'Safe Zone' training increasing students' understanding of each other
What does it mean to be Safe Zone certified?
It sounds simple enough; someone who is trained in creating a safe environment. But a safe environment for whom? Isn’t our campus a safe environment as it is? Our campus has been deemed “safer,” with more than 1,000 members of the community becoming Safe Zone certified since the Office of LGBTQ Affairs revamped the program in 2010.
While the program isn’t necessarily making the campus “safer” per se, it is raising awareness.
Safe Zone training is a two-part workshop that educates students on what it means to be an LGBTQ ally.
Part one, the general education workshop, explores definitions, describes symbols and surveys the history of the LGBTQ community. Part two, the ally development workshop, helps participants to identify the struggles LGBTQ students face on campus, at work and at home.
The program not only educates the students who complete it, but also attempts to give participants a small glimpse into the world of LGBTQ students through various activities and questions.
Think you know all there is to know about LGBTQ affairs? Define cisgender or two-spirited. Can you explain what a pink triangle means? Or do you know what the gender neutral pronouns are? You probably can’t explain these things if you haven’t gone through training.
During the workshop, Hannah Lozon, the coordinator for social justice education for Residence Life, makes sure that participants not only understand what the terms are, but how to listen and react to individuals trying to tell his, her or hir (a gender-neutral pronoun) own unique story.
It’s also about showing the campus community that there are a growing number of individuals who are here for the support and advocacy of oppressed groups. Posting a Safe Zone bumper sticker or certificate around campus lets students know that there are people out there providing encouragement.
The five hours of training are worth it to understand the struggles that people in our classes, our residence halls and our clubs face every day. The program is geared toward students and staff at the UA, but anyone who takes it can use the knowledge they take away throughout their life.
Being Safe Zone certified will diversify you from the many others who haven’t had the opportunity to be educated about these topics. Next time you’re on campus, keep an eye out for Safe Zone certificates and get involved yourself.