According to youth programs director, Grayson Mitchell, almost half of the youth ROSMY support through its weekly meetings identify as trans or genderqueer.
To fill the need, ROSMY is expanding its transgender support programming with a new weekly support group launching in January. To accommodate the youth today, ROSMY has designated their support group the last Tuesday of each month as gender night.
Genderqueer is a catch-all term for anything that falls outside of the binary gender identities of male or female. Mitchell is seeing many youth that don’t identify with these conventional gender labels.
ROSMY currently structures its youth support groups with a 52-week curriculum. The new transgender support program, according to Mitchell, will be an open forum night for trans and genderqueer youth to discuss topics on their mind.
Executive director Beth Panilaitis said ROSMY did extensive background research when putting together the proposal for this new group and identified trans youth as a service gap for the organization.
The new group will be a combination of questioning, Female-to-Male (FTM) and Male-to-Female (MTF) youth. “Depending on how many end up turning out, we may separate them in to MTF and FTM,” Mitchell said.
While there will be no set curriculum, the group will tackle issues like transitioning and coming out to family and friends.
“I think that a lot of the trans youth in our support group may not be out,” he said. “When they walk in the door, they change their clothes.”
Mitchell gets phone calls from counselors and parents about youth dealing with gender identity issues and refers them to a network of counselors that will also be available to this new group.
To build a training program for facilitators, Mitchell – who is openly transitioning – reached out to Richmond’s transgender community to groups like the Richmond Transformers and James River Transgender Society.
On October 18, he coordinated a meeting to establish a three-hour training curriculum.
“Having gender night once a month is great, but something else needed to happen. There’s such a change occuring. Youth are feeling more comfortable. Youth are coming out and questioning gender,” Panilaitis said.
Those interested in helping build the program are encouraged to contact Grayson Mitchell at email@example.com.