Growing LGBTQ+ Youth Support
GLYS was founded as Gay and Lesbian Youth of Buffalo, Inc. by Mattachine Society of the Niagara Frontier (MSNF) members Don Licht & Jim Haynes along with Mark Boser, Robert Frank, Thomas Hammond, Ross Hewitt, and Bob Uplinger. MSFN was Buffalo’s first LGBTQ+ Rights Organization -- it was founded officially in 1970 and disbanded in 1984.
Once disbanded, MSNF transformed into several other LGBTQ+ Rights Organizations: AIDS Community Services (now Evergreen), Gay and Lesbian Youth of Buffalo (now GLYS Western New York, Inc.), and a local chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). GLYS began in 1983 as “Gay & Lesbian Youth of Buffalo” (GLYB) where youth and volunteers met at the Gay & Lesbian Community Center (GLCC) that was located on Delvan Avenue.
When the GLCC closed in 1986, the YWCA of WNY on Franklin Street offered to rent GLYB space for its Drop-In Center. In 1994, GLYB changed its name to Gay & Lesbian Youth Services (GLYS) of WNY.
Until 2000 GLYS was a part-time counseling-based organization. After Labor Day in 2000, we opened our doors as a full-time youth development agency. After the YWCA put its building up for sale in 2004, Trinity Church offered to rent space to GLYS. From 2005 to 2017 this is where our Drop-In Center was located, before we outgrew the church basement and relocated to 393 Delaware Avenue, which is still Trinity Church property.
When we moved to Trinity, GLYS offered only its Drop-In Center to LGBTQ+ youth. Our Timothy J. Moran Drop-In Center is still a service that is unique to GLYS! This is an opportunity for youth who identify within the LGBTQ+ spectrum and their allies to hang out and be kids in a safe and accepting environment. GLYS then briefly shared space with the Pride Center of Western New York, strengthening our community partnerships before moving to a mobile services model to provide virtual and in-person programming in spaces across all eight counties of Western New York.
For many years, GLYS has been hard at work to earn the “Western New York'' portion of our name. In 2006, GLYS actively began working with schools in the WNY area that had established Gay Straight/Gender Sexuality Alliances (GSAs). We have helped to establish a curriculum which assists schools in developing a safe and inclusive environment for all of their students and encourages creating and maintaining a GSA in your school. Currently, we work closely with 72 schools in the Western New York area that have established GSAs. Each year we host our GLYS GSA Conference which allows teachers and students from across all 8 counties to interact with one another in a safe, learning rich environment.
In 2009 GLYS established our Youth-In-Care program. We now assist youth in all 8 counties in a variety of ways. GLYS has established relationships with numerous social welfare organizations to provide training and intercession services on behalf of LGBTQ+ youth in care. Many times LGBTQ+ youth face-specific or special problems; providing additional empathy and understanding to caregivers allows these challenges to be resolved with greater results to these young people. We are currently affiliated with several local facilities including: BryLin Hospitals, ECMC, Western New York Children's Psychiatric Center: West Seneca and Amherst, Gateway Longview, and Baker Victory Services.
In 2016 we announced that GLYS would be hosting dedicated support groups for youth who identify as transgender, non-binary, or questioning, as well as their parents and caregivers! Before that date, back in 2003, Patti Jones and Kay Patterson were holding a youth only trans discussion/support group during normal DIC hours once a month. Based on the amount of youth interest it was clear to us that we needed to create a group independent from the DIC in order to give these youth the specialized attention they deserved. Since then we have evolved into several variations of trans support groups: we have a Transgender, Non-binary & Questioning Youth Group (available for youth ages 13-21) which meets at the same time as the Parents/Caregivers of Teens Group; the Gender Expansive Kids Group (available for youth ages 5-12) which meets at the same time as the Parents/Caregivers of Kids Group, and a Social Night for youth only, ages 5-21, in appropriate age specific groups.
In 2020, GLYS recognized that after 26 years with the name "Gay & Lesbian Youth Services" this title did not adequately reflect our dedication to LGBTQ+ youth. Many of our youth participants believed the name was too exclusionary for the ever growing and accepting LGBTQ+ community. So, we have officially changed our name to GLYS Western New York, Inc: Growing LGBTQ+ Youth Support.