COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Growing up is hard, and for teenagers who are wrestling with self-identity, it can be even harder.
Inside/Out Youth Services is a place where gender questioning, non-conforming and trans youth can have a safe place.
Inside/Out recently moved into a bigger location and started a TRANSformation support group that has quickly grown. Leaders of the organization said it proves there is a need in the community for a different kind of conversation.
“It was immediately apparent to me that we had a lot of transgender, gender fluid, gender non-conforming youth,” said Executive Director Mary Malia.
Paiton Z. doesn’t conform to one gender and chooses to be referred to as “they.”
A few years ago, Paiton was not welcome at home, forcing them to bounce in and out of shelters. Now they found Inside/Out, which has been a safe space for them and many others.
“These aren’t the young people who were in high school who were part of the football team or cheerleading team or any kind of sport. These are the outsiders,” said Malia. “If you’re transgender and you’re looking at the world around you and everybody is heterosexual, it’s very confusing and sometimes beyond confusing, it’s painful.”
The transgender youth suicide rate is eight times more than straight youth. Malia said “belonging” is a type of suicide intervention.
“Young people — as teenagers and early 20s — are really just trying to find out who the heck they are,” said Malia.
Paiton credits Inside/Out for being a place to turn.
“It’s just a place where you can be who you are,” Paiton said. “It could be your kid and you not even know.”
Malia said youth are often rejected by their families, and encouraged parents to be accepting of their children.
“Even if you don’t understand everything they are telling you, you’re there [saying] ‘You know what? I support you!’” Malia said.
Inside/Out is starting a support group for parents of transgender youth in August. They are also having a grand opening of their new location on July 13 at 6 p.m.>> More information on support for local youth and upcoming programs.