Rhode Island’s transgender community members, families and allies will gather Saturday at the Contemporary Theater Amphitheater in South Kingston to celebrate a “Trans Day of Joy.”

The outdoor event, organized by LGBTQ Action RI, will feature speakers, information about local organizations, available resources for individuals and families, and actions to take in support of transgender equality in the state.

The event starts off the annual Transgender Awareness Week, a week each year designated to uplifting resilience, love and acceptance among and in support of transgender community members.

“Trans Day of Joy is an opportunity to celebrate the transgender community and to show the community, especially young people, that we see them, we care about them and that there are a whole lot of people here to support them,” said Jayeson Watts, LICSW, Director of Trans Heath at Thundermist Health Center. “Like all young people, transgender young people flourish when they are accepted by the people who love them, supported by the communities in which they live and protected by the laws in their state. This event will uplift Rhode Island’s strong, thriving and visible transgender community, and will let people who are not able to be visible know they are not alone.”

“Young people learn best when their identities are affirmed,” said Aarav Sundaresh, Director of Equity & Belonging, Providence Public School Department. “Schools have a responsibility to ensure each student feels safe to be who they are, and to provide an education that is responsive to students’ identities– including their gender, racial and ethnic identities. Transgender students are no exception to this. Educators know that first and foremost, students’ basic needs regarding safety and belonging must be met in order for them to engage with their academic content. And when K-12 school classroom materials are inclusive of diverse identities, including LGBTQ identities, students can engage meaningfully because we’ve fostered a sense of belonging. I’m proud of Rhode Island schools already engaging in this work, and am equally proud to support efforts like the Trans Day of Joy that celebrate inclusivity.”

Trans Day of Joy will take place 11:30am-12:30pm on Saturday November 12, with a rain date of 11:00am-12:00pm on Sunday, November 13. As a celebration of community, the event will feature community advocates, educators, faith leaders, and more. Scheduled speakers include

  • Jayeson Watts, LICSW, Director of Transgender Health at Thundermist Health Center
  • Aarav Sundaresh, Director of Equity & Belonging, Providence Public School Department
  • Zoe Armstrong, Gender-Sexuality Alliance Coordinator, Youth Pride, Inc.
  • Evan Jones, Soar Works Disability Coordinator, Sojourner House
  • Rowan Alvarez, Case Manager, Haus of Codec
  • Rev. DL Helfer
  • Rev. Dr. Donnie Anderson
  • Janson Wu, Executive Director, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders

Rhode Island has been on the forefront of civil rights for transgender people for more than 20 years. In 2001, Rhode Island became the second state in the U.S. to protect transgender people from discrimination. The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law estimates that 1,200 people between the ages of 13-17, and 6,900 people over the age 13 in Rhode Island identify as transgender.

Trans Day of Joy is an opportunity to celebrate that everyone is welcome in Rhode Island, and to build upon the state’s legacy of equality to support transgender kids and their families.

In addition to LGBTQ Action RI, Trans Day of Joy is supported by Youth Pride, Inc., The Womxn Project, SAGE RI, RI Democratic Women’s Caucus, Beyond the Stacks, Towards An Antiracist North Kingstown (TANK), TGI Network of RI, RI Queer PAC, PFLAG of Greater Providence, Contemporary Theater Company, UU Congregation of South County, Sojourner House, South County Pride, URI Gender and Sexuality Center, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Haus of Codec, Planned Parenthood Votes! Rhode Island, Old Lesbians Organizing for Change, and Thundermist Health Center.

Transgender Awareness Week culminates on November 20 with the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, an observance to honor the memory of transgender people whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence.

For more information about Trans Day of Joy, contact Damián Lima, LGBTQ Action RI: info@lgbtqaction.org