Aurora Higgs (she/her) is a Black, queer activist who uses performance as her means of storytelling. Aurora has worked in the space of social justice in Richmond for over a decade and hopes to make her community a place that fosters empowerment for those who rarely get it. Currently, Aurora is obtaining her doctorate in media studies, with a concentration on queer representation.
Caden Haney (he/him) grew up in Ruckersville, VA but now lives in Richmond where he attends Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). He is active in his community and helps facilitate meetings of “Transforming, Empowered, Aspiring, Men,” also known as T.E.A.M. This social support group provides community engagement, emotional support, and social opportunities for men of trans experience throughout Virginia. He is also a passionate advocate for the transgender community, especially Black and brown young people.
Dexter Davis (he/him) is a proud Black transgender man who is actively involved in uplifting his communities. His passion led him to become a facilitator for multiple transgender support groups including Transcending Empowered Aspiring Men (T.E.A.M), a support group at Nationz Foundation for men of trans experience, and founding The Men in Transition, a non profit social support organization dedicated to serving the unique needs of transgender men and transmasculine people within Hampton Roads, in Virginia. He is a dedicated member of the Alpha Colony of Alpha Omega Kappa Fraternity, Inc. (AQK), which is a non-collegiate greek lettered organization for men of trans experience focused on fellowship, service, and leadership. He is also member of Equality Virginia’s Transgender Advocacy Speakers Bureau.
Dominique Morgan (she/her) is an award-winning artist, activist, and TEDx speaker. As the Executive Director of Black and Pink, the largest prison abolitionist organization in the United States. She works daily to dismantle the systems that perpetuate violence on LGBTQ/GNC people and individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Partnering her lived experience of being impacted by mass incarceration (including 18 months in solitary confinement), with a decade of change-making artistry, advocacy, and background in public health, she continues to work in spaces of sex education, radical self-care, and transformative youth development with intentions of dismantling the prison industrial complex and its impact on our communities. Ms. Morgan is a 2020 Ten Outstanding Young Americans Award recipient, NAACP Freedom Fighter Award recipient, and 2020 JM Kaplan Innovation Prize recipient. She is currently completing her capstone project for studies in the Georgetown University – System Involved LGBTQ Youth Scholar Program.
E. Lee Dyer, IV (he/him) works as the Associate Director of LGBTQ Campus Life at the University of Richmond’s office of Common Ground, centering social justice, equity, and LGBTQIA inclusion. He holds Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Dillard University and Master’s in Public Administration from North Carolina Central University. Lee is responsible for LGBTQ program and policy creation and implementation at U of R, as well as creating safe spaces of community for the university’s LGBTQIA community. Outside of U of R, Lee serves as an Executive Board Member for Side by Side, a non-profit dedicated to providing safe spaces and services to LGBTQ youth of Richmond. He is a proud member of Alpha Omega Kappa Fraternity Incorporated, a fraternal organization for men of trans experience. Prior to Richmond, Mr. Dyer was the Program Coordinator for the University of Cincinnati’s LGBTQ Center. He also served as the Vice President of Community Accountability for the Midwest Institute for Sexuality and Gender Diversity (MSGD). As a native of New Orleans and son of an incarcerated parent, he works with nonprofits in New Orleans in an effort to reduce the recidivism rate of Black men in Louisiana. Mr. Dyer strives to create opportunities to enrich the lives of people with marginalized identities.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy (she/her) is a Black, transgender activist who has spent five decades working to create a better world for her chosen family of trans and gender nonconforming people. Nicknamed the “grandmother of the trans revolution” by her trans daughter Janet Mock, Miss Major is a veteran of the infamous Stonewall Riots, a former sex worker, and a survivor of New York’s Dannemora Prison and the infamous Bellevue asylum. Miss Major’s fierce commitment and intersectional approach to justice brought her to work as a caretaker for people during the earliest years of the HIV/AIDS crisis; to go back into prisons as a mentor, to support trans and gender nonconforming people targeted by the US prison system; and most recently to form House of GG in Little Rock, Arkansas – a retreat center and leadership program for Black trans and gender nonconforming activists in the South. Other upcoming creative projects include executive producing the film Trans in Trumpland (coming to streaming platforms in fall 2020), and a collaborative book about her activism written with her assistant Toshio (out summer 2021 on Verso Books).
Nathaniel Preston (he/him) grew up in Martinsville, Virginia but now lives in Roanoke. He works as a case manager for a national auto supply chain to help people with leaves of absence. He is also active in his community, which includes gearing up to start an LGBT chamber of commerce for the Roanoke area with his wife and being a member of Equality Virginia’s Transgender Advocacy Speakers Bureau. He also has three children in their teenage and early adulthood years, as well as three dogs! In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with family, cooking, reading, and playing video games.
