While the novel coronavirus pandemic has had a hand in postponing or canceling most scheduled programming throughout 2020, Stand With Trans has turned that trend around by changing its annual Empowerment Workshop into the upcoming Trans Empowerment Month that will last throughout October.
“It’s usually an all-day conference. We call it the Empowerment Workshop and we thought long and hard about it, and, given the current situation, we knew we couldn’t do it in person. And having one day online did not sound like a good solution, so that’s when I threw out the idea of having this month-long event and everybody just jumped on it,” said Stand With Trans Founder and Executive Director Roz Keith. “We’ve got an amazing month planned.”
Stand With Trans is a nonprofit that helps provide resources and support for transgender youth and their parents as they go through the process of transitioning. Normally, when the Empowerment Workshop is a single-day event, both parents and attending youth have a choice of dozens of programs that answer various questions about the process of transitioning physically and socially, dating and much more. Keith said that all of those events and more will be accessible online this year.
“In the past, we would not have been able to fly in a surgeon from Texas or California, but we have four really amazing surgeons who will speak at different times in the month, which will be great for parents or even young adults or anyone looking to have some sort of gender affirmation surgery,” Keith said. “And because October is LGBT History Month, throughout the month we’re going to be sharing some trivia and fun facts that relate to LGBT history. We’re going to recognize International Pronoun Day, and there will be a special session on pronouns that’s led by some folks from OutFront Kalamazoo.”
This year’s event will kick off with Owen Bondono, Michigan’s Teacher of the Year who is an openly trans man, on Oct. 1. That event will be followed by a variety of programming on dating and safety, entertainment and more. And Keith said that this only scratches the surface of what SWT’s October programming will provide, emphasizing that anyone looking to be a better ally to transgender people can benefit from the events, too.
“This is really for everyone. Even if you’re not transgender, you’re going to get educated and you can be a better ally. If you’re a parent or caregiver or somebody who works with youth — like a mental health professional or a doctor, medical professional, teacher, school administrator — you can learn from these sessions,” she said. “We want people to come and get educated.”
While this year’s theme is “Be You,” it’s arguable that accessibility is also. Keith said that all of the information provided is intended to reach as many people as possible, so youth are free to attend. Currently, there is ongoing early bird pricing for people who register by Sept. 15, and if for any reason potential attendees are unable to pay the registration fee, a subsidy for the event can be arranged.
“We always believed that the more information that we can put out there the stronger the allyship will be because people will better understand. And this is really so unique; it’s never been done before,” Keith said. “It’s really important to give people access. It would not be easy to get a consult with Dr. Bowers, or with Dr. Santucci, or Dr. Wilkins at U of M. … But here’s an opportunity to get on this and ask your questions and hear about the procedure and talk about recovery. … All you have to do is register.”