Sobre nosotros

Our Mission

SMYAL supports and empowers LGBTQ+ youth. We actively work to create a world where queer and trans youth thrive through affirming programs and services designed to develop critical life skills, build community, and foster a sense of belonging.

Our Guiding Principles


We believe in the power and value of youth voices and are committed to uplifting their voices, contributions, and autonomy. Our programming and services are youth-driven and informed by the intersectionality of LGBTQ+ experiences. We strive to provide stability and security that reflects the diverse needs of our community, creating an environment where everyone feels seen, heard, and valued.

What this looks like in practice:

  • We believe and listen to youth as the experts on their own lives, and center their experiences as we advocate for a more equitable and inclusive future.
  • Our collaboration is intentional and purposeful. We actively seek and amplify diverse voices, working together to dismantle barriers and create pathways for meaningful change.

Our commitment to anti-racism and queer liberation is foundational to our work. We recognize the profound impact of systemic racial injustices on LGBTQ+ youth and actively strive to dismantle these structures, fostering an environment where all individuals, regardless of their racial background, can thrive authentically.

What this looks like in practice:

  • We do what we say and say what we mean. We actively cultivate an environment where honesty is paramount, our actions align with our values, and we contribute toward a more equitable society.
  • We are unapologetic advocates for change. We stand against a society that perpetuates inequality, discrimination, and violence based on race, identity, expression, and lived histories.
  • We champion the right to live authentically, unapologetically, and without compromise. We celebrate the vibrancy and diversity inherent in our community and resist any attempts to police or define our existence.
  • We are forging a path toward a liberated future where love, understanding, and celebration of all people and identities prevail.
Trauma-Informed and Harm Reducing

Our framework is deeply rooted in a trauma-informed approach and harm reduction practice. We understand that the experiences of LGBTQ+ youth often involve unique challenges, and we create spaces that not only acknowledge but actively address trauma. We help youth develop tools and skills needed to manage their individual circumstance while finding new ways to support them and reduce more harmful behavior. By prioritizing healing and promoting self-advocacy, we strive to support youth on their journeys toward well-being.

What this looks like in practice:

  • We are committed to seeking, uplifting, and valuing the voices and expertise of LGBTQ+ youth. We embrace their contributions and view their input as critical to the work we do at SMYAL.
  • We implement strategies and provide support to minimize the negative consequences associated with higher-risk behaviors while recognizing and affirming LGBTQ+ youth identities and experiences.
  • We create an environment that values LGBTQ+ youth’s identities, provides respectful and non-judgmental support, and offers resources and strategies to reduce harm and promote well-being.
  • We provide a holistic and inclusive approach that addresses the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ+ youth, while empowering them to make informed decisions about their health and lives.
Empathetic and Affirming

We aim to create a culture that embraces empathy and support. Recognizing the diverse experiences of LGBTQ+ youth, we meet individuals where they are, minimizing harm and promoting positive outcomes. Our approach prioritizes holistic well-being and the well-being of each member of our community.

What this looks like in practice:

  • We are committed to creating solutions and embracing challenges with curiosity and adaptability. Fueled by our commitment to equity and belonging, we navigate complexities to ensure our services are responsive and relevant to the diverse experiences of LGBTQ+ youth.
  • We challenge assumptions and create safe, affirming spaces to explore new ideas. We strive to be forward-thinking, inclusive, and responsive to the evolving needs of LGBTQ+ youth, always sitting at the growth edge for a powerful and positive impact.
  • Our work is grounded in the belief that every person deserves respect, autonomy, and honesty. We honor the humanity of the young people we work with, our staff, and our community, fostering an atmosphere of empathy that recognizes and embraces each individual we serve.

Who We Serve

SMYAL supports LGBTQ+ youth ages 6-24.

Based in Washington, DC, our affirming programs are designed to provide queer and trans youth with safe spaces to express themselves, find support, and build community across the Washington D.C. metropolitan area and beyond.

SMYAL’s History

In 1984, local youth service professionals and community activists organized a conference on LGBTQ+ youth issues after a group of queer and trans youth were hospitalized at St. Elizabeths Psychiatric Hospital.

These community leaders identified a rapidly widening gap between the services provided for LGBTQ+ adults and those services available for LGBTQ+ youth. Understanding that LGBTQ+ young people face separate and individual challenges unique to their adult counterparts, these community leaders formed a safe space formerly called the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL) for queer and trans youth to explore their identities in a welcoming and affirming environment.

What began with a vision to create desperately needed safe spaces for LGBTQ+ youth developed into regular support groups and has expanded over the last four decades to include a wide array of comprehensive programs and services.

Our community has evolved greatly over the last 40 years making significant strides towards justice, opportunity, and inclusion. And yet, there are new challenges including significant threats to the safety of our rights, lives, and existences—many of which most cruelly target young people. 

SMYAL rises to meet these challenges, just as we have since our founding because we know that care and affirmation are the antidotes to hatred and discrimination.

For forty years, SMYAL has been dedicated to meeting the unique needs of queer and trans youth, eliminating the barriers that prevent them from thriving as they grow into adulthood. While our programs and services to meet LGBTQ+ youth’s most urgent needs may change, our commitment to supporting queer and trans youth never will.


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