ST. CHARLES, MO. - Adolescence is a time of trying to find your place in the world while dealing with the changes of growing up. While every teen faces challenges, those who identify as LGBT face a unique set of hurdles.
Growing American Youth is a social support group for LGBT youth that works to remove those barriers with a sense of community.
Mitchell Crump-McHugh is 15 years old. In February, he starting attending the support groups, and found something he'd been missing.
"You just forget there's a world outside of high school," he said.
Unlike at school, he found a community of people his age who could relate to his stories about testosterone shots, and frustration about being called a girl, and what it was like before he started his transition.
"It was terrifying," he said. "It felt like I was never going to be happy."
Many of the young people who attend the support groups have felt that way too.
It's why Erin Stille starting coming six years ago.
"I was happy to honestly just be around other queer people, people who were having similar experiences to me," she said.
The group talks about some topics that apply to all teens: a term paper not going well, a boss not acting fairly. But then, there are stories of panic attacks in a store dressing room, the rejection of a family member.
Growing American Youth provides a place where the term "dysphoria" is a part of the teen vocabulary. It's a place where struggles with insomnia, anxiety and depression are common. It's also a place to share victories. But perhaps what matters most of all to the teens, is the feeling that they belong.
The group meets on Tuesdays at the Youth in Need building in St. Charles. It also meets on Thursdays at Trinity Episcopal Church in St. Louis.
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