We live in a time of great change when it comes to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. Conversations occur everywhere and run the gamut from supportive to down right hostile. LGBT characters of all ages show up in movies and TV shows, yet we often hear disparaging and hateful remarks coming form political or religious leaders. Sadly, we have all heard the stories of young people taking their own lives rather then coping with the social stigma that remains when one identifies as LGBT.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) individuals, as well as straight identified people who care about diversity, equality and inclusion in the Western New York region.
In Our Schools:
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 LGBT students experienced harassment at school in the past year and nearly two-thirds felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation. Nearly a third of LGBT students skipped at least one day of school in the past month because of safety concerns.
Growing Up LGBT in America—the Human Rights Campaign’s 2012 research of more than 10,000 LGBT identified youth ages 13 to 17, illustrated how the deck is stacked against young people growing up LGBT. Survey responses revealed that many LGBT youth are profoundly disconnected from their communities, in sometimes stark ways. Youth 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.
For LGBT 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 LGBT people. It is necessary for institutions to take proactive steps to create an inclusive and safe environment so that all students, faculty and staff are empowered to reach their full potential, and to benefit the greater community.
In Our Workplaces:
While progress is slowly being made to create more welcoming and inclusive workplaces for LGBT 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 LGBT workers (51%) hide their identities to most of their coworkers.
- 58% of LGBT workers say someone at work makes a joke or derogatory comment about LGBT people at least once in a while.
- 80% of LGBT employees confront conversations involving spouses, relationships and dating at least once per week.
- 51% of LGBT employees say their employer rarely uses terms such as "partner" or "significant other" in communications.
- The vast majority of LGBT workers do not report instances when they hear an anti-LGBT 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 LGBT individuals, the work environment poses numerous threats and obstacles. 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, excusing themselves from social events and answering questions about their home lives evasively. It is necessary for agencies and corporations to take proactive steps to create inclusive and safe environments so that all individuals are empowered to reach their full potential.
What is a SafeZone?
A SafeZone is a place where all people feel welcome and safe. It may be a room, a car, or entire college campus. It is important that institutions take proactive steps to create these safe and welcoming environments that promote teamwork and unity. The Gay Alliance SafeZone program aims to increase the awareness, knowledge, and skills for individuals while addressing the challenges that exist when one wants to do "the right thing" for their LGBTQ peers, family members, freinds and co-workers.
The Gay Alliance SafeZone Training can be customized to meet the needs of any organization. Ideally SafeZone includes 3-4 hours of workshop time in one or two sessions. Included in this training is information necessary to dispel myths and understand negative and hurtful stereotypes, and increase awareness of misinformation regarding LGBT people. In addition, this training will give participants the language and skills they need to provide support and to create environments that are safe, welcoming and inclusive.
At the end of the class, participants are provided a Gay Alliance SafeZone sticker if they would like to have one, so that they can create their own SafeZone.