ROSMY Celebrates 25 Years of Service to Virginia’s LGBTQ+ Youth
By, Ted Lewis
Celebrating 25 years of service, the Richmond Organization for Sexual Minority Youth (ROSMY) is Virginia’s oldest and largest organization that helps lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ+) youth be themselves. ROSMY began humbly by holding meetings for youth in the basement of a local church. Since then, our programs have expanded to running a permanent youth center, providing support to middle-school youth, and offering a range of trainings for schools, churches, and social services throughout the state.
The heart of ROSMY’s programming is our facilitated support groups. LGBTQ+ youth are at risk for bullying, homelessness, mental health issues, and even suicide. 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 talk to. 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.
While youth support groups are the heart of ROSMY’s work, ROSMY goes far beyond simply offering an affirming space; reaching out into the city and state to ensure LGBTQ+ youth are safe, welcomed, and affirmed in their schools, churches, businesses they work in and support, and even in places like youth homeless shelters, after school programs, and juvenile detention centers. ROSMY’s Institute for Equality draws on our long experience of working with LGBTQ+ youth and first-hand knowledge of the unique challenges faced by youth and 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 healthier life choices. ROSMY provides parents and families with education and access to helpful resources. In addition, ROSMY provides professionals with accurate and timely information that ensures more affirming spaces throughout our state.
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. To ensure ROSMY is around for the next 25 years, we need the continued support of our community, including the generosity of many local businesses and corporations. We invite you all to join us at our Springtime event on May 7th to support our work, connect with our mission, and see what we have in store for the next 25 years.
Ted Lewis is the Executive Director of ROSMY.