Helping Transgender Youth

September 20th, 2015

ROSMY – formerly referred to as Richmond Organization for Sexual Minority Youth – provides support, advocacy and education to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth.

Soon-to-be-18-year-old Xander Chapman is excited beyond words. He’s living a dream. Xander graduated from Chesterfield’s Manchester High School in June and begins classes at John Tyler Community College this month. But Xander’s dream isn’t about beginning his next life-stage as a college freshman. It’s living life as a man.

Xander is transgender. He was born female, but in his words, “I never felt comfortable with my body.” He was depressed. He felt alone. The feeling of isolation was so great that Xander made several attempts at harming himself during his early high school years. But in November 2013, as an 11th-grader, Xander began gender transitioning. It was a move that saved his life.

Xander also credits the nonprofit ROSMY. “Once I started transitioning, I had no self-confidence. Once I started surrounding myself with ROSMY and their support, my self-esteem skyrocketed. I wouldn’t be where I am today without ROSMY.”

ROSMY – formerly referred to as Richmond Organization for Sexual Minority Youth – provides support, advocacy and education to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth. ROSMY’s weekly support groups in Richmond and Charlottesville reach more than 250 kids annually. Thousands more are reached by ROSMY’s training of human service providers, including high school counselors and teachers who learn how to talk about gender identity with students.

“ROSMY is life-changing and at times life-saving,” exclaims Executive Director Beth Panilaitis. “The amazing thing about ROSMY is it brings together kids who cut across every demographic and geographic divide. These are people who wouldn’t otherwise get to know each other. But even with diversity there is a common thread – significant isolation and hopelessness.”

Xander Chapman was able to overcome such feelings by talking openly in a support group with other gender-questioning youth. “ROSMY gave me the resources I needed. They offered a lot of emotional support. They are like a second family. It’s planted a seed in me to want to help others in my position,” says Chapman. “Only recently I realized I want to start working at ROSMY. I aspire to be the people who helped me along the way.”

Many ROSMY youth return as volunteers. The organization’s executive director is also proud of ROSMY’s diverse group of volunteers: “Sixty to seventy volunteers work directly with the youth-facilitating groups. Another 45 volunteers work on committees and boards,” says Panilaitis. “We would not be able to do the programs we do without volunteers.” You can volunteer and make a difference by Giving Back to this unique nonprofit. Turn the page and find out how!



HOW IT HELPS: provides support, education and advocacy to Virginia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth ages 11 to 20.

HOW YOU CAN HELP: volunteer as a program leader, board or committee member.


CONTACT: Call 804-644-4800 or email to volunteer.


HOW IT HELPS: changes lives and transforms communities through high-quality, affordable housing.

HOW YOU CAN HELP: volunteer as a group or individual for property beautification or administrative assistance. Sign up for volunteer e-newsletter by visiting website.


CONTACT: Stacie Birchett at or call 804-644-0546 ext. 117


HOW IT HELPS: supports awareness and understanding of teenage depression and anxiety.

HOW YOU CAN HELP: volunteer at several annual community events, including the SpeakUp 5K in September and SpeakUp Revolution in May.


CONTACT: visit website to volunteer or email


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