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Each year, Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston (BGCB)’s President’s Innovation Fund empowers our staff to lead new, creative programs at the Club which identify an unmet need or interest for members. Through this grant, Edgerley Family South Boston Club has created a teen Queer Straight Alliance (QSA) led by School Aged Child Care Director Isabelle “Izzy” Gonzalez.

In the last year, Izzy has worked with youth to create a safe, encouraging space for both allies and members who identify as LGBTQ+ to gather and ask questions, as well as receive equitable access to sexual health education and hygiene materials through a customized, gender-inclusive curriculum.

Nick Sailor, Senior Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, sat down with Izzy to talk about the QSA’s highlights and goals for the year to come.  

Nick: What do you hope your members gain from being in the QSA?

Izzy: I aim for a sense of community with queer-identifying members and creating the sense of a safe space, and comradery for members that don’t necessarily identify in the LGBTQ+ community. We’re learning how to better support each other, become an ally, and to speak out against prejudice that we see out in the world around us.

We’ve learned so much about gender identity, sexuality, and pronouns. In the fall, we heavily focused on safe sex practices, and that’s where a lot of our members feel that safe space to ask questions that they felt they couldn’t before.

Nick: How have you found that you’re filling a gap for our members to grow and learn in a safe space?

Izzy: In general, the Club can bring an added piece to education and the formal structure of the school system. In the QSA, we have a bit more flexibility and freedom to fill in the gaps of what they might not learn outside the Club. Over time, we’ve built a culture of strengthening personal connections with our youth for them to ask the questions they wouldn’t feel safe to ask elsewhere.

Izzy, front left, with fellow Edgerley Family South Boston Club staff

Nick: You recently partnered with BAGLY (The Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth) to train fellow staff and receive additional support. What was that like?

Izzy: BAGLY spoke to me, being led by LGBTQ+ youth for youth. For them, it’s not just about basic safety needs being met, but also building a positive community and joy around these identities. They did a great job breaking down the basics and answering a lot of questions. They also provided tangible resources that we can start to implement now, like how to respectfully ask for member pronouns during registration, particularly for the members who may use different pronouns at the Club that they don’t feel ready to use at home or school.

Nick: As you’re building out what next year looks like, what are some of the goals you’re hoping to accomplish?

Izzy: We’d like to continue with education around gender identity and orientations. Beyond that, a big priority for us will be partnering with the teens to see how we can make the Club a more inclusive space, and have them take agency and ownership of that process, leading initiatives around what’s most important to them.

Nick: This June, are there certain things that you’ve done to highlight Pride Month?

Izzy: We held a bake sale fundraiser for BAGLY, and all of the money that we’ve raised from that will be donated in the QSA’s name. We had QSA members decorate posters for around the Club, and gave out pride flags and pins. The teens also made magazines (right) which have definitions, resources, and information broken down into kid-friendly terms, as well as a brief history of Pride and the queer community. out South Boston’s Pride ‘Zine here!

Nick: You all have had a great impact on members and the Club in general. What’s the impact that you’ve seen on members?

Izzy: A better understanding of respecting others’ gender identities and advocating for it. There were some members that had joined that never really understood what being non-binary meant, and now they’d gained enough knowledge to educate their peers. That was really beautiful to see—someone that came in with very little knowledge feeling comfortable and wanting to advocate. In general, everyone’s pride to be a part of the community, which I then saw trickle down to the younger members. The pre-teens are now asking when they could join the QSA. I would like to see that broaden to include some younger members since the interest is there.

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