The Rev. Pam Wat

The LGBTQ youth program in Denton met for the first time on Friday, Oct. 21 at Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. The Rev. Pamela Wat reported a good turnout of teens, young adults and adult volunteers.

“The youth/teens expressed a desire to have a place to meet every week on Friday nights,” she said.

Teens who cannot get to the church on Fridays also expressed a desire for some Wednesday night activities.

Beginning Nov. 4, the church will be open every Friday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. for OUTreach Denton. All LGBTQ youth and allies are welcome. Once that meeting becomes established, a Wednesday night gathering once a month may be added.

Wat said that they went through a list of activities that Youth First Texas has done successfully.

“The thing they wanted to do is hear adult coming out stories,” she said. “For some, that night was the first time they had met an out LGBT person.”

Wat was surprised by how unsafe one teen was in his high school.

“Coming out for him is not an option,” she said.

But now, one night a week, he will have a safe place to meet other LGBT youth.

“For a lot of us adults, we’re removed from how real and hard that struggle is,” she said.

She was also surprised by the reaction she got from some local clergy. In announcing the new group, Wat sent an email to other churches in Denton. She expected those who opposed what her church was doing to simply ignore the message.

Instead, she heard from several pastors that said they were glad she was addressing the issue so that, in effect, they would not have to. But she also received what amounted to hate mail from another clergy member.

“If he’s going to be that hateful to a colleague, what’s he going to do to a child?” Wat said.

Before the meeting, Wat was worried that the youth who attended would be afraid to talk.

“But they were open, sharing, talking,” she said. “They let their guard down and the healing started immediately.”

The initial group included mostly teens ages 14 through 17. Older students in Denton have GLAD, the college group at University of North Texas.

Wat said she thought most of the teens that attended came from safe environments. She said that some drove themselves, but most were dropped off by parents.

“We need to do more outreach to spread the word without spreading where we might get negative attention,” she said. “We haven’t broken into the school system yet.”

At its first regular meeting, the group will work on fliers and a website.

“At some point, we expect to affiliate with Youth First Texas,” Wat said, “but at this point we’re continuing under the name OUTreach Denton but following the same policies and procedures that YFT sets out.”

Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 1111 Cordell St., Denton. Fridays at 7 p.m.