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ELYSARC – A Look at Everett’s First LGBTQ+ Resource Center

By Richie McNamara

During the summer of 2020, Kay Mangan had just moved back to their hometown in Everett, Massachusetts. “It was the beginning of the pandemic, and I was reflecting on my high school experience in the closet. And when I came back to Everett after graduating (college), I felt eyes on me now that I was visibly queer.” 

Kay, who uses they/them pronouns, could not recollect a single instance when the City of Everett acknowledged “LGBTQ anything.” Kay’s father, Michael Mangan, has previously served on Everett City Council and is currently on the School Committee representing Ward 4. Kay grew up very aware of Everett’s priorities and knew that LGBTQ+ rights and protections were not on the city’s radar. Realizing there was a lack of resources in Everett is what pushed Kay to make a change, so they joined forces with co-founder Dom Washington, who has an extensive background in community organizing, to propose ELYSARC to the city.

Kay and Dom sent a proposal for the youth center to the city, which included details like utilizing an unoccupied space in a former public school building. After months of waiting, the city reached out to tell them they had a space, and they opened their doors on June 1, 2021. Since they got that call, Dom explained that the ball moved quickly, which felt “surreal, exciting, and overwhelming.”

ELYSARC stands for Everett LGBTQ+ Youth Space and Resource Center and is for queer youth to have a space to hang out and be themselves. They offer gender-affirming products and resources, as well as provide connections to resources with STI testing, food, and healthcare in their space in the Old Pope John High School.

“We wanted to prioritize creating a physical space because that’s often the biggest barrier for an organization”

— ELYSARC co-founder Kay Mangan

ELYSARC also has vocational and volunteer opportunities for LGBTQ+ youth, as they currently have an intern helping them out for college credit. They’ve also hired LGBTQ+ youth artists to paint a mural. The organization has joined forces with Everett Public Schools to assess the needs of LGBTQ+ students and to create professional development opportunities and resources.

ELYSARC has faced some backlash from a small handful of locals, as heightened visibility can lead to more outward hate. However, for Dom and Kay, the Everett Public School system has been truly supportive of their organization in the face of hate.

Kay and Dom were incredibly proud to help create Everett’s first Queer Prom.

Kay and Dom cited Queer Prom as their most proud moment relating to ELYSARC. “A lot of us have weird feelings about prom, and high school in general,” says Kay. “We wanted to reclaim authenticity with this event.” The droves of support this event received made it apparent how necessary a Queer Prom was in Everett. Not only did people want to see the event happen, but they also wanted to attend and volunteer. 

To put on their biggest event, ELYSARC collaborated with YouForward (a Lawrence nonprofit promoting self-discovery and well-being in young adults through shared experiences and resources), and Lowell’s YouthQuake (an access center serving young adults in need of mental health support). Queer Prom at ELYSARC included a live ballroom performance from the House of Escada who has been featured on the first season of HBO’s Legendary

Currently, ELYSARC is focusing on providing mutual aid in the form of gender-affirming products, and professional development workshops with Everett Public Schools. You can find them on Instagram @elysarc_ and for other ways to show support!

Richie McNamara graduated from UMass Amherst with a BA in Communication and a published thesis project titled Beyond Our Boundaries, which looks at how face-to-face, personal narrative storytelling can create social change. Currently, Richie works in social media marketing for a local general contractor. Interests include reality television, pop culture, content creation, and cross country running.