The Gay Alliance’s SafeZone program was created to develop, enhance and maintain environments in workplaces, schools and other social settings that are culturally competent and supportive to LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning) individuals, as well as straight, cisgender people who care about diversity, equality and inclusion.
What is a SafeZone?
A SafeZone or a Safe Space is a place where all people feel welcome and safe. It may be a room, a car, or an entire college campus. The Gay Alliance SafeZone program aims to increase the awareness, knowledge, and skills for individuals and address the challenges that exist when one wants to advocate for their LGBTQ peers, family members, friends and co-workers. Creating SafeZones or Safe Spaces is a proactive step that schools, agencies and corporations can take to create welcoming, inclusive spaces so that all people are empowered to reach their full potential.
In Our Schools:
Several research groups have documented results that indicate that lesbian, gay and bisexual teens are at a much higher risk for attempting suicide than their straight counterparts. The 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey “Injustice at Every Turn,” which surveyed over 6,000 transgender individuals found that 41% of transgender people had attempted suicide compared to 1.6% of the general population.
For LGBTQ students, faculty and staff the school environment poses numerous threats and obstacles. Hateful language, physical and emotional harassment and the threat of physical violence are a reality for many LGBTQ people. Survey responses from Growing Up LGBT in America, the Human Rights Campaign’s 2012 research study, revealed that many LGBTQ youth and young adults are profoundly disconnected from their communities. Youth and young adults who are out to their immediate family or at school report a higher likelihood to achieve several life goals compared to those who are not out, if asked to imagine their future while living in their current city or town. The Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s (GLSEN’s) 2009 survey of 7,261 middle and high school students found that nearly 9 out of 10 LGBTQ students experienced harassment at school in the past year and nearly two-thirds felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation. Nearly a third of LGBTQ students skipped at least one day of school in the past month because of safety concerns.
In Our Workplaces:
While progress is slowly being made to create more welcoming and inclusive workplaces for LGBTQ employees, there is still much to be done. Below are some eye opening statistics from the 2009 Human Rights Campaign’s Degrees of Equality: A National Study Examining Workplace Climate for LGBT Employees.
- The majority of LGBTQ workers (51%) hide their identities to most of their coworkers.
- 58% of LGBTQ workers say someone at work makes a joke or derogatory comment about LGBTQ people at least once in a while.
- 80% of LGBTQ employees confront conversations involving spouses, relationships and dating at least once per week.
- 51% of LGBTQ employees say their employer rarely uses terms such as “partner” or “significant other” in communications.
- The vast majority of LGBTQ workers do not report instances when they hear an anti-LGBTQ remark to human resources or management. On average, 67 % ignore it or let it go, 9 % raise the issue with a supervisor and only 5 % go to human resources.
For many LGBTQ individuals, the work environment is fraught with anxiety. Derogatory comments go unchecked, exclusive language is used in workplace communications and energy that could be spent on working and creating healthy relationships with coworkers is instead spent on maintaining barriers, avoiding social events and learning how to keep secrets about their home lives and families.
About our SafeZone Training
The Gay Alliance SafeZone Training can be customized to meet the needs of any organization. Ideally our SafeZone Training is a 2-4 hour workshop, which can be presented in one or two sessions. This program is a dynamic, interactive session that includes activities and discussion around: inclusive and respectful language, the process of coming out, understanding sexual identity, taking action on our campuses and in our workplaces, where to go for help and much more. This session will give participants the skills they need to provide support and to create environments that are safe, welcoming and inclusive. At the end of the class, participants are offered a Gay Alliance SafeZone sticker so that they can create their own SafeZone.
Feedback from our SafeZone Training Program (May 2015)
“I learned how to have those all-important, life-changing conversations. The presenter was so inclusive and authentic. Nothing could have made this presentation better, except make it longer. FABULOUS”
“I had previously had ‘Safe Zone’ training at my institution and it was not very helpful. I would not have attended this session if there had not been a schedule change. Much to my surprise, this was incredibly informative and extremely useful. The presenter did a great job and should be commended for his efforts.”
“The presenter was wonderful! Clear, concise information, inspirational through his own story. AWESOME!! So happy this was part of the conference!”