Sara Simone (she/her) grew up in Eastern Pennsylvania but now lives in Northern Virginia. She is a case manager working with homeless veterans of the U.S. Military. In her spare time, she enjoys poetry, writing, and hiking. She is involved with several local LGBT organizations in her area and a founding member of Equality Virginia’s Transgender Advocacy Speakers Bureau.
Presenters & Facilitators
Ali Moros Taylor (they/them) is a 19 year old transgender youth activist that has worked closely with Side by Side since they came out at 14. Ali has recently become a college student and an avid birdwatcher. They live at home with their parents, sister, and three dogs.
Amber Beichler (she/her) has been co-facilitating a teens & tweens group for almost two years as part of the Transgender Education Association (TGEA). She is also active in local politics, and is currently the chair of the Fairfax County Democrats LGBTQ+ Committee. In her free time, she is an avid Dungeons & Dragons player and enjoying time with her family, especially her young niece and nephews.
Antiona Bowman (she/her), who goes by Tiona, is the Transgender Services Coordinator and the lead CLEAR! Intervention facilitating counselor for IBWC’s (International Black Women’s Congress), E.P.I.C. Program, a local CBO located in the city of Norfolk, VA. Along with her responsibilities she also helps within various programs such as rapid HIV Testing and Prevention Counseling and Community Health Service Navigation. As a young transwoman of color transitioning in the Hampton Roads area in the turn of the century 1998/99, Tiona experienced trans life of color in the Norfolk area firsthand. Tiona used her experiences to advocate against the stigma and for the inclusion of transwomen of color to ensure equal equality within the trans community, in her belief that true equality for transwomen is the realistic understanding of the challenges faced by transwomen and the inclusion of all aspects of trans life, good or bad.
Armand Carnelian Fortin (he/they) is on the Transgender Assistance Program of Virginia’s board of directors, and they currently serve as Director of Volunteers. In addition to their dedication to helping the transgender homeless community, Armand advocates for trans POC visibility, and they are passionate about promoting trans POC artists. In 2019, Armand joined Equality Virginia’s Transgender Speakers Bureau. Armand is a musician and bird enthusiast, and he currently resides in Norfolk, Virginia.
Bary Hausrath (he/him) is a Virginia-licensed attorney in private practice. He also volunteers as the supervising attorney for the Virginia Equality Bar Association’s Name and Gender Marker Change Clinic, which has helped hundreds of trans and gender nonconforming individuals obtain appropriate identification documents.
Bianca Humady Rey (she/her) was born in the Philippines and now lives in Springfield, Virginia. She works as an Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Specialist and is also the chair of Capital Trans Pride. In her spare time, Bianca enjoys hiking, dancing, yoga, singing, and spending time with her family.
Bryan Price (he/him) is an Outreach and Engagement Specialist with the University of Virginia Cancer Center and the Cancer Center without Walls, where he is responsible for initiatives related to cancer and obesity across Southside Virginia. A native of Danville, Virginia, he currently resides in South Boston, Virginia, with his husband, Craig. He is a founding member of the Danville After Hours Rotary Club and Middle Border Forward and a board member of the Dan River Region Health Collaborative, the Regional Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention, the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth Southwest Advisory Board, the Virginia Rural Health Association, Equality Virginia and the Virginia Department of Health’s Community HIV Planning Group. He is also a graduate of the 2018 Class of LEAD Virginia.
Charley Burton (he/him) is a native of Charlottesville VA. He is currently one of the founding board members of Black Transmen Inc, board member of the following organizations. Diversity In Recovery, CVille Pride, Common Ground Healing Healing Arts, and PFLAG of the Blue Ridge. Charley transitioned later in life at the age of 50. He firmly believes in service and giving back what has been freely given to him. He just recently celebrated 14 years of living clean and sober.
Circe Strauss (she/her) is from San Diego, California and now lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. She facilitates the CVille Trans Peer Group and is involved in her local PFLAG chapter. Additionally, she is a member of Equality Virginia’s Transgender Advocacy Speakers Bureau (TASB). In her spare time, Circe enjoys running and light-based art. She is a Unitarian Universalist, and has two daughters.
