BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — For LGBTQ youth, especially transgender youth finding a safe space or a group free of judgement and discrimination can be paramount.
Donna Ledwin is a founding member of the parents of transgender children support group at GLYS and the mother of a transgender man.
Ledwin says discovering a group where her son could simply be himself, came at a critical time.
"It's a space that folks acknowledge they are transgender," Ledwin said. "They are using the pronouns they would like them to use, using the name they would like them to use. That is so important to someone who is transgender."
"He was very skeptical, not in a great place at the time," Ledwin said. "He didn't trust people to be kind, and to acknowledge him. His opportunity to be in a space with other transgender kids, to walk into a room and not have to explain to them or be afraid that they were gonna find out who he was, it was the most heartwarming thing for a parent you can imagine. Once he was in that safe space again and once he was able to be out and open with his family as well, I got my kid back. I got my kid back."
For educators, creating safe, affirming spaces in schools has also slowly started to evolve.
Randy Gammiero is a teacher at Mill Middle School in Williamsville, and one of the co-advisers of the social justice club, which started 4 years ago.
"A student came to me with wanting a space where they could be themselves and we really didn't have anything like that," Gammerio said. "And as a gay teacher myself I was always aware of that, but didn't necessarily want to be the one who was spearheading that. It definitely was a student need. I wanted to support them."
The club offers a safe space for anyone who values equality.
"We have a lot of of racial diversity, in addition to gender diversity. "At its core I think especially in middle school if you are a trans student or struggling or questioning that can be really difficult and sometimes home is not a safe space for that."
Despite operating virtually, the social justice club saw membership increase from 12 to more than 50 students this year.
And the increased interest helped the group raise more than $300 for GLYS by selling pride bracelets and flags.
"In my 18 years it was something I haven't seen for kids to show their support in such a public way," Gammerio said. "It's amazing, we all sang true colors, teachers and students and held up messages of support."
True colors, and progress, in an effort to create a safe spaces for all.
"If we keep moving in this direction we won't need a month or a day to say, I'm gay, and I'm proud of it, because everyday we can be who we are."