Watch our full interview with organizer Dexter Davis above.
NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A series of events this weekend, highlighted by “Virginia’s first trans-themed ball,” will celebrate the culture of the transgender community in Hampton Roads and beyond.
The inaugural “Be True To You Weekend” runs from Friday, March 24 to Sunday, March 26, ahead of Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31.
“So this weekend also gets to highlight the power of our trans community,” said Dexter Davis, a Virginia Beach native and organizer of the event. It’s being sponsored by MSM and Trans Lives Matter and the National Transgender Sports Association.
Davis is also partnering with several other organizations over the weekend, including the LGBT Life Center and Empowering Transgender Services Inc. to provide a “one-stop shop” of aid to the trans community for everything from housing to transportation.
Other resources include a member of the trans community who provides gender affirming hormones through ResolveMD in Maryland.
“There’s a severe need for hormone replacement therapy (HRT), gender affirming care, legal assistance, things like that,” said Davis, a trans man who transitioned in the spring of 2013.
Davis’ personal group, The Men in Transition, will have a table at the event as well, in addition to Norfolk State University’s Spectrum and ODU’s Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA).
“We wanted to make sure students can come and see that this is their community,” Davis said.
Davis is also the president of the Virginia Beach-based National Transgender Sports Association, which has the goal of highlighting ballroom dancing as a trans sport and “making connections with other LGBT and even straight organizations to provide space for transgender athletes.”
“One of our big missions is to not only highlight ballroom as a sport, but to bring it to an elevation where it is recognized for its athletic prowess and bravado.”
Davis says it’s especially important “given the political climate of more laws coming out to restrict transgender youth, even adults, in playing in certain sports, or the sports of their gender designation vs. their gender lived experience” and gives the trans community “a place where our records matter,” Davis says.
Ballroom, and making it more inclusive for everyone, will be a big part of the weekend’s main event, the Trans Ball on Saturday. It’ll be “Virginia’s first trans-themed ball,” with about 500-600 people slated to attend (more on that below).
While he does hope the events are educational, Davis says the overall purpose of the weekend “is to highlight the importance of honoring rest and recharging spaces.”
“There’s stigma: we need to highlight the inequities and injustices. If the only time we get together is to highlight the hurt in the community, at what point do we get to celebrate our lived experiences? … we are highlighting our culture and being able to share this shared experience with our allies, our friends.”
“It’s our first year so we’re building it, it’s building fast so I’m excited,” said Davis, who’s planning similar events in Birmingham, Alabama, and Memphis, Tennessee, as well as Las Vegas and Atlantic City.
“Take a chance, come on out, there’s a little bit of something for everybody. We want you, and in a day and age when sometimes it’s really hard to be yourself … your are wanted, you are worthy and you are loved and sometimes our community needs to here that.”
Here’s the full lineup of events for the weekend:
Cookout in Hampton
The events kick off on Friday with a “cookout kickoff” at the Empowering Transgender Services Inc. health clinic in Hampton.
“If you’re a trans person you can come through and get a free haircut, or free braids, just bring your own hair,” Davis said.
There will also be free food for everyone who shows up to check out the space, “especially on those who live on the Peninsula, because there are resources for [the trans community on the Peninsula,” Dexter said.
“This is Us” Community Day in Norfolk
This all ages event in partnership with the LGBT Life Center will held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Norfolk Indoor Sports at 202 W. 22nd Street.
“This is going to be what I call ‘Pride Inside,'” Davis said. There will be tables with resources and a netted section to play yard games such as cornhole, dodgeball, football and more.
“The best part is it’s netted so you’re not going to get hit,” Davis joked.
Drag bunch in Portsmouth
The “Supreme Invasion Brunch” will go from about noon to 3 p.m. at The Book Club at 620 High Street in Portsmouth, hosted by J. Smith Entertainment. Davis says he’s performing at this show.
Trans Ball in Portsmouth
“We are so excited, it’s Virginia’s first trans-themed ball,” Davis says about the main event of the weekend.
They’re expected a crowd of anywhere from 500-600 people. Admission costs $30 and the event goes from about 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. at Portsmouth’s Tower Auditorium at 4040 Missy Elliott Blvd.
“We have called people who’ve laid the groundwork all the way to new folks to come out and show what they got,” Davis says. There will be $12,000 in cash prizes for 28 different categories around the theme of “bring it in trans flag colors,” Davis says.
“It’s going to be a genuine melting pot of experience,” with allies and members of the community.
The afterparty will then be held at Horace Hookah Lounge at 814 High Street. It’ll stay open later, until 5 a.m., and serve as a safe place for the community to go, Davis says.
You can RSVP for the ball here.
“Beauty from Ashes” Drag Bunch in Portsmouth
This event sponsored by the Da Cannaholics will have a variety of trans entertainers, Davis says. It’ll be from about noon to 3 p.m. at the The Niche Venue at 3981 Twin Pines Road in Portsmouth.
Mr./Ms./Mx N.T.S.A Crowning Ceremony in Norfolk
This event will held in coordination with karaoke night at 37th & Zen in Norfolk (starting at 7:30 p.m.) Davis says they will crown “three lovely folks from community who all represent different identities, everything from members of the leather community, to the drag community, to social work and advocacy community, and we will be giving them their roses.”
You can learn more about all the events and reach out to organizers on the Be True to You Weekend Facebook page.