De Sube (she/her) has been a transgender advocate and activist for 25 years. She is happily retired, which gives her ample to time to follow her passion – the transgender community. She founded the Gender Expression Movement support group almost 16 years ago and is one of the founding members of the Transgender Assistance Program of Virginia where she currently serves as Chairperson, Director of Client Services & Treasurer
Deborah Dunn, PAC, MBA (she/her) is a family practice physician assistant and the Trans Health Coordinator of the LGBT Resource Center for Chase Brexton Health Care. In her position at Chase Brexton, Dunn provides leadership and coordination of care for 4000 transgender-identified patients, establishes best practices for medical transgender care, trains other medical providers, provides consultation to external organizations on transgender-related issues including employee transition, engages in advocacy at the state level, and identifies research and funding opportunities related to transgender care. She has presented at numerous national conferences, engaged in strategic planning with several nonprofit organizations, and volunteered throughout the local community.
DeHaven or Helen Mays (they/them) is an educator who has worked with LGBTQ+ youth for the last four years. They earned two master’s degrees: one in sociology and the other in education. DeHaven works at Side by Side facilitating middle school and transgender groups and is also the head of the school program. In this work, DeHaven works with schools to establish Gender Sexuality Alliances, offer training to school staff, and be an ongoing resource. DeHaven is passionate about providing visibility for LGBTQ+ youth so the youth can be their full selves in all areas of their lives.
Delegate Danica Roem (she/her) (D-13) represents the 13th district in the Virginia House of Delegates, which includes Manassas Park and parts of Prince William County where she grew up. She has a decade of experience in journalism and covering local politics and was formerly a vocalist for a metal band. After winning a historic election in 2017 to become the first out-and-seated transgender state legislator in American history, Del. Roem joined a bipartisan coalition of state lawmakers in 2018 to expand Medicaid to 400,000 uninsured Virginians and raise teacher pay throughout the commonwealth. She also helped bring the first commuter bus line to the western part of her district and worked with the Virginia Department of Transportation to secure a Route 28 Corridor Improvement Study for her district in 2019. Now serving her second term, Del. Roem continues to prioritize fixing Route 28, expanding access to quality, affordable health insurance, increasing government accountability and making Virginia a more inclusive commonwealth.
Dr. Elyse Pine, MD (she/her) is a board-certified pediatric endocrinologist and Trans Youth Lead Physician of the Gender JOY program at Chase Brexton Health Care in Maryland, which serves over 1800 transgender and gender diverse youth ages 4-26. Dr. Pine began working with gender variant children and adolescents while serving as an assistant professor at University of Maryland Medical Center in 2011. She has published research and clinical articles related to transgender care and lectures frequently.
Gia Martinez (she/her) is a trans coordinator and health educator at NovaSalud, a nonprofit that provides HIV testing and prevention education programs in Northern Virginia, where she also leads the TSISTA (Transgender Sisters Informing Sisters About Topics on AIDS) program. She has extensive experience working with Latina transgender women and is highly skilled at facilitating group interventions with them. She received a community leadership award in 2014 for her advocacy for transgender Latina equality. She also serves on the Community HIV Planning Group for the Virginia Department of Health, which guides prevention and care services and is a trans navigator for PEP and PrEP.
Jay Corprew (he/him) is an active board member of the Transgender Assistance Program of Virginia (TAP VA). He works diligently within the transgender community and within the LGBTQ community of Hampton Roads as the head facilitator for The Queer and Trans People of Color group at the LGBT Life Center in Norfolk. Jay is a fine artist, muralist, and poet who uses his art to heal, inspire, and educate. He’s also an herbalist who works from home, selling custom herbal teas. He resides in Virginia Beach with his wife who also is a poet, writer, and editor. Follow Jay on Instagram: @Masterofteas.
JL Pressley (he/him) was born in Richmond, VA and raised in the DC/MD area. He is the proud Father of 6 grown children, one of whom is deceased. He is a Grandfather, a Great Grandfather and now a Super Proud Great-Great Grandfather. JL is a recent Honors graduate of Ashworth College – Travel Agent in which he now owns DiVyne Destinations. He is currently back at Ashworth College studying Medical Billing and Coding to further enhance his employment skills at his current job. JL was a Radio Announcer for over 20 years in the DC area and NYC. He was also on the founding Board of DC Black Gay Pride, now known as The Black Pride Federation. JL is one of the Founding Line members of Alpha Omega Kappa Fraternity, Inc pledging in the Winter of 2012. He has served as the National Executive Director and is now the current standing Supreme President. With Alpha Omega Kappa Fraternity, Inc he has volunteered with Habitat Homes for Humanity, ALS Walks, has spoken to students at VCU thanks to Dr. Lisa Griffin and volunteers faithfully with the JPJumpers for Autism with the Spring walks and the Christmas pageant/gifts giveaway. He also helped coordinate “Feed the City” along with the VA members of Tau Kappa Phi, Inc. JL is currently a Deacon serving in his church. His passion is serving in outreach to those that have no address. Through this outreach, he passes out “Bags of Blessings” He is not afraid to reach out to all people. And lastly, JL loves to sing, loves adopting other people’s family members as his own and having fun. Mantra – “My the work I have done, speak for me. I came into this world laughing, I want to leave the same way, laughing and making someone else laugh.”
