BAGLY Ignoring Pedophilia Or Condoning It?
November 1--BAGLY says it is operating with the best of intentions and that the safety of their youth is their primary concern. They educate and provide social support and education for the Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual and Transgendered youth of the Commonwealth. They hold HIV prevention education talks, discussion groups, dances, and other events for those youth. Their events never permit alcohol, drugs, violence, smoking of anything or sexual activity.
BAGLY is in a unique position in Massachusetts in that they are funded by the state, recommended by the schools, and their membership includes youth from 22 years to 14 years (or younger).
BAGLY receives grant money from the Governor’s "Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth," and the Department of Health, among other places. They are endorsed by the Department of Education’s Gay/Straight Alliances, which dole out "safe schools" grants to schools that start Gay/Straight Alliances. Parents’ tax dollars support BAGLY directly, and their dollars support BAGLY through the Gay/Straight Alliances as well.
As Young as Fourteen and as Old as Twenty-Two.
BAGLY is controversial as they have no lower age limit (they say that 14 is usually the youngest), and they have members as old as twenty-two. This is a problematic mix of ages, but most of these problems are not addressed by the organization itself. BAGLY must acknowledge an ever-present risk of a 22-year-old dating and becoming sexually involved with a 14-year-old after becoming acquainted at BAGLY. Their Executive Director Grace Sterling Stowell says (see interview) that this could be dealt with the same as it would be at a high school where seniors and freshmen attend the same dances. However, BAGLY must account for its much bigger age disparity. If BAGLY operates like a high school, then they are negligent with the youth they are trying to support.
Seperintendent of Schools Declined to Talk
Although the Secretary for the Superintendent of Schools, Jeffrey M. Young, told the Massachusetts News several times that he would call to explain whether he had any concerns about the BAGLY instruction of homsexual sex, he never returned the call.
BAGLY has a policy that no adult staff may be sexually involved with any member, but they have no similar policy for their adult members and their relationships with the younger members. BAGLY was asked what would happen if a 22-year-old were dating a 14-year-old in their organization. While making it clear that this situation would be extremely unusual and would meet with negative feedback from other members of BAGLY, their executive director was also clear that both parties would be talked to and that they would make sure that the younger person did not feel "pressured" or "unsafe."
We do not give young teenagers the authority to drive, vote, serve in the military or to determine if they are ready to have sex with an adult regardless of how "safe" they feel about it. BAGLY is adamantly opposed to coercion – they claim they make sure that there is no pressure in their social settings, but they fail to recognize that the line between coercion and comfort for a confused teenager may be very thin. Parents do not want their teenagers in situations where they have to make a quick decision if they are being pressured to have sex with a 22-year-old.
BAGLY contends that a 22-year-old dating a 14-year-old may only be a hypothetical –there may be no real example of that happening at BAGLY. Regardless, BAGLY maintains an environment where both the possibility for and appearance of impropriety are great.
Teaching Sex to Teenagers
The other major complication for BAGLY’s wide age range is that they do not distinguish between young and old members when they teach sexual information. They endorse the Fenway Community Health Center (it is highlighted on BAGLY’s website) as do the state’s Gay/Straight Alliances. Since BAGLY’s meetings are not divided by age, if they distribute "Safe Sex" materials like the Fenway’s "Safer Sex Guidelines," there is no distinction drawn for the materials that go to the adult members of the group and the young members. These particular "safer sex guidelines" feature graphic pictures of condom use (on live models) along with graphic descriptions of sexual activities such as "fisting," "rimming" and "sucking" and they feature headings such as "dating, mating and penetrating" and "coy boys and toys." Were this material not tied to safe sex education, it would fall under any number of pornography laws. It may be called "safe sex education", but it is questionable whether many mothers or fathers would want it distributed to their children.
We must now ask if the schools have asked any questions
of BAGLY before recommending them to the school children of Massachusetts.
Superintendent Jeffrey Young of the Newton School system promised to return
phone calls about this issue, but he did not.