FRAMINGHAM, Massachusetts -April 1, 2019- Local non-profit organization OUT MetroWest hosted three elected officials at its weekly WAGLY meeting for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) high school youth.
Panelists included Melrose school committee member Lizbeth DeSelm, Leominster state representative Natalie Higgins, and OUT MetroWest’s former executive director, state representative Jack Patrick Lewis. Holyoke city councilor Jossie Valentin was scheduled to appear but was unable to
attend due to illness.
The panel took place at the Unitarian Universalist Society in Wellesley Hills on Monday, April 1.
The panel was an opportunity for LGBTQ youth to hear directly from elected officials who also identify as part of the LGBTQ community. WAGLY peer leaders introduced the panelists, who discussed their LGBTQ identities, their elected positions, and the importance of civic engagement.
Rep. Higgins shared that when she graduated from Leominster High School in 2006, not a lot of her classmates were openly LGBTQ.
Rep. Lewis also discussed recent societal changes, explaining that his journey to Massachusetts began when the Commonwealth became the first state to recognize same-sex marriage just 15 years ago.
OUT MetroWest youth participants also had a chance to ask the panelists questions during a Q&A session.
Participants asked questions about gerrymandering, reproductive rights, gender markers on state-issued IDs, religion, and coming out as LGBTQ.
Reflecting on being an openly transgender public official, DeSelm remarked, “In this role, we’re coming out every day. We’re educating every day.”
Monday’s panel was one of many that WAGLY presents each year.
“Adult mentors and role models are a key component of our programs,” said OUT MetroWest program manager Kay Gordon. “This particular
event allowed our participants to connect with thriving LGBTQ adults whose policy work impacts their lives every day.”
OUT MetroWest runs four programs for LGBTQ middle and high school youth, totaling more than a dozen meetings each month. Meetings are educational, social, and supportive and are held in Framingham, Newton, and Wellesley. The organization also provides workshops in the community to enhance understanding of gender identity and sexual orientation, as well as events for LGBTQ parents and their families.
The photo and report were submitted to SOURCE by OUT MetroWest.