Youth Leadership + Adult Support

As one of the country’s first and longest running youth-led, adult supported LGBTQ organizations BAGLY has added shape and definition (and flair!) to the field of youth work.  In 1980 BAGLY’s youth and adults worked without a rulebook or roadmap; there were no best practices, No professional training for youth work, no coalitions, not even one other LGBTQ youth group in the state with whom to collaborate.  As a result, BAGLY’s youth and adult leadership worked together to establish and develop institutional best practices regarding: youth/adult organizational power and collaboration, personal boundaries between youth and adults, and meaningful youth participation and leadership.  Today we have come to understand many of these principles as among the core concepts of the Youth Development Approach

Diversity + Respect + Social Justice

For many communities, institutional oppression, including racism, sexism, heterosexism, adultism and classism, can negatively impact health and achievement outcomes. This is most especially true for LGBTQ youth who move through the world balancing multiple marginalized identities every day.  As an organization committed to social justice, our advocacy work centers on challenging oppression on an institutional level and identifying and naming the resulting disparity among LGBTQ youth.

BAGLY’s long-standing commitment to social justice also means that much of our youth programming focuses on promoting a greater understanding of and respect for the diversity within the youth communities we serve, and ensuring that our youth and adult leadership is reflective of that diversity.

We believe it is our responsibility as a diverse community to identify and emphasize the value of accountability for oppressive behaviors. As part of our Leadership Development programming BAGLY staff, adult volunteers, youth leaders, and youth members work to recognize dominant group identity (white/male/gender normative/adult), make connections between oppressive behaviors and dominant groups, and develop the skills and caring behaviors needed to uphold BAGLY’s commitment to social justice and to create anti-oppressive environments for LGBTQ youth.

The BAGLY “Frees”

In order to create a safe and welcoming space at BAGLY, where everyone is able to participate to the fullest, we think it’s important to maintain a space for LGBTQ youth that is free of sex, drugs, alcohol, violence, weapons, pressure and harassment.  As such, all participants of BAGLY’s programs and events are expected to refrain from engaging in sex, violence, pressure and harassment and from carrying/holding/selling/distributing drugs, alcohol or weapons while in our space.

We view this effort as very different from attempting to police or control behavior.  We appreciate that LGBTQ youth engage in all kinds of behaviors for all kinds of different reasons (including sometimes for economic survival), and that LGBTQ youth make all kinds of decisions that exist within a continuum of negotiated safety and harm reduction.

We also recognize that as sexual minorities many LGBTQ youth experience denial of sexual difference, and as a result often receive incomplete/inaccurate information regarding desire, sexual possibility, safety, risk and resources.  For these reasons, our approach to programming and services is youth-centered, non-judgmental and "sex-positive" (meaning we think consensual sex is natural and healthy). At BAGLY, members create opportunities to talk freely about sex, drugs and alcohol, ask questions, connect with appropriate referrals and participate in programming which specifically addresses the gaps left by heterosexist/gender-normative educational frameworks.