OUTstanding Virginians 2016

 

ROSMY

Organization, Advocates, Youth Educators

ROSMYCelebrating 25 years of service, ROSMY is Virginia’s oldest and largest organization that helps lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ+) youth be themselves.   Over the years, ROSMY’s work has been honored by many organizations, including the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, the Virginia Education Association, the Richmond Peace Education Center, Diversity Richmond, and The Valentine Museum.

ROSMY began humbly by holding meetings for youth in places like a local counseling center and in the basement of a church.  Since then, ROSMY’s programs have expanded to running a permanent youth center that offers a range of services across Central Virginia.

The heart of ROSMY’s programming is our facilitated support groups. When it comes to LGBTQ+ youth, an overwhelming amount of research shows that one of the most effective ways to meet their needs is through peer support.  Simply having a space where LGBTQ+ youth can go to be surrounded by people who affirm who they are is one of the best gifts we can give LGBTQ+ youth as a community.  Annually serving over 250 unique youth between the ages of 11-20, ROSMY’s general support group in Richmond, general support group in Charlottesville, middle school support group, and group for transgender youth are lifelines for young LGBTQ+ Virginians.  Additionally, ROSMY offers a 24-hour hotline, ensuring that youth who are in crisis will always have someone to call.  ROSMY’s leadership program (Youth Engaged in Leadership) takes peer support one step further, by helping youth acquire skills to engage in the community through hands-on projects, like planning ROSMY’s Annual Prom and participating in Equality Virginia’s Day of Action.

ROSMY’s programing also includes an educational series called the Institute for Equality. Drawing on our long experience of working with LGBTQ+ youth and first-hand knowledge of the unique challenges faced by youth, ROSMY launched this training program in 2008.  Designed for service providers who seek to better support the LGBTQ+ youth in their programs, the Institute’s attendees have included a variety of individuals who range from teachers and school administrators to social workers, counselors, doctors, police officers, judges, parents and more.  In the last three years alone, ROSMY’s Institute for Equality has conducted 150 trainings attended by over 5,000 people.

Ultimately, whether it’s through support groups or education, ROSMY breaks down the feelings of isolation that many LGBTQ+ youth face and supports them in making healthy life choices.  ROSMY provides parents and families with education and access to helpful resources.  In addition, ROSMY provides professionals with accurate and timely information.

As we look to the next 25 years, ROSMY remains committed to meeting the needs of LGBTQ+ youth and building communities in Virginia where youth find the compassion, support, and acceptance they deserve.

In the words of a ROSMY youth: ►

“ROSMY has been a safe haven for me. When I first came out as transgender, it was so difficult to transition in high school.  Teenagers are so hard on anything that’s out of the ordinary.  But speaking to the many facilitators who are at ROSMY helped me with whatever I was facing: not only with bullying, but also with dysphoria and family issues. It’s a safe place to talk about anything and they provide LGBTQ+ youth with lots of resources. In addition, the individuals who attend the meetings are all “one-of-a-kind” people. It doesn’t matter whether you’re introverted, extroverted, in the closet, or out of the closet. It’s a place where there’s someone who can relate to you, no matter where you are in life.

ROSMY has been my “second home”. They were basically my cheerleaders. If something bad happened that offset my confidence, they helped me stay optimistic. ROSMY has helped me and many others tremendously.  The ROSMY staff, volunteers and youth positively change each other’s lives every day.” 

In the words of a parent: ►

“Our daughter first told us she was gay when she was 15.  As happy as we were for her, we knew that she would face some challenges that we were not well-equipped to handle.  We had heard about ROSMY — passed by it numerous times — but had never been inside.  So my husband drove our daughter to the office, walked in without an appointment, and found a group of knowledgeable, caring people who over the past two years have played a significant role in our daughter’s well-being.

Though we will never be able to walk in our daughter’s shoes, we are learning a lot about what it’s like to be an LGBTQ+ child.  We are increasingly amazed at the strength that these kids show.  At an age when many feel a pressure to conform and fit in, LGBTQ+ youth feel different all of the time.  Walking down the hall at school, going with friends to a dance, and discussing current events in class are everyday parts of a student’s life that can cause anxiety, self-doubt, and fear for an LGBTQ+ teen. This feeling of difference is magnified by peers and adults who can be unthinkingly cruel in their lack of understanding.

The programs at ROSMY have helped to offset this feeling of difference for our daughter by providing a safe place where she feels accepted and fits in.  It is a place that understands that even events like Prom can be difficult for an LGBTQ+ teenager to navigate.  By hosting their prom, ROSMY gives its youth the opportunity to be themselves and to have the iconic experience of that special event in a safe way. The ROSMY staff are compassionate and caring, and our daughter feels a true connection with them.  Through ROSMY’s Youth Engaged in Leadership program, our daughter is learning skills that have built her self-confidence and given her the language to talk about gender and sexual orientation in ways that will help her advocate for herself and others in the years to come.

We are so grateful to ROSMY and the people there who have created a safe and indispensable resource for LGBTQ+ youth.  We wish every community had a ROSMY.” 

 

Celebrate our victories this year and honor the 2016 OUTstanding Virginians by joining us at this year’s Commonwealth Dinner!