The Inside Out Youth Services Ally Up! Breakfast shows in dramatic fashion how the community’s understanding of and acceptance of LGBTQ young people is changing.

Board member Anton Schulzki told an early-morning audience in October that “eight or nine years ago, 75 people were here.” This year, an Antlers ballroom was packed with 750 youths and their supporters.

The focus: “Love the Skin You’re In.”

Executive Director Jessie Pocock echoed the day’s video that Inside Out is where youth can be themselves and not be judged.

Encouragement came from a delightfully personable couple, Logan and Laila Ireland. Laila was an Army brat and combat medic and is married to an Air Force staff sergeant. Both are transgender and started in the military in the “don’t ask, don’t tell” era.

“Serving in the military in silence was so difficult,” they said. They never knew which day they would be outed and out. For them, it has never mattered who was in the White House because, said Logan, “I serve for the American people and my brothers and sisters in the military.”

Laila, who has a medical discharge, is a trans-military advocate and was chosen as 2017 AFI Peterson Air Force Base Spouse of the Year. On the battlefield, she said, it’s about the team. “If you can’t take care of me, get off my team.”

Also sharing their personal journeys were Jak Montanez and Joseph Shelton. Jak was kicked out of a “closed-minded Pueblo family” when a girlfriend was introduced to the family. Today he's happy with life, smiling and safe. And accepted.

Joseph said he has an Inside Out “family that accepts me” and wants to ensure that each LGBTQ young person knows they have someone who won’t give up on them.

Photo gallery: gazette.com/life/around-town

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