Pride Month: Teens Step Up to Support Their Peers
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Pride Month: Teens Step Up to Support Their Peers

Generation Z will be leading the way in marking Pride Month this June. A recent Gallup poll shows that about 21% of Generation Z Americans who are 18 and older identify as LGBT. Teens younger than 18 haven’t been counted yet, but still that percentage is already nearly double the number of millennials who identify as LGBT. In fact the percentage is approximately doubling for each generation.

Many student leaders have recognized this and have joined efforts to promote inclusive schools and communities, where LGBT youth feel accepted. A number of these students have been featured in our Rustic Spirit feature articles and spotlights, which recognize teens and young adults who embody the Rustic spirit and are making a positive impact around the world.

Zander Torn is one of them. Torn started a Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) club at school and says Pride Month is a “big deal.”

“Pride Month to me is about not only celebrating who we are but also celebrating others,” Torn said. “It’s finding your family – the people that support you regardless, the people that love you.”

Other Rustic Spirit teens that celebrate this kind of supportive community include Callie Cook, who traveled to Thailand with Rustic Pathways, Dajuantay Wynter, and John Huynh.

Cook lives in Melbourne, Australia and is involved in many nonprofit efforts, such as raising funds for families affected by wildfires and providing food assistance. In addition to that, Cook is president of the Pride Club at William Angliss Institute, which aims to welcome students and end discrimination.

Wynter is from Sacramento, California and is vice president of the Key Club and works with his school’s Student Equity Committee to make the school safer and more welcoming. Huynh, who also is from California, has worked on mental health efforts as a member of the student council. Likewise, he runs a virtual support group for youth who identify as LGBTQ.

While these students are in the early stages of their advocacy and support, one of the hopes of Pride Month is that teens will learn about trailblazing adults. Among the lesser known people who may be of interest to Rustic Pathways students are advocates like Ruth Gates and Bayard Rustin.

Gates was a marine biologist and conservationist who studied coral reef systems. She was the first woman to be president of the International Society for Reef Studies and worked on creating so-called “super corals” that could better withstand climate change. Her work was featured in a documentary called Chasing Coral, which is available on Netflix.

As a lesbian, Gates has served as an inspiration for other LGBT scientists, but she died at age 56 in 2018 while undergoing surgery for a gastrointestinal disease.

Another trailblazer is Bayard Rustin who lived from 1912 to 1987. He was an African American leader who advocated for both civil rights and gay rights.

Courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

He worked on the March on Washington Movement to push for an end in racial discrimination in employment. He also was involved in many humanitarian missions, including helping Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees. Years after Rustin’s death, President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

There are of course many other role models whose lives will take center stage this June. Plus, there are Pride parades from San Francisco to Amsterdam, so you can check out the festivities near you.

In the meantime, we celebrate all the students who are promoting kindness and inclusivity in their schools. You are definitely displaying the Rustic Spirit and for that we thank you for paving the way to a better future.

About the Author

Mary Rogelstad

Content Writer