Connecticut Transgender Conference: Health, Law and the Transgender Community

Tony Ferraiolo and Dru Levasseur presenting a workshop  Photo: Glenn Koetzner

Tony Ferraiolo and Dru Levasseur presenting a workshop
Photo: Glenn Koetzner

By: Ashley Mark/TRT Reporter–

FARMINGTON, Conn. –Transgender individuals face complex challenges within the health care and legal systems, but a leading conference in Connecticut is held to specifically address these issues and facilitate movement through these realms.

The Connecticut TransAdvocacy Coalition is hosting its seventh annual Transgender Lives Conference on April 27 at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington, CT. The theme of the conference is “The Intersection of Health and Law” and will focus on the transgender and gender non-conforming perspective of the healthcare and legal systems.

“The everyday lives of transgender individuals are made more difficult by a complicated system of healthcare and laws, creating confusion and constant vigilance to protect homes, families and jobs,” explained Diana Lombardi, a conference coordinator at the CT TransAdvocacy Coalition.

According to Lombardi, the conference’s goal is to help transgender people navigate these systems effectively, focusing on health care, legal protection and documentation, employment, education and family. In the seven years since its inception, the conference has expanded to include keynote speakers and more diverse presenters.

“Additionally the conference has drawn a much larger diversity in age, race, ethnicity, sexuality and gender,” Lombardi said. “Over the years, youth and family issues have grown in importance and engagement at the conference.”

This year’s conference will include dozens of workshops that address health care rights, discrimination, documentation for transitioning individuals, transitioning and employment, family dynamics and protecting transgender children.

Emilia Dunham, study coordinator at The Fenway Institute, is presenting a conference workshop with her fellow LifeSkills team members that focuses on the LifeSkills Project, an HIV study for young transgender women.

“We hope to lead a practical discussion on ways to connect with traditionally underserved populations within the transgender community, including young trans women, trans people of color and low-income folks,” Dunham explained. “We hope this workshop will lead to practical conversations that we can all take home around how we can best serve all members of our community.”

Dru Levasseur, Transgender Rights Attorney with Lambda Legal, has participated in several of the previous Transgender Lives conferences and is presenting a workshop about the impact of discrimination on transgender health.

“The workshop will explore the intersections of discrimination, law and health and the devastating effects that can result when an already vulnerable community is subjected to widespread discrimination,” Levasseur explained.

Levasseur is impressed with the growth and reach of the conference, citing it as one of the leading transgender conferences in the country.

“They started by tapping into the expertise at home, in Connecticut, then built it from there,” he said. “The conference now attracts national attention from experts in the legal and health field, as well as transgender community members, families, allies and cutting-edge activists.”

While the conference is geared toward the transgender and gender non-conforming community, service providers and allies, anyone with an interest in the health and law issues of the community is encouraged to attend.

“We are open to all, provided they adhere to our basic tenets of confidentiality and affirmation,” Lombardi stated. The conference also qualifies as Continuing Education Credits for the National Association of Social Workers and Certified Health Education Specialists, according to Lombardi.

“This year’s keynote speaker will be Mara Kiesling, a nationally recognized trans advocate from the National Center for Transgender Equality,” Lombardi added about the conference highlights. “We will also have a ‘hang out’ lounge where attendees can network, exchange ideas and engage in conversations related to the conference.”

Dunham attended the conference last year, as a representative of the LifeSkills team and Fenway Health, and said it is a great opportunity to meet likeminded people with similar community goals.

“This conference provides a fantastic avenue to make meaningful connections with individuals from all different backgrounds, to share resources and connect in ways that will improve the health and wellbeing of the transgender community,” she said.

According to the CT TransAdvocacy Coalition website, the conference seeks to redefine the relationships of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.

“This conference is about our community redefining our interaction with the systems that have written our history. It is Connecticut’s trans community organizing around our shared experiences to erase the invisibility that has disempowered us for so long,” Lombardi said.

The conference is open to anyone interested in attending. For more information or to register, visit the CT TransAdvocacy Coalition website at

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