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GLYS WNY provides support, resources to LGBTQ youth and families

Posted at 10:55 AM, May 26, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — At 14 years old, Rin Parrack has learned a lot about self; who they are, what they believe and why they feel this way.

"I am trans. Trans is identifying with a gender that you were not assigned at birth," Rin said.

Rin is a student at Williamsville South. Rin uses they/them pronouns. It's something that is comfortable in what they call the "non-binary state," which is neither male nor female.

"I like traditionally masculine things and traditionally feminine things, but in a way that is not traditionally masculine or feminine," Rin said. "The simple version is people are different than what society tells them to be. Some people are different in a way that means they can't present as what society expects them to be because it makes you feel horrible."

That overwhelming feeling is something that often leads to poor outcomes for LGBTQ children, especially if they don't have a strong support system.

Statistics show:

  • 82-percent of transgender and gender non-conforming youth have seriously considered suicide.
  • LGBTQ children are also 2-and-a-half times more likely to self harm.

Enter GLYS of Western New York. Robert DiGangi-Roush is the Executive Director.

"We have programs that directly provide community and socialization for our youth with our drop-in center," said DiGangi-Roush. "We also have support groups for those youth."

Youth participating in Pride Parade in Buffalo

Support groups aren't only available to youth. Groups are also available for parents-- who are also just as uncertain-- and perhaps confused.

Jennifer Parrak, Rin's mother, says these groups were very helpful.

"When Rin came out, [GLYS, WNY was] my first reach. They were literally one of the first phone calls I made because I said I'm going to need support," Parrack said.

Rin came out at age 11.

"At that point, I knew GLYS served older teens and I didn't know about the trans support group. I didn't know they'd be willing to take in a kid as young as Rin," Parrack said.

GLYS WNY actually works with children as young as five. DiGangi-Roush says this year has been difficult because of the pandemic.

"This has made us go to an all virtual operation which is not necessarily a good thing," DiGangi-Roush said. "We had just started services for younger youth, as young as age five -- those we call the gender creative set -- and that population doesn't work well virtually. We had to suspend that program right after starting it, which is a very unfortunate thing because we continue to get calls frequently for younger kids."

Rin, as a teenager, has been able to keep up with their peers through text messages and virtual drop-in centers.

Pre-pandemic, Parrack says Rin was welcomed with open arms.

"For a little bit there, but only a couple of months, they were one of the youngest people in the group," Parrack said. "While the drop-in center may be for older teens who might be struggling, the trans support group embraced us immediately."

GLYS, WNY has been in operation for decades, providing resources and education for businesses and organizations. There are also leadership opportunities for youth.

"We're not just the community members looking to help anymore. We have professionals who are trained," DiGangi-Roush said. "The youth really learn not to love themselves because they're different and they have to relearn to love themselves."

GLYS, WNY also participates in the annual Pride Parade in Buffalo, which helps build that sense of community for its members, like Rin, who says the resources and support have been critical.

"If you don't understand, you just need to understand that you are helping somebody feel better and making sure they feel safe and loved," Rin said. "If you want to understand, you go an put in the time and the effort."

Rin at the Pride Parade. "It felt amazing! It's just you're surrounded by everybody who you know won't judge you or get mad at you and it makes you feel strong and powerful," said Rin Parrack.

It's that sense of community that Rin feels makes them Buffalo Strong.

" the Pride Parade," Rin said. "You go there and feel strong and powerful because there's these people surrounding you -- and a lot of them are from where you're from -- so you know they're out there and they're going through stuff like you are. That means that you're not alone."

You can support GLYS, WNY by: