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Medina-Based OutSupport Works To Affirm Transgender Teens

The Medina nonprofit OutSupport was formed as a grassroots discussion group in 2013.
The Medina nonprofit OutSupport was formed as a grassroots discussion group in 2013.

A Medina-based nonprofit has been awarded a grant to supply dozens of transgender teens with specialized clothing that can provide comfort and even save lives.

What began as a grassroots discussion group is now OutSupport, which provides guidance and services for transgender teens and their families.

Founder Sandy Varndell remembers an early meeting when she realized the importance of gender-affirming clothing.

“One of the teens talked about the dream that he had and said, ‘In our dreams, we see ourselves as we authentically are. And then we wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and we just want to commit suicide.’ That moment was just an awakening for me," Varndell says.

Since then, Varndell’s group has bought specially designed undergarments for more than 100 people, often providing new ones as the teens continue to grow. Along with providing comfort and peace-of-mind, Varndell adds that professionally designed bindings are safer than things like Ace bandages – which can lead to long-term health problems.

Along with providing the undergarments, they’ve branched out to offer a one-hour “Transgender 101” education session.

Amy Demlow joined the group when it began in 2013, shortly after her son began his transition.

“We’ve taught at higher education institutions, shared with large employers, churches, and other community groups, just so that folks are familiar with the terminology and learn a little bit more about a subject that they may not otherwise have any experience with," Demlow says.

The grant was provided by the Akron Community Foundation and the Millennium Fund for Children.

Kabir Bhatia joined WKSU as a Reporter/Producer and weekend host in 2010. A graduate of Hudson High School, he received his Bachelor's from Kent State University. While a Kent student, Bhatia served as a WKSU student assistant, working in the newsroom and for production.