Life Center have properly trained staff equipped to assist transgender persons in need of housing or other assistance.
In Hampton Roads, TAP Virginia currently has two active host homes where Sube and her team of volunteers place persons that have escaped a threatening and/or abusive situation. Host homes act as transitional housing and their numbers fluctuate due to community availability.
While there is still much work to do to educate the general public about transgender issues, Sube remains positive about the future as she recalls a time before the internet when she and others felt isolated and starved for resources.
Sube noted that “It was not long ago that the word ‘transgender’ was not in wide use. With the advent of AOL (America Online), I found a chat room and suddenly didn’t feel so alone.” She went onto say that “as time has gone on, we have become more visible, but we need to educate, educate, educate, remain visible and feel safe doing so.”
She said that following the success of the Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV) held this past spring, there is keen interest in the community to produce a separate Hampton Roads Transgender Pride.
“There are many trans people that feel left out of Pride events,” Sube said, noting that accessibility to some events both physically and financially is a barrier for some in the trans community.
If you would like more information about TAP Virginia, its programs, volunteer Board of Directors, resources or how to volunteer, please visit their website at: https://tapvirginia.org/ or via phone at (757) 563-4784.