Unitarian Church forms Outreach Denton

Rev. Pam Wat

Programs and meeting space will be made available for LGBT youth, seniors and other groups

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

When a teen at Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship came out, the Rev. Pam Wat knew just what to do — hook her up with her high school’s gay/straight alliance.

Problem was, the teen attended a small school near Denton that had no GSA.

Then a lesbian member of the congregation lost her partner. Wat wanted to refer her to a grief support group — but couldn’t find one in town that could guarantee the woman would be welcome.

Wat, who moved to Denton from San Francisco last year, quickly realized that a number of services she was used to having readily available, were simply not available in Denton. But it was the death, in December of a congregation member War called “our gay activist.” This man, she said, was the one who kept the congregation up-to-date on concerns in the LGBT community. Last fall he brought attention to the teen suicide problem. This spring, after his death, Wat said, there was a noticeable lack of information about LGBT issues.

That’s when Wat knew she had to jump in. So she called a summit at the church.

About 90 people attended the June 1 meeting to discuss the local needs of the LGBT community. The result was the creation of Outreach Denton.

Members of six local churches attended, including Harvest MCC of Denton and Trinity Presbyterian Church. Both offered their facilities as well.

Wat said that people who attended signed up to volunteer in a variety of areas, but the youth issues attracted the most attention and will be the first addressed.

LGBT teens needed a safe space and a meeting place without traveling to Dallas or Plano. Youth First Texas has offered to provide some training in July for volunteers putting together the Denton youth group.

Wat said that the group might open as a Denton branch of the organization, similar to the Collin County YFT satellite.

Others expressed interest in reviving PFLAG.

PFLAG has been one of the few LGBT groups that flourished for more than a decade in Denton, but it floundered when founder Kathy Massey stepped down from leadership.

Wat said that a welcoming grief support group was also needed in the community. A chapter of Lambda AA was vital and senior issues needed to be addressed, too, she said.

Wat said that she needs a list of resources to offer reading material and phone numbers, even if those contacts are in Dallas. She said that Sandy Swann, librarian at Resource Center Dallas and a member of the Unitarian congregation in Denton, was a constant source of information that she regularly brings from the Resource Center in Oak Lawn.

“Lots of professors participated in the meeting,” Wat said, including the faculty advisor for GLAD, the LGBT group at University of North Texas.

She said that gave her ideas for a lecture series and programming as well as a way to partner with UNT and Texas Women’s University.

“I have been overwhelmed and delighted by the support from the congregation,” Wat said.

She said that one older member’s initial reaction was, “Will people start calling us ‘the gay church?’” But after fretting about it for a week, Wat said the following Sunday the man told her he had spoken to gay members and friends and was sorry about his initial reaction.

She said he then made a generous donation to help fund Outreach Denton.

“That made me understand how far we need to go to be welcoming,” she said.

Outreach Denton can be reached through the Denton Unitarian Universalist Church, 1111 Cordell St., Denton. 940-566-1286.

—  John Wright