Safe Zone training program aims to increase education and awareness of LGBTQIA issues on campu

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A new training program will soon be available for students, faculty and staff that is designed to increase education and awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) issues.  Safe Zone is a three-hour training program, open to anyone who wishes to participate in an interactive program that features short pockets of lecture with small group discussion.

The training is being organized by Rainbow Alliance and the Cross Cultural Center, who have partnered together in order to create a safer campus for students who may be struggling with LGBTQ issues.

Terrence Murphy, Vice-President of Rainbow Alliance, said, “Safe Zone is a program designed to erase homophobia and other LGBTQ phobia from SLU’s campus so that we have more of a cohesive community and more of a safe campus for students that identify with an alternative gender identity of expression or orientation.”

One goal of the training is to educate and train people so that they will be able to “appropriately respond to someone that comes to them looking for resources or support and someone to talk to,” said Murphy.

Having a standardized training program for these types of issues will ensure that “everyone has a basic set of knowledge about the challenges the community faces,” said Murphy.

More specifically, Murphy said, “The trainings will try to define a common language so that people can understand terms used in the LGBTQ community.  Activities will be done so that people will understand what it is like to come out to someone else and have someone else come out to them.”

Also involved in the Safe Zone training program is Myrinda Grantham, a residence hall coordinator in Griesedieck Hall. Hailing from Mississippi, Grantham remembers having a Safe Zone during her time as an undergraduate student.

“Coming from the Deep South—if we had it—I would expect it to be anywhere.”  Grantham has previously worked at a number of universities that had similar programs, making her familiar with this concept of standardized training.

“I specifically asked to work on Safe Zone because I saw a need to be really involved with and to put a lot of support behind it,” Grantham said. “Safe Zone starts the conversation, which is really important because once the conversation has begun, people will talk about it.

People in the coming out process aren’t going to start the dialogue in a place where they don’t feel necessarily accepted.”

One of the results of the training, Grantham feels, is initiating this dialogue.  “People will talk about Safe Zone and it will start trickling out. What we’re doing is starting a dialogue about all areas of inclusion which is positively affecting the environment,” said Grantham.

This positive environment “makes it more welcoming when you walk in the door,” said Grantham. “Sexual orientation is an invisible minority- you don’t necessarily know that about someone when you see them and you never know how close it is to them, so it’s important to always have a safe environment.”

A safe environment is especially pertinent at a Jesuit institution such as SLU.  “Jesuits are about taking care of the whole person,” said Grantham.  “It is about the fundamental dignity of a person and we are better people for understanding each other’s backgrounds and always actually listening to others and where they come from.  We are better people when we challenge ourselves and our beliefs.”

Grantham feels that going through training such as Safe Zone will prepare students to live in a global community. She advises everyone to go through the training.

After just a few days of registration, approximately 120 faculty members have signed up for the Safe Zone training.  The training is free and open to anyone in the SLU community.  The first student training will be on Saturday, Feb. 11, and the first faculty/staff training will be on Thursday, Feb. 23.

According to Murphy, “For any student, whether they are LGBTQ or not, knowing there is a support structure in place for marginalized people in society, they themselves will feel safer and welcome on campus.”