Welcoming Youth at WAGLY
It’s Monday evening and about 15 high school students from the Boston area, most of whom identify as GLBTQ are gathering for WAGLY’s weekly meeting at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Wellesley Hills. Regardless of who they feel they can or can’t be at school, WAGLY is where these youth can bring their true selves and share what’s going on in their lives. WAGLY, the West Suburbarn Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Youth supports the social, emotional and physical well-being of GLBTQ high school age youth and allies. Hosted by UUSWH in Wellesley, MA and co-led by adult and peer leaders, WAGLY is a place where questioning youth can explore and affirm their sexual and gender identities.
It started when local high-school Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) leaders realized the need to take the alliance out of the school and bring it into the larger community, but getting WAGLY off the ground took several months. In an interview with Blue Boat, Rev. Jack Patrick Lewis of UUSWH, who was a leading force in getting WAGLY off the ground, explained that putting together the newest organization in the Boston-area network of “AGLY”s required careful thought and planning with experienced professionals on how to create a safe and welcoming space with programming for youth of all faiths. “We made sure that youth were part of the planning,” said Rev. Lewis, emphasizing that the involvement of high school students from the beginning to ensure the programming was relevant and accessible.
Rev. Lewis notes that WAGLY is an outreach ministry of the congregation. The Youth Group at UUSWH has a few members who regularly participate with WAGLY, and many of whom are proud that their church offers such a welcoming space. WAGLY was created with the support of other UU churches in the area and benefitted from a grant from the Unitarian Universalist Funding Program, but it also represents an interfaith effort whose partners include congregations that identify as Catholic, Methodist, Jewish and United Church of Christ. WAGLY focuses on secular programming and support of GLBTQ and questioning youth, no matter what their faith identity.
WAGLY also provides specific support for transgender and gender variant youth. “Some of these students may use different pronouns at school, but they can choose what identity they want to use at our meetings,” added Rev. Lewis. WAGLY’s group for transgender and gender variant youth, UMBRELLA, offers additional meetings led by peer leaders and trans and cisgender adults.
To learn more about WAGLY, visit their website at www.wagly.org. WAGLY fits into a constellation of similar organizations in the Boston area, many of whom are supported by UU churches. Find out more about the BAGLY network at www.bagly.org. You can also connect in your community through the Gay-Straight Alliance Network.