What do 1924, 1958, 1969, 1970, 1973, 1977, 1980, 1982, 1987, 2000, 2004, 2010, and 2015 all have in common? All these years and many more mark significant milestones for the LGBTQ+ community- the first Society for Human Rights, Supreme Court rulings, Stonewall Uprising, America’s first Gay Pride Parade, numerous laws passed to protect the LGBTQ+ community and marriage equality.
June 28, 1969, was a turning point for LGBTQ+ activism in the United States. The New York Police Department arrived at the Stonewall Inn with a search warrant in hand. They spent hours interrogating the patrons and employees and were ordered to detain all the crossdressers. Outside a riot was brewing as the crowd protested through the night. The movement was far from over when the crowd dispersed around 4 AM. The week that followed was filled with protests and fighting at and around Stonewall. These protests quickly became known as the Stonewall Uprising and kick-started Gay Pride Week, which would eventually turn into Pride Month every June across the world.
In celebration of Pride Month, we want to bring awareness to an amazing youth-led organization helping to create a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth across Massachusetts. We were honored to have the opportunity to chat with Kurtlan Massarsky, Director of Development & Marketing, and Michael Frasano-McCarron, Development & Marketing Manager, from the Boston Alliance of LGBTQ+ Youth (BAGLY).
WTG: Can you tell us a bit about BAGLY?
Kurtlan: We’re celebrating our 42nd year later in July as one of the oldest and longest LGBTQ+ serving in the country, and definitely the oldest youth-led. Our closely held belief in youth leadership has helped keep us relevant, innovative, and creative through times that had no social or legal protections, the AIDS epidemic, and the challenges and successes of the 90s and 2000s. Our core tenets are youth leadership, building community, promoting health & wellness, and shaping policy and practice through social justice. We’re not just Boston, we’re all of Massachusetts. Our program, The BAGLY Network, includes 14 independent LGBTQ+ youth groups across Massachusetts. Our network assists with applying pressure on the state legislature and has provided over a quarter of a million dollars of funding to our programs and community.
WTG: How does BAGLY work within the community?
Kurtlan: We strive to provide opportunities for youth to be compensated for their expertise and lived experience. We find compensating them has many benefits, not the least of which is, it makes them more credible as they enter the workforce, so many companies say you need experience. Our newest program, Host Homes, is an intervention to disrupt and eliminate chronic LGBTQ+ homelessness, to set them up to be viable job candidates and maintain a stable housing environment and life. Anecdotally, when a youth comes to BAGLY for the first time and is looking for employment, the organization is almost always able to support them successfully in a short amount of time. We intervene at very vulnerable moments in their lives, they get the support they need then shortly thereafter get that confidence, a job, and housing. Over 80% of the community we serve is from families at or below the poverty line.
WTG: What is coming next for BAGLY?
Kurtlan: We recently signed a letter of intent to go from a 5,000 square foot youth community center to a 10,000 square foot location. We do have more tools in our toolbox- people, programs and space, health and safety, building our community, clinical services, behavioral and mental health, and funding and peer led programs, and jobs and skills training. Our physical location is key to all our programs and expanding will make a big difference.
WTG: If you’re part of the LGBTQ+ how can you get involved or if you’re an ally how can you help?
Kurtlan: Hopefully this answer will change quickly, right now we’re trying to be creative and inventive with volunteer opportunities that have been difficult to fill during the pandemic. With the expansion of physical space, we’re super-busy but we have one-off needs for example expertise we don’t always have in house. Donating to BAGLY is really impactful. We’ve maintained so many of our grass-roots programs and we pivoted to a direct aid initiative during the pandemic which so far has distributed approximately $75K directly to Boston area gay and lesbian youth. I think we’re in a real listening period. A common challenge is there’s a credibility gap with youth who have been so misled, so we’ve found building relationships like WTG helps cross that credibility gap. Donations, your time, and your patience is what we need as we’ve repaired so many people, helping us bridge that credibility, to change from the inside as much as possible, and showing them their voice can make an impact.
Throughout our conversation with Kurtlan and Michael it was very apparent how passionate they are about the work BAGLY is doing. They are 42 years strong and continuing to grow their community, services, and advocacy work. We encourage anyone who can support BAGLY in its mission to create, sustain, and advocate for programs, policies, and services for the LGBTQ+ youth community.
Learn More Here: bagly.org
Get Involved Here: bagly.org/donate2