What is RYA?
Rainbow Youth Alliance (RYA) is a support group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning teens and their allies. RYA is a safe place to ask questions, find mutual support, and learn information pertinent to their lives.
Who can attend?
RYA is for high school youth from the DC Metro Area. While we are located in Montgomery County, youth from DC and surrounding counties are welcome to join.
What are the youth going to do at the meetings?
Each support meeting begins with reviewing the group expectations, which are re-created by youth each year – things like one person speaks at a time, respect the space, respect everyone’s view, and silence your phone. We ask everyone in the room to sign our Rainbow Rules committing to keep them throughout the meeting.
Then everyone in the group gets a chance to do check-in. This includes saying your name, the gender pronoun you prefer, and anything you’d like to share. Here is an example of what people share: highs and lows from the week, thoughts of interest, dreams, real-life situation, concerns, worries, excitements – really the sky is the limit about what is shared. Many times check-in will lead the conversation for the remainder of the group.
We also bring in structured topics around areas of interest or concern. RYA provides information and discussions around sexual health and safety, substance use, self-care, and many other topics. Occasionally, we will bring in guest presenters to talk about a specific topic.
Do youth need parental permission to attend?
No, RYA’s policy is that requiring parental permission would be a strong disincentive for some youth. It is important that all meetings be open to youth who need support due to their sexuality, orientation, identity, or gender.
How will RYA ensure the safety of the youth?
RYA meetings are strictly for youth who are high-school aged. They are also substance free and weapons free. These expectations are held consistent at all RYA events and youth will be asked to leave if they are violated. This policy is in place to keep everyone safe and help others feel comfortable coming to RYA meetings and events.
Is RYA counseling or mental health treatment?
No. We do not provide counseling or mental health treatment. RYA is an adult-facilitated, peer-to-peer support group. While our coordinator is a licensed mental health clinician, we do not provide mental health treatment or services. Recommendations for mental health resources within the LGBTQ community are available.
Will adults be on hand?
Yes, at least two adults will be at every RYA meeting and event. In addition, there will be greeters in the parking lot and other adults on call.
How will the adults be chosen?
The adult volunteers are members of the larger community who have shown an interest in supporting LGBTQ youth. All volunteers have survived a rigorous application process which includes a written application, phone and in-person interviews, background checks, trainings, and shadowing experience. They all are provided with ongoing supervision and education to help meet the needs of the youth who attend RYA.
Will the adults have any special expertise in working with these young people?
RYA provides training for all volunteers. Training includes sensitivity to youth issues, how to address youth questions and concerns, facilitating meetings, how to respond to problems, first aid, and emergency management.
Why do we need RYA?
Teen years are tough for most youth, and being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) poses additional challenges. These teens have higher suicide rates and are more than twice as likely to leave home and become homeless than other teens. Ninety percent of LGBTQ teens report being harassed in school.