When Sebastian came out in 8th grade, he was one of only two out, gay kids in his school.

“I was bullied a lot. It felt like I had a target on my back.” He remembered. “It didn’t help that we had spent the previous year in COVID lock-down. I felt isolated and didn’t know anyone when we came back.”

For Vy, Sebastian’s parent, it was difficult to watch him struggle. “I was terrified—not because of his identity, but because of how people were treating him. We didn’t live in an affirming community; school staff weren’t helping and I didn’t know what to do. I just knew he needed community.”

Finding community in Carroll County was difficult; while they found small groups for LGBTQ+ youth that met on a monthly basis, Vy and Sebastian knew they needed more. While volunteering for Frederick Pride’s decorating team in 2022, they learned about The Frederick Center’s youth programs and decided to give them a try.

The Frederick Center hosts multiple peer support groups for youth ages 9-26. Through them, youth build a network of friends and role models to help them navigate their experiences coming out and finding themselves. Over 200 youth participate in our groups each year.

At first, Sebastian wasn’t sure what to make of the group. “I’d never been in a youth group before—not scouts, or anything else.” He admitted. But despite his initial awkwardness, Sebastian settled into the group and began to make friends. Glorie, our program director, made sure that he felt comfortable and at home. He has been coming back to youth group every week ever since.

For Vy, the change has been night and day. “I have seen a huge shift in Sebastian since he has started coming here. He’s come out of his shell.” They shared. “He’s become confident, happy, more himself and I love it. All I’ve ever wanted was for him to be happy as himself.”

The Frederick Center exists so that youth like Sebastian can come out of their shells and find the confidence to celebrate themselves. As volunteers, parents, donors, and everyone who supports The Center’s mission, thank you for all you do to help us be a place of welcome, love, and community to LGBTQIA+ children in and around Frederick.