When the Newburyport High School theater department put on a production of Rent, the topics in the musical drew attention to the lack of any sort of gay-straight alliance in the city.
Rent touches on sensitive subjects such as the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1990’s and risky behavior.
It also has quite a few LGBT characters. This highlighted the absence of a safe program for LGBT students in Newburyport. A few students in the high school, who have now graduated, created NewAGLY to solve the problem.
The group seeks to create a safe space for youth of all kinds. Even though it may seem like one has to fall under the LGBT* umbrella to be a part of the group, it really is open for all who wish to join.
In the three years that I have been a part of NewAGLY, the club has achieved great things. We have organized a dance that was open to all students that live in Newburyport and the surrounding area.
This was a great opportunity to reach out to other AGLYs and have a fun time with kids from other cities and towns. We have also worked to make a sex ed class that teaches about things that are not heteronormative to provide a more well rounded education. Then, we hosted an event for National Coming out Day that was open to all ages. Annually, we organize a trip to the Youth Pride event in Boston if there is enough interest to go.
Youth Pride is my favorite because it’s a day in the big city with a lot of freebies given away topped off with a dance at Boston City hall. These are only the major events. Usually, the club is more low key with relaxed meetings where everyone talks about what they feel is important. There is always food, and we try to plan movie nights every few months.
Unfortunately, there are some problems with NewAGLY. First, a big obstacle for the club is its name.
Most people have no idea what it means or what an AGLY is. I know I did not have a clue about it and had to rely on others to tell me what it was. It stands for Newburyport Alliance for Gay and Lesbian Youth as it is connected with BAGLY, the AGLY for Boston.
Not only is this name ambiguous, but it also seems to exclude transgender or other LGBT* identifying people – as well as straight allies. This is not the case. Both NewAGLY and BAGLY are open to all youths showing support for each other no matter how they identify. People talk about stopping bullying – but this is a clear step to get young people working together.
Recently, the club was renamed with the more common name Gay-Straight Alliance to clear up confusion. However, this is not the only problem the club faces. Because the club is run by the Newburyport Youth Services, it can be hard to organize and get students to attend. It would be much easier, and it has been advised, to create a Gay-Straight Alliance that is associated with the school, but this is hard to accomplish as well.
The NYS is hosted in the Kelley School, so it can be hard to coordinate schedules and rides for students. Currently, NewAGLY has been put on hold due to lack of interest. It would be a shame to let such an accepting and proactive club blink out of existence. If you are interested, don’t be afraid to attend meetings and voice your wish for the club to be restored.
In a time of life when cliques can dominate – it is great to have an open group with the simple goal of reducing prejudice and intolerance.