LGBTQA Initiative’s Safe Zone Training program advocates against discrimination

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Paola Molini/Contributing Writero

Cruel jokes, judgmental looks and even fear of using University restrooms are some of the challenges faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students.

While this type of adversity was once considered routine, members of the faculty and staff are now challenging it.

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Allies Initiatives — a national program within the Multicultural Programs and Services office — is hosting Safe Zone training on Nov. 20 to provide faculty and staff with tools and resources to address a number of situations students may encounter, like harassment, questioning their sexual orientation or “coming out.”

“The amount of harassment and victimization on campus is at an astronomical level,” said Gisela Vega, associate director of the LGBTQA Initiatives. “This population is at a higher risk of dropping out of school than its straight counterparts.”

The Safe Zone training program has been in place for more that 25 years throughout the nation. The University began Safe Zone trainings in 1997, initially funded by The Jewish Community Foundation. Today training is funded by The Miami Foundation.

“Our office is now funded through Student Government Association,” Vega said. “It’s not institutional funding. It’s external funding, and it’s really important that we help students understand the meaning of what we are doing.”

The faculty and staff that participate in Safe Zone training volunteer as advocates and allies to these students. Once volunteers complete their training, they are awarded a Safe Zone sticker to place on their office door, or somewhere visible, to symbolize a safe environment where LGBTQ students can approach someone without fear of discrimination.

“There are some real alarming statistics in terms of this community and why we need a safe zone,” Vega said.

According to Edwin Serrano, graduate assistant of LGBTQA Initiatives, some of the volunteers that attend the training program assist to gain a broader perspective of issues they are not familiar with.

“A lot of times faculty and staff members come to these trainings knowing that LGBTQ students are bullied, but they only know what they’ve heard from others or what they see on the media,” Serrano said. “Safe Zone training gives volunteers a lens of what is actually affecting their students, as well as provides the resources to become better informed in helping their students succeed.”

LGBTQA Initiative’s Safe Zone training program will take place from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Wolfe University Center Room 155 at the Biscayne Bay Campus.

“We are here to meet the needs of our LGTBQ students and also the needs of who we call Allies, our straight friends, to learn to appreciate and understand this community because the reality is its going to touch everyone’s life at some point,” Serrano said.