Virtual event series for Trans Empowerment Month aims to support transgender youth

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Each October, a locally based transgender support organization Stand With Trans hosts a workshop for the community's youth as part of Trans Empowerment Month and LGBT History Month. 

Naturally, things are different this year and instead of a one-day, in-person event for young people, Stand With Trans is hosting a month-long series of virtual events and workshops not just for teens, but their parents, teachers and anyone who wants to be an ally to the community. 

This year's Trans Empowerment Month theme is "Be YOU."

"Normally, we do a one-day, in-person workshop for trans youth and parents, and this year obviously we couldn’t do that," said Roz Gould Keith, executive director of Stand With Trans, a locally based nonprofit. "It’s giving access to people who couldn’t make the drive, people from other states, youth who maybe aren’t able to have this conversation with their parents, but they can get on and attend a session and it doesn’t cost the kids anything. We’ll reach people that we’ve never been able to reach before, so that’s pretty cool."

Keith says that while it's free for young people, the cost is still a value for adults at $50 for a month's worth of programming. 

"We have over 40 sessions and over 50 presenters and with one registration you can access every session," she said. 

Michigan Teacher of the Year Owen Bondono is kicking off the speaker series for Transgender Empowerment Month's virtual event

With a theme of "Be YOU," events kick off Oct. 1 with a keynote speech by the current Michigan Teacher of the Year Owen Bondono. An English teacher at Oak Park High School 9th Grade Learning Community, Bondono will discuss what it means to be an out queer educator and how everyone can take everyday actions to make the world safer for the young trans community. 

"We’re pretty excited about having him," said Keith. "He’s just such an amazing role model because I know there are kids out there who are thinking, oh, I could never be a teacher because I’m trans, or I can’t imagine myself having a career because I’m trans."

In addition to trans youth safety and empowerment, the dozens of events, seminars and workshops will cover topics like trans wellness, allyship, entertainment, education and understanding gender expression.

Psychotherapist Dale Rogalski, MA will give online trans dating safety tips and more in a talk on Oct. 8 as part of Trans Empowerment Month.

In addition to Bondono, speakers include Lynae DePriest, a Black, queer, non-binary poet, actor, comedian, host  and producer and Dale Rogalski, owner of mental health facility Inner Peace Behavioral Health and a board certified Transgender Care Therapist. 

Keith — who is also the founder of Ally Parents, a national network of parents who are trained to support trans youth  — says the schedule includes local personalities like yoga instructor Robyn Childers, who will lead a virtual class, as well as nationally known speakers like Kristin Beck, a retired United States Navy SEAL and a transgender woman. 

"She did something like 20 tours of duty and ultimately lost her job because of being trans," said Keith. Beck, author of the memoir "Warrior Princess: A U.S. Navy SEAL's Journey to Coming out Transgender," will speak at 6 p.m. Oct. 14. 

Stand With Trans' Trans Empowerment Month events also includes a series of talks from the medical community, including conversations about hormones, facial feminization surgery, phalloplasty and navigating insurance. 

For parents and caregivers of those in the transgender community, experts will discuss the importance of being supportive, understanding gender expression and other workshops for adults.

Twitter: @melodybaetens

Stand with Trans

Trans Empowerment Month

Oct. 1-30

Free for 25 and younger; $50 for older than 25