It’s been a busy month at Hagerstown Hopes! Our center (the Hub) is now offering free HIV testing courtesy of the Washington County Health Department, we had our first open meeting at the Hub, a Night Out, and during all that, we were working behind the scenes to rally the local LGBTQ community in support of V-Day.

V-Day is a global movement to end violence against women and girls and is held annually in the month of February. V-Day is popular on college campuses and centers around a student and community production of Eve Ensler’s award-winning play The Vagina Monologues. This year Shepherd University presented an inclusive production, meaning that trans, non-binary, and gender-expansive women were part of the cast. Chris Thatcher (she /her / hers) gave a moving and heartfelt performance of “They Beat the Girl Out of My Boy,” a monologue written from interviews Ensler conducted with trans women.

If you’ve been following us on Facebook, you may have seen our posts about our involvement with V-Day. When we were asked to spread the word about Shepherd’s inclusive production, directed by Anne Lewin and Gabrielle Tokach, it was right after the Supreme Court’s decision to enact the transgender military ban. This was a difficult time and we were looking for ways to support the trans community, so we asked Lewin (the university’s Title IX coordinator) if we could create a V-Day event to educate the community about the issues affecting the trans, non-binary, and gender-expansive community.

Lewin said yes, and we set to work. Boardmember Brian George Hose, a social worker, took the lead and reached out to local LGBTQ organizations and community members, asking what they thought was important for the wider community to know. Everyone contacted contributed and supported what became “Let’s Talk About Sex (and Gender),” a facilitated discussion with a screening of Eve Ensler’s TED talk “Embrace Your Inner Girl.”

Members of the cast joined us at Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church on Sunday, February 17th to discuss a wide variety of topics. Chris Thatcher talked about her performance and how, though it wasn’t her story she was telling, she felt connected to those whose experience was reflected in the monologue. Madi Welder (he / him / his) also discussed his experiences as a trans man, later saying that events like this are crucial to the transgender community in order to raise awareness, understanding, and to gain support from the cisgender community who play a vital role in advocating and fighting for trans rights and fair policies.

As part of our outreach, everyone who attended The Vagina Monologues was given an info packet containing information about the transgender community, along with helpful resources. Dozens of packets were distributed and there is interest in continuing our outreach with a series of trans-specific discussions and educational events.

It was wonderful to see the LGBTQ community come together to support and celebrate V-Day. Joe Merceruio, newly-elected president of Eastern Panhandle Pride, helped gather resources; Lily Amara Pastor of Trans Healthcare MD gave feedback on materials; the cast shared valuable insights and opinions; Paisley Grahl and Asher Kennedy of Hagerstown Hopes helped with outreach and guidance; and Brian Hose facilitated the discussion. Ethel Hornbeck, Director of Spiritual Formation and Campus Ministry at Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church, and longtime dedicated LGBTQ ally on the national board of More Light Presbyterians, made arrangements to host the event and is working to establish Eastern Panhandle Youth Alliance, a secular group for LGBTQ youth.

We’d also like to thank Maria’s Taqueria and Dickinson & Wait Craft Company, both of Shepherdstown, for donating $50 gift certificates for our free raffle.

“Let’s Talk About Sex (and Gender)” was presented by Hagerstown Hopes, Eastern Panhandle Pride, Shepherd University, Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church, the Eastern Panhandle Empowerment Center (the beneficiary of this year’s V-Day celebration), and members of the local LGBTQ community. Please contact us to be involved in future events.

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