John Taylor (he/him) is an active member of the Greater Richmond community where the primary focus of his work has been on racial equity and reconciliation initiatives, as well as facilitated community dialogues and board service. He is currently serving on the board of the Richmond Peace Education Center, Project Yoga Richmond; and, he is currently on the faculty and board for The Innerwork Center where he teaches and facilitates Mindfulness programs. John has also been a food security activist who initiated urban farming programs in Newark, New Jersey. Currently, John serves as the Associate Director of Side by Side, an organization that provides supportive communities for Virginia’s LGBTQ+ youth as well as training, education, and awareness programs for adults. John is a graduate of the College of Wooster and lives in North Chesterfield, VA with his partner, three children, and three small, but mighty, dogs.
Jordin Cotman (she/her) grew up in Charles City, Virginia and now lives in Richmond. She is a mental health counselor, a life coach, and a podcaster. In her free time, she enjoys relaxing my the water, traveling to different cities and countries, listening to podcasts and vlogs, and listening to music, especially Lil’Kim and Beyoncé.
Dr. Keelee MacPhee, M.D. (she/her) is a highly skilled transgender surgeon and cosmetic plastic surgeon who has been in practice for over a decade. With a focus on breast surgery, genital reconstruction, cosmetic enhancements and general cosmetic surgery, she is passionate about helping her patients become more confident and comfortable with their bodies. Her goal always is to provide clinical excellence, while achieving beautiful, natural results. She performs surgery primarily at Duke Regional Hospital, part of the Duke University Health System. She did her medical studies at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and her residency in the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and Surgery of the Hand at UNC. She also did a residency in the Division of Plastic Surgery and the Department of General Surgery at the University of Florida. In 2005, Dr. MacPhee returned to North Carolina to open her own practice. She is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Kelly Royster (he/him) is a Network & Cyber Operations professional, social justice advocate, educator, and community organizer from Halifax, Virginia. He is a philanthropist and the founder of “Transforming, Empowered, Aspiring, Men,” also known as T.E.A.M. The social support group, T.E.A.M, provides community engagement, emotional support, and social opportunities for men of trans experience throughout Virginia. Kelly is also a dedicated volunteer and group leader at, Nationz Foundation, the city’s leading non-profit addressing adversities of transgender people of color in Richmond; and has often facilitated for Kaleidoscope, a trans student support group featured at University of Richmond. In his professional life, Kelly is part of the Capital One corporate team, where he enjoys mentoring through the Coders program and doing his part to ensure production operations run smoothly and efficiently. He has been featured on numerous community panel discussions on equality throughout Richmond and served as a public relations officer for Toastmasters. Kelly enjoys spending time with family, working out, doing his part to build a more inclusive world, and investigating cyber breaches and cloud architectures.
Levi Walter (they/them) is the administrator for VCU’s Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies and a member of Side by Side’s Youth Programs and Services committee. They formerly co-facilitated a non-binary and gender questioning support group housed at Nationz Foundation with their partner, Justina Hall. Levi is interested in baking, playing phone games, and discussing gender [performance] from the Black perspective.
Miguel Rivera (he/him) is a practicing attorney who received his Juris Doctorate degree from the James E. Beasley School of Law at Temple University in 1996. He appears regularly before the United States Department of Homeland Security, the United States Immigration Court, the Board of Immigration Appeals, and various federal appellate courts in order to assist immigrants in securing their legal rights. In 2002, Attorney Rivera founded The Law Offices of Miguel Rivera, PLLC, where he represents investors, business owners, families, heterosexual couples, and members of the LGBTQ community who desire to live and work in the United States.
Nicole Tortoriello (she/her) joined the ACLU of Virginia as the Secular Society Women’s Rights Advocacy Counsel in 2018. She focuses on advancing gender equity throughout the Commonwealth through litigation and advocacy.
