This month, the North Shore Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth (NAGLY) is celebrating its 20th anniversary. On September 20 Bishop V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay priest in the Episcopal Church, will be NAGLY’s keynote speaker. Bishop Robinson will also be honored with the organization’s coveted Award of Valor at NAGLY’s annual fundraiser dinner.
With the slogan “You are not alone”, NAGLY has provided a safe and an affirming space for LGBTQ teens and young adults aged 14-23 who are exploring their sexual and gender identities.
“It makes a difference to have a place to ask your questions. It matters when you need to discuss coming out. It is critical to have a place to talk when you are dating,” the NAGLY website states.
NAGLY advocacy for LGBTQ teens and young adults is because they are one of the most “at-risk” groups in society. Along with suicide this population is at risk for academic difficulties, dropping out, lower self-esteem, being run-aways, homelessness, truancy, substance abuse, clinical depression, queer bashing, prostitution and HIV/AIDS.
NAGLY is a 503c3 non-profit organization whose mission is “to create, sustain and advocate for programs, policies, and services for the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender youth community, particularly including the establishment of regular support meetings, and to defend and enhance the human and civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth on the North Shore of Massachusetts.”
NAGLY is also part of a statewide effort to assist LGBTQ teens and young adults in supporting their emerging sexual and gender identities formation. Through the process of socialization and the development of interpersonal skills, their feelings are validated by their peers, youth advisors and by supportive adult role models like Mal Malme.
“In our weekly three hour meetings, the NAGLY youth advisors and youth members create an environment of respect, compassion, and acceptance that celebrates who they are as LGBTQQ individuals and as part of a larger community. “
Mal Malme, a co-founder of Queer Soup Theater, and a clown doctor with The Big Apple Circus Clown Care Program at Boston Children’s Hospital and Hasbro Children’s Hospital is a NAGLY adult advisor and board member; she has been with the organization for eight years. Every Tuesday evening Malme drives from Cambridge to be with her kids in Salem.
NAGLY knows that LGBTQ teen and young adults years are a time of enormous transition involving unique biological, psychological and social changes. For these youths experiencing same-sex attractions and/or gender identity issues this developmental stage can create alienation and isolation from peers, family, and faith community.
With now LGBTQ churches like the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, Unity Fellowship Church Movement, and Dignity, to name a few, and open and affirming straight ally churches across several denominations, religion is, nonetheless, one of the big issues plaguing our youth and robbing their spiritual lives.
For example, the Suicide Prevention Center of the Central Coast in California estimates that roughly 1,200 LGBT oriented people commit suicide every year, often for religious reasons. What does that mean? It means that at least 100 LGBTQ of our youth and young adults end their lives.The Santa Cruz (CA) suicide hotline reports that one in five calls is due to the caller’s distress over the conflict between the caller’s sexual orientation and the caller’s religion.
In wanting NAGLY’s youth to imagine a positive and an inclusive religion for same-sex people of faith, NAGLY, in honor of the dinner with Bishop Gene Robinson, is holding an essay contest to give a youth an opportunity to attend the fundraiser dinner. And the essay topic is “What Could Organized Religion Do to Make Me Feel More Welcome?”
Since the 2003 consecration of the Bishop V. Gene Robinson as the ninth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire that set off a worldwide firestorm of reactions throughout the Anglican Communion, both positive and negative, his tenacity to remain a bishop and his tenure as a bishop exemplifies unconditional love.
Since Robinson’s consecration, both conservatives and progressive have asked him why he wants to be a bishop in a church that doesn’t seem to want him. In his sermon at the General Convention, Robinson answered that question.
Robinson asked rhetorically, “How do you do what you do? How do you seem calm and loving, even when insults are coming your way, even when Holy Scripture is being flung in your face like mud?” Quoting extensively from John Fortunato’s 1982 book Embracing the Exile, Robinson depicts the gay Episcopalian author’s vision he’d had of God. Talking with him about loving his persecutors despite our enemies’ ridicule, scorn, and even torment, God tells Fortunato to “love them anyway.” The vision ends with God enveloping Fortunato in “two strong, motherly arms. ... We wept. For joy.”
“NAGLY is grateful for Bishop Robinson’s acceptance of our Award of Valor. His commitment to the LGBTQ rights of all people; both in the Christian and global community empower youth to stand up proud and strong for who they are becoming. For me he is a standard bearer of Christ’s call for justice and inclusion” stated Donna Spencer Collins, Associate Pastor of Personal Outreach with Tewksbury Congregational Church, and NAGLY board member.
This year, NAGLY along with Robinson will be honoring its founding members and will offer up spectacular auction items including sports tickets, vacation packages, antiques, artwork, services, and various other items. CBS Radio-WBMX personality Fast Freddy will serve as emcee for the evening, and the program will feature a youth video, awards, DJ Marc Anthony spinning tunes, and an appearance by Boston’s MamaDonna, singing ‘I Am What I Am.’ Single tickets for this event are $45 in advance, and $50 at the door. Purchasing tickets for both the V. Gene Robinson dinner and the Fundraising Gala are discounted at $125. Tickets to all 3 events are encouraged in advance, and can be secured on NALGY’s website, www.nagly.org