June is Pride Month and to celebrate, we interviewed the advisors of the Pioneer Pride Club about ways we can all support LGBTQ+ youth as a community.
Amy Frontier and Kathi Kobylarz are the co-advisers of the club.
Frontier is an English teacher at Pioneer High School and has lived in Ann Arbor since the summer of 2003. She spent her undergraduate years (1990-1994) at U-M. Kathi Kobylarz is a Teacher Consultant at Pioneer High School who started as an advisor to the Queer Straight Alliance (QSA) at Skyline High School. She joined Frontier as Co-Advisor for QSA/Pioneer Pride when she started teaching at Pioneer four years ago.
We focused on important ways to support everyone in our entire community each and every day.
Know What LGBTQ+ Stands For
It stands for “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning” according to Frontier.
At Skyline, Kobylarz added that the Q stood for Queer.
“It is important that people understand the many identities that exist in the LGBTQ+ community,” explained Frontier.
The plus sign is also important to remember in combination with the letters. This symbol helps to include asexual, aromantic, intersex, pansexual, and other identities. Essentially, the plus works as a way to include everyone, including those who are non-cisgender and have non-straight identities which may not align with the already present letters.
“I think that LGBTQ students feel more supported and listened to when adults and peers are able to communicate that they are open to hearing their perspectives and want to help when concerns arise in a school or community setting,“ explained Frontier. “We can also help LGBTQ youth when we make it easy for them to talk about what struggles they face and offer to help problem-solve with them.”
Kobylarz added other valuable information.
“Be present, be quiet, and listen,” Kobylarz detailed. “Listen with the intention of understanding what someone is trying to communicate.”
Add More Kindness, Inclusion, and Support
“One way we can support LGBTQ youth is to educate ourselves on the challenges they face and to read about their experiences,” described Frontier. For instance, she discussed how the Pioneer book club, “Pioneer Reads,” makes it a point to select an LGBTQ book for one of their monthly selections, which in turn allows students to feel more comfortable sharing their own personal identities and feelings.
You can also model kindness.
“Kindness is a moment-by-moment behavior,” Kobylarz added. “If you feel someone isn’t being fully accepted, model acceptance. If there is more explicit disrespect in your presence, don’t go along with it. I am a teacher so I am responsible for making corrections. There are many ways to do it.”
She added that students have repeatedly discussed how they feel empowered when a teacher corrects someone who is being disrespectful and how hurt they feel when the disrespect is not addressed.
Be More Respectful
We can watch the language we use as well as avoid words that are offensive or hurtful.
“So one way for people to be respectful is to step in when they hear or observe language that is hurtful,” explained Frontier. “LGBTQ+ students also are very grateful when people ask about and use the correct pronouns. And when people get the pronouns wrong, they really appreciate it when people are willing to correct themselves and apologize for the mistake.”
Kobylarz agreed with the importance of proper pronouns.
“I can introduce myself with my pronouns,” Kobylarz modeled. “I can learn my students’ pronouns and use them. I can care if I make a mistake, without making a big deal of it, which could be embarrassing. I can group students in ways that are inclusive. For example, grouping kids into boy/girl groups forces some people to make unnecessarily uncomfortable choices.”
Support LGBTQ+ Youth Groups
Pioneer Pride is a club that invites all students to support LGBTQ+ students at Pioneer. Both students who are part of the community, as well as those who are allies, are invited to join.
“It is a great space for students who want to make a social connection and meet other members of the community, but also a good place for students who are interested in working on advocacy and outreach,” explained Frontier.
Know About Their Experiences
Become aware of the lives these youth live and the challenges they face.
“There are a lot of great books — both fiction and non-fiction — that we can add to our reading list to learn about the lived experiences of LGBTQ+ youth,” explained Frontier. “ We can also learn about the local organizations that are most supportive of LGBTQ+ youth, such as The Neutral Zone and MOASH [Michigan Organization on Adolescent Sexual Health].”
Having good intentions and trying also goes a long way.
“Be open to learning, be sensitive, be helpful, care genuinely,” instructed Kobylarz. “You do not have to be perfect. Connect with each person as an individual. The LGBTQ group is a spectrum of many people. Also, don’t ask personal questions of people you have casual relationships with; that goes for people in general, not just people in the LGBTQ community.”