Our Tatte Community: SMYAL

At Tatte, one of our dreams is to offer a friendly, welcoming space for guests and team members alike. This dream takes us beyond the walls of our cafés into the neighborhoods we call home by supporting local organizations addressing the critical needs of women, youth, and families like SMYAL: (Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders).



Tatte was born in Boston but our second home is the Washington D.C. metro area. In both regions, we are delighted to raise funds and awareness in celebration of Pride Month. Proceeds from the sale of our Pride Cake in the D.C. area go to SMYAL (Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders). SMYAL supports and empowers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth in and around Washington, D.C. (In Boston, our community partner during Pride Month is BAGLY, the Boston Alliance of LGBTQ+ Youth, which you can read more about here.)


SMYAL got its start in 1984, with a monthly support group that met in borrowed spaces around town. Over the next 40 years (and counting), SMYAL has grown to offer a place for youth to hang out and attend programs like book clubs and support groups or receive no-cost mental health counseling services. There is also youth leadership development as well as housing and bilingual street outreach programs. 

SMYAL hits the road in other ways, too. The organization presents at school assemblies, helps run summer camps and offers field trips to places like the National Gallery of Art. And every June, youth from SMYAL participate in Youth Pride DMV.



SMYAL serves youth from 13-24 who identify as LGBTQ+, as well as those who are exploring or questioning their identities. And Little SMYALs offers programming for kids ages 6-12. The program currently serves 90 families. Hancie Stokes, SMYAL’s director of communications, spoke about the organization’s impact:

What’s so important are the friendships that start here. They have found their people and that's something that we've heard time and time again. They're not “the queer kid” in their school when they come here, they're just a kid. When families come in, we'll do parent and caregiver training. It’s about having the resources for youth but making sure parents feel supported as well. We have a Discord server for young people who don't feel comfortable coming in person or who can't get here. That way, they're always connected to community.


Stokes shared that when SMYAL was founded 40 years ago, the HIV/AIDS crisis had led to more services for LGBTQ+ adults, but not necessarily for younger people. SMYAL began as an attempt to address that gap, and its monthly meetings drew youth from far and wide. 

It was one of the only places for queer and trans young people to find community with each other. Over time, we offered more frequent groups. In the 90’s, we had a hotline for young people to call to find support and resources but in their situations, it wasn’t safe for them to be out. Everything we do is built around ongoing conversations about need. More recently, our focus has turned toward youth leadership. It’s about putting the tools in people's hands to be the leaders of this movement; to lead their communities, towards justice, equity and inclusion.  —Hancie Stokes

When the pandemic transformed SMYAL’s in-person Activist Camp into Rise Up!: A National Conference For Queer and Trans Youth Organizers for people age 13 and up, organizers saw an opportunity to close another gap. As a completely online event, and with coordination from national partners, queer and trans youth from across the United States participated.

While we've shifted back to doing a lot of in-person programs, we've kept Rise Up! mainly virtual because of that national connection, being able to share what youth activists in DC might be talking about versus New York, versus Oklahoma. The conversation ranges from  building up movements and understanding queer history to using social media to bringing in organizers like Queer Youth Assemble to talk about the different avenues to make change happen.  —Hancie Stokes

SMYAL also runs Camp Free2Be, a week-long camp for trans, nonbinary and gender diverse youth from 6-12. Started by a Virginia family with a trans child, Camp Free2Be now enrolls 40 campers over two weeks each summer and is free to all.


Stokes noted that LGBTQ+ youth are 120% more likely to experience homelessness than their cis straight peers. In 2017, SMYAL had the opportunity to open a housing program geared toward sustainable independence. SMYAL Youth Houses provide up to 55 youth with safe and stable shelter, food, mental health counseling, crisis intervention, and community support. There are weekly meetings with case managers and classes available on nutrition and cooking, financial literacy, healthy relationships and communication, and resume writing.

Since its inception in 2022, SMYAL’s street outreach program has served over 200 people. With the growing need for services for Spanish-speaking communities, the outreach program has hired bilingual team members. It’s just another gap that SMYAL is helping to close for the good of LGBTQ+ youth.

For more on SMYAL please visit https://smyal.org/.
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