In honor of #GivingTuesday on November 29th, the Schott Foundation has reached out to some of our grantee partners to get the low-down on what they do, who they’re doing it for, and the challenges that they handle like rockstars every day.
The Schott Foundation began partnering with BAGLY in 2014 to support their work around school climate and the LGBTQ youth experience in Massachusetts.
Today, we’re talking to Kurtlan Massarsky, Director of Development & Marketing.
WHO: Boston Alliance of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender Youth (BAGLY)
WHERE: Boston, MA
WHAT: LGBTQ Youth Leadership
THEIR FICTIONAL CHARACTER OF CHOICE: “I would have to characterize BAGLY as a unicorn. Together we are strong, magical, and beautiful.”
SF: Tell us about the organization – how did it get started, and why?
KM: Formed in 1980, BAGLY is likely the oldest youth-led, adult-supported LGBTQ youth organization in the country. BAGLY’s creation was a response to the unique barriers, challenges, and need for community amongst LGBTQ youth. Through the decades, BAGLY has been here to respond to and support LGBTQ youth through triumphs and heartache, ranging from the AIDS crisis to the legalization of marriage equality. True to our roots as an organization formed by youth and for youth, youth leadership remains a cornerstone of BAGLY’s programming and vision, even as the work has changed throughout the years.
What are the main objectives of the organization?
At its core, BAGLY exists to lift up and support LGBTQ youth communities and individuals. A large part of that work goes to nurturing LGBTQ youth leaders. We have a saying that we aren’t here for “tomorrow’s leaders,” because LGBTQ youth are already leading, today.
At BAGLY, we envision a future for LGBTQ youth that is free of oppression and harassment – but, more than that, we see a future that has incorporated the needs and potential of LGBTQ youth into the fabric of a successful society.
What are the core services/activities of the organization?
BAGLY has grown a lot in the last 37 years, and so has our programming. We’re still the hub for Greater Boston’s LGBTQ youth, and have retained our iconic Wednesday Night activities, ranging from monthly potluck dinners to vogue contests and mini-functions. In 2013 BAGLY opened the doors of its Community Center on Beacon Hill, which houses a free clinic, library, and cyber center, and hosts support groups, special events, and even a new Dungeons and Dragons cadre!
Statewide, BAGLY funds and provides technical assistance to the AGLY Network, comprised of 15 independently-run LGBTQ youth groups across Massachusetts. In addition to supporting the AGLY Network, BAGLY hosts several statewide events, including an LGBTQ-friendly college fair, The BAGLY Prom, and MA Youth Pride.
Outside of direct service, BAGLY is deeply involved in advocacy efforts on policy issues ranging from addressing LGBTQ youth homelessness to public accommodations access for the trans communities.
What are the challenges facing the organization?
Articulating the complex work of a social justice organization that serves LGBTQ youth is both an energizing task and a daunting challenge. As social attitudes and laws have changed for LGBTQ people, there’s a prevailing sense that LGBTQ youth don’t experience the same barriers and hardships of generation’s past – and sometimes that’s true. As the resources, time, and energy that poured into the marriage equality fight dissipate, it has become harder to remind the larger LGBTQ community of the need and disparities faced by today’s LGBTQ youth.
How would you describe the people you serve/advocate for? What is important to them?
Being an adult working at an LGBTQ youth organization is equal parts nostalgic and mind-blowing. The young people who take advantage of BAGLY’s programs and services are some of the most inspirational leaders I’ve come across in my personal or professional life. BAGLY prioritizes working with homeless LGBTQ youth, LGBTQ youth of color, and young trans people – and seeing their leadership, drive, and compassion constitutes a daily lesson in humility. Sometimes what’s important to BAGLY youth is as simple as having a warm place to do homework and get a snack in our community center, and other times it’s protesting outside of the Massachusetts Statehouse with a bullhorn and hundreds of their peers chanting for change.
Sitting in BAGLY’s community center, as I write this, are 10 youth who come here regularly. I asked them what they find important, in their lives and at BAGLY, and three words seemed to come up again and again: dignity, leadership, and bravery. I think those three words say more than I could in 3 more paragraphs.
One last question, Kurtlan – what do you love most about this work?
Not every organization can provide the experience of impacting individual lives and help to direct progressive and inclusive policies at the state level. Working at BAGLY allows all of us who work here to learn and grow with the very people who attend our programs. Whether someone has just earned their GED, gotten their first job, or testified in front of the legislature, we are here, in the community center, to see their successes and triumphs.
#GivingTuesday is a chance for all to support incredible work happening around the country. Don’t forget to keep BAGLY in mind on November 29th!