There is a problem. Largely, we know there is a problem. Homophobia, Biphobia, Transphobia – the irrational fear of anything perceived to not be heterosexual and/or gender conforming. Heteronormativity encompasses the privilege of straight male-bodied men expressing themselves in a masculine manner in relationship with straight female-bodied women expressing themselves in a feminine manner. LGBT Ally Development programs are developed to help build supportive climates, offer educated referral services, and provide compassionate listeners to those in need. These programs are often called Safe Zone Programs.
Non-white LGBQ folks are 65% less comfortable than white LGBQ on campus.
Moreover, within the "LGBT" community we argue about communities, language, terms, labels, etc., which are not visible within the community. The "It Gets Better" campaign is intended to provide hope and optimism to gay and lesbian youth contemplating suicide. The "family" people sometimes refer to within the LGBT community at times is extended to straight allies. However the intersections of dominant identities shows up in our Ally Development that limits members of the family and allows for the most privileged of voices to set an agenda that is self indulgent and is leaving many, many people out.
The truth is — it does get better — for some — and for others it doesn't or won't — unless we do something different RIGHT NOW.
Trans folks report even higher levels of intimidation, exclusion, bullying, feeling like a target.
Safe Zone Programs are quite common on college campuses, usually presented as an organized system of training and recognizing campus allies. Participants attend 1-8 hours worth of LGBT training ranging from language and cultural education, local and national resources, coming out processes and identity development models, and sensitivity education that interrupts bias and makes appropriate referrals or responses as needed.
51% of LGBT students, faculty, and staff conceal their sexual orientation/gender identity to avoid intimidation or harassment.
I have worked on various campuses in developing and administering Safe Zone programs as a graduate student and professional staff member. Now, as a full-time social justice speaker and consultant, I have worked with dozens of campuses to develop, update, assess, market, and administer trainings of trainers and curriculum, leading to a better understanding of campus climate and its improvement. After seven years of traveling campus to campus — I decided to take a stand — This is my Safe Zone Manifesto.
Participation in a Safe Zone training is the #1 factor looked for by those seeking services.
A Safe Zone curriculum and the training of its trainers MUST be able to facilitate conversations that address the complicated realities of both dominant and subordinated identities represented within the "LGBT" and Ally communities. Even further, trainers and curriculum developers need to be self-reflective and understand their own privileges and lenses that they themselves are bringing to the education and training process. Tough conversations addressing language, power, bias, policy, procedures, exposure, awareness, and collusion MUST be and play a significant role in Ally Development.
Program participant: "I felt energized at every step of the way. Jessica is a GREAT facilitator."
My personal motto is — if you name a problem, be a part of a solution. I bring you — I am... Safe Zone. I have developed a three-part DVD program that takes viewers through three different highly interactive programs addressing what is typically missing in standard Safe Zone programs. I am also including a jam-packed Resource Disc with assessment tools, articles, suggestion starting places, facilitator guides, and much more. The idea is that any individual or group can watch, participate, and learn how to be a better and more inclusive LGBT Ally. I am... Safe Zone could be the starting point for your organizations Safe Zone program or it can help existing Allies be even better.
I am... Safe Zone includes three interactive DVDs:
Disc 1: Sticks and Stones: LGBT 101
Disc 2: Gender This!
Disc 3: Messages I Learned
Plus a bonus Resource Disc including Facilitator Guides for all of the activities