SafeZONE offers workshops, identifies local LGBTQ-friendly businesses
Tempe, Arizona, USA.
A pink triangle in a green circle on a residence-hall door may often be overlooked, but to some students, it symbolizes a place they can be themselves - the room of a SafeZONE ally.
SafeZONE is a program that seeks to increase campus awareness of issues in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and queer community. The program also helps people identify resources and places that are LGBTQ-friendly.
David Leo, one of about 15 SafeZONE facilitators, said the program is the University's way to continue a climate of diversity appreciation.
"I am passionate about the expansion of the SafeZONE program ... and celebrating the magnificence of diversity," Leo said.
The program addresses issues such as stereotyping, discrimination and safety, and provides three workshops: SafeZONE 101, Gender Identity 101 and Becoming an Ally, Leo said.
SafeZONE is also supported by the LGBTQ Coalition
, said James Quinn, coalition president.
Quinn, a non-profit leadership and management sophomore, said the coalition's volunteer staff and executive board are SafeZONE allies and use it as a resource.
"It's important for people to realize that not everyone is of the same background," Quinn said. "People don't realize that they may be using hateful language or terms that could make someone feel uncomfortable."
Quinn is also involved with the Residence Hall Association
as Sonora hall-council president. He said he wants to work closely with Residential Life to have next year's resident assistants participate in SafeZONE training to make their residence halls "safe spaces."
"The place you are living is one of the most important places to have a safe space," Quinn said. "Students have to feel safe so they can succeed academically."
The program is intended for all students, staff and faculty, not just for RAs and the LGBTQ community, said Lori Girshick, SafeZONE facilitator and member of the program's Tempe and steering committees.
"If you go to the workshops, it doesn't mean you're gay, but if you don't, then you might not know what the issues are," she said.
In addition to workshops, SafeZONE also provides a list of nearly 30 local businesses that have designated themselves as LGBTQ-friendly, meaning they try to provide a safe and comfortable environment for LGBTQ students and allies.
Mark Panza, former manager of the Borders on Mill Avenue, said he was more than willing to let the store be a designated LGBTQ business.
"Borders carries a diverse range of materials, and we have a diverse customer base," said Panza, who is now a manager at the Biltmore Fashion Borders in Phoenix. "It's important to myself as well as the company that Borders is a place where all walks of people can feel comfortable at any time."
Bob Sommers, co-owner of Changing Hands Bookstore, said two of his staff attended SafeZONE workshops to ensure the bookstore would be a non-threatening place.
"Being booksellers for over thirty years, we are deeply aware of the important contributions made to our culture by gays and lesbians," Sommers said. "We ... wanted to take a stand for tolerance and respect."
Girshick said SafeZONE workshops, which are two hours long and offered four times a semester, are key to helping closeted LGBTQ individuals.
"Maybe if enough people went [to SafeZONE workshops], closeted individuals would know that there is nothing wrong with being who they are," Girshick said. "The issue of LGBTQ sensitivity isn't about special rights; it's about basic human beliefs and compassion."
Source: ASU Web Devil, online edition of the State Press, student daily of Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, USA. You can reach the reach the reporter, Megan Keck, via email:
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