When Kyle Magri, a senior social work major, was recognized by the Southern community and the Sexuality and Gender Equality (SAGE) Center for his work with his new program, Monthly Magic, it was something he was not expecting.
At the spring 2023 Lavender Graduation, Magri received the Asher Wells LGBTQ+ Advocacy Award in recognition of his work with Monthly Magic, a monthly spirituality event he holds in the SAGE Center. The Asher Wells Award is a scholarship to honor Asher Wells, a SAGE Center ambassador who passed away.
Magri received an impressive eight nominations for the award, according to former SAGE Center director Jenna Retort, who added that “his program brought together so many queer students and allies in an engaging and comprehensive experience.”
“Kyle pretty much embodies what advocacy work really is,” says Brandon Iovene, director of the SAGE Center, citing Magri’s “knowledge, and the way that he just genuinely cares about bettering Southern and the community for queer students.”
“I didn’t think that what I was doing was that spectacular,” Magri says, “but people wrote all these amazing nominations for me, and I was just so honored by how touched people were by what we were doing with Monthly Magic — which was filling this gap and meeting this need for queer inclusion in religion and spirituality.”
Monthly Magic is a diverse and inclusive community dedicated to finding the sacred in the people, places, and things where most religious institutions refuse to look. This group is not affiliated with any religious institution, nor does it seek to build another. It gathers once a month to discuss topics of queer spirituality as well as folk wisdom and magic from around the world. Magri says that the members’ time together is guided by the Golden Rule: “love others as you wish to be loved.” And, he adds, they seek to use their time together to learn, grow, listen, share experiences, make friends, and build community. Their motto is “All are welcome to join us!”
Because he has fostered a group that gives a space and voice to queer people, Magri has helped a community to blossom into a more inclusive space by showing the importance of religious queer inclusivity. Historically, members of the LGBTQ+ community have not always felt welcome within organized religions, Magri says.
As for his own personal relationship with religion, Magri says he belongs to the Episcopal church, which is Christian. “I am deeply inspired by Jesus’ message of radical love together,” he says. “Reclaiming religion in a positive way for people definitely helps them understand that religion is vast. Religion is not one thing.”
Magri believes that if students are not practicing one of the three Abrahamic religions — Judiasm, Islam, and Christianity — or their own religion, they may be exploring some kind of New-Age spirituality. And to fill a gap that he perceived within the university’s offerings, he created Monthly Magic in part to make space for these New-Age spiritualities.
“There’s a whole world outside of the three Abrahamic religions,” Magri says, “and I think Monthly Magic is one of the first places to really constantly meet those needs, for college students in particular, to practice some form of magical spirituality,” Magri said.
In addition to identifying as Episcopalian, Magri says that he is also a folk magic practitioner and wants Monthly Magic to meet the need of pagans who feel that they may not be welcomed elsewhere. “A pagan today might be thought of as a demon or evil witchcraft, he says. “A lot of people are interested in witchcraft, and those are so stigmatized,” he says.
“It might be controversial, it might be different,” he says. “But we are a university, so it is our job to facilitate and allow different ways of thinking to flourish and to grow in order to change the world.”
Magri’s hope is that he will carry Monthly Magic on in his Episcopal journey and continue to teach, promote and lead groups within the Episcopal church even after he graduates.