16-year-old Jack Harris is committed to making LGBTQ+ teens feel welcomed and supported in the Metro Detroit community.
Jack Harris, a junior at Frankel Jewish Academy (FJA), is one of only two out students at his school. While Harris’s fellow students and teachers stood by him, he still felt something was missing.
“I have never gained so much support in my life,” Harris said. “But there is something different about having all allies in your life, instead of having other LGBTQ+ teens in your life who understand what I was going through. I was lacking that, and it was difficult to gain the type of reassurance and security that I needed to know that I wasn’t the only other person going through these things.”
In December 2019, Harris started Queer Not Quiet, a group for LGBTQ+ teens of all backgrounds to meet and discuss their experiences. They host one or two meetings a month at the Jewish Community Center (JCC).
“Queer Not Quiet is different from organizations such as the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), because at FJA, there is no GSA,” Harris said. “It is not designated just for kids at Frankel—but instead, for all LGBTQ teens and allies in metro Detroit. Not only that, but in the future we will have events that are coordinated for different people in the community like teachers, parents or even just adults in general, something that GSA does not tend to offer.”
Marcy Kolb, FJA’s Social Worker, suggested Harris start a support group for LGBTQ+ teens from the area.
“Jack was looking for a local, fun and thought-provoking group for LGBTQ+ teens to meet, discuss important topics and build friendships within a safe space. When he could not find what he was looking for, he created it himself,” Kolb said. “He’s kind, thoughtful, driven and so full of life. I’m in awe of his passion for creating and sustaining this group.”
Harris’s goal is to maintain the group so that it will be able to help teens of all ages and backgrounds to have a support network. Harris has been in contact with the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit on the possibility of having them absorb it and turn it into a non-profit organization run by Harris.
“It is very important to make sure Queer Not Quiet is well-established and has a strong foundation, because I want kids and teens to have this outlet and resource for their middle school and high school experiences,” Harris said. “I didn’t’t have that community when I was going through my education and I want to make sure other teens don’t feel alone like I once did.”
Queer Not Quiet is holding its first event on March 22, bringing together LGBTQ+ teens and allies. The discussion will be held from 3-4:30 p.m. at the back of the teen center in the JCC and is open to the public with an RSVP.
“I’m really excited for this event because I want to host this discussion for people who might not be as regularly exposed to people who are LGBTQ+, so they can ask questions or be a part of a conversation they’re normally not a part of,” Harris said.
In addition to Queer Not Quiet, Harris plays varsity tennis, is a member of National Honor Society, serves on student government, is president of the Everyone for Equality Club, which he started with his friend Emilie Weingarden that works to provide resources for teachers, staff, and students to be a part of conversations that involve further integrating equality into FJA, and works with the Educational Revisioning Board to help create and implement major positive changes at the school, including the later start time that began this year.
He even started an American Sign Language (ASL) class with the help and support of FJA teacher, Karen Diskin.
“I discovered my passion for ASL by learning more about the universal development of ASL and also discovering more about deaf culture,” Harris said. “I took the course last year and it was very impactful and great to know that FJA was open and accepting to the idea of implementing another course at the school.”
Harris is active at Temple Beth El with his parents, Paula and John. He also attends the temple’s Monday Night School and participates in Beth El Temple Youth (BETY).
“I want every teen to not feel afraid or ashamed of who they are and show them what a radically accepting Jewish community we have here in Metro Detroit,” Harris said.
Get to know more about Jack:
- Favorite food: Sushi
- Favorite music artist: Lady Gaga
- Favorite color: Green
- Favorite movie: Call Me By Your Name
- Favorite TV shows or Netflix series: Schitt’s Creek
- Somewhere you want to visit and why: Egypt, to see all the ruins and experience the culture firsthand.
- Best advice you have received: Treat others the way you would want to be treated.
- Biggest supporter: My parents and my best friend, Leila.
- Future goals: It’s not really a goal, but more so my motto: I never want to stop learning because I love learning strange, weird facts and allowing myself to become a more well-rounded person
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