Noah E. Lewis, Esq. (he/him) is director of the Trans Health Project at Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund where his work focuses on eliminating barriers to insurance coverage for trans-related health care. Previously Noah served for five years as TLDEF’s Staff Attorney and worked for three years as the executive director of Transcend Legal, an organization he founded to focus on challenging trans health exclusions. In 2005, Noah was the first openly transgender student to graduate from Harvard Law School, where he worked to eliminate trans health exclusions in student and staff health plans.
Raymond Eck (he/him) is originally from Newport, Rhode Island but has lived most of his life in Manassas, Virginia. He is a local small business owner and graduated in 2019 from George Mason University with a Masters in Education with a focus in Counseling and Development. In his spare time, he enjoys playing video games and board games and is proud to be the owner of three dogs.
Sarah Charbonneau (she/her) is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice at Pride Inside in Carytown and Discovery Counseling and Consulting in the west end of Richmond, Virginia with over 15 years of clinical experience in the field of adult mental health, sexuality, gender and sexual identity issues. Sarah is a WPATH GEI Certified Gender Specialist with over 9 years of clinical experience providing transgender and gender expansive individuals a safe and supportive space to explore, honor, and pursue their personal truth and identity. Sarah also provides clinical consultation and provider workshops on issues relevant to working with LGBTQ+, transgender and gender expansive individuals in an effort to increase awareness, enhance clinical knowledge, and improve access to inclusive, affirmative care in Virginia. Sarah is a certified member of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), the Transgender Healthcare Alliance of Central Virginia, and the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom.
Sarah Hustead (they/them) is a community activist and non-profit professional who has been on the Board of Directors of the Transgender Assistance Program of VA since July 2018. They currently serve as Director of Development and work on grants, fundraisers, and community partnerships. Sarah holds a B.S. in Political Science from Old Dominion University and is passionate about LGBTQIA+ equality, youth development, and harm reduction. In addition to their work at TAP VA, Sarah works for a local youth non-profit in Hampton Roads doing community engagement & volunteer management work.
Shannon McKay (she/her) is President and co-founder of He She Ze and We, a support organization serving families with transgender and nonbinary loved ones of all ages since 2012. Shannon is an ally, advocate, parent, educator, and speaker with a decade of experience working directly with families throughout Virginia. Shannon was recognized by Equality Virginia as a 2016 Outstanding Virginian and Side by Side named He She Ze and We a 2019 Catalyst Award Winner. For more information about HSZW, check out their website: heshezewe.org and if you are interested in support and resources email: [email protected]
Tarena D. Williams (she/her), 35, is a trans woman of color from Norfolk, Virginia. She has overcome a lot of obstacles in the past few years including almost losing her life due to an act of violence. She is now an advocate for the transgender community speaking out for those of us who do not have a voice. Tarena felt there was a need for a transgender resource center in the state of Virginia which she established in July 2018.
Ted Heck (any pronouns) has a B.A. in Psychology from The American University and an M.S. in Criminal Justice from California State University at Sacramento, where he wrote his thesis on prevention services and services for victims of hate crimes against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. He works at the Virginia Department of Health in the Division of Disease Prevention, for which he serves as the Transgender Health Services Coordinator. He has been facilitating groups of one kind or another since the mid ‘80s, and often facilitates the Richmond Transformers FTM support group as a peer member. Ted is a member of Richmond Friends Meeting where he is active with local and regional Quaker organizations, and he lives with his partner and two cats in the Blackwell neighborhood of Richmond.
Tierra Ragland (she/her) serves as the Deputy Director of the Virginia Civic Engagement Table (VCET). She manages the programmatic work of VCET and leads their leadership development program: the Virginia Progressive Leadership Project.
Zakia (Jemaceye’) McKensey (she/her) is a native of Richmond, VA who has worked tirelessly to advocate for the transgender community and those affected or effected by HIV/AIDS. Zakia started her career in HIV prevention in 2001 with Fan Free Clinic, now Health Brigade, where she was the MSM coordinator and helped pioneer their transgender clinic. She later served as the first transgender woman of color to work for the Richmond City health District, and as the Transgender Community Advocate at the Virginia Anti-Violence Project. Zakia is the Executive Director and Founder of Nationz Foundation. Nationz Foundation is a nonprofit 501c(3) organization founded in October of 2015. Nationz provides free HIV testing at their office and via 2 mobile units. They also offer linkage to care services and a food pantry to assist those clients in need or who are experiencing hardships in life, including emergency housing assistance as well as transportation for support services. She is also the C.E.O. of Nationz Pageantry System, a pageantry system for male entertainers and female impersonators to showcase their talents as well as erase stigma related to HIV and promote healthier lifestyle changes through entertainment and fashion.