By Mika Mandelbaum
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Newly created Safe Zone workshops geared to inform students about gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning issues will be more effective if a larger number of people attend, organizers said.
Seven people attended yesterday's session, which focused on gay, lesbian and bisexual issues, and facilitators said they wished more people would attend.
"A lot of people who could be exposed to this information are the ones who typically won't come," said Corey Seemiller, a facilitator of the session.
Everyone who attended the event already seemed to be open to learning about GLBTQ issues, and more participants would have enhanced the session, said Page Dunn-Albertie, an administrative assistant for Residence Life who participated in the session.
"I think it was preaching to the choir," Dunn-Albertie said. "It would have been nice to have some voices of dissent ... just to get more views."
Safe Zone started at the UA in 1996 and is part of a nationwide Safe Zone program that is committed to making campuses safer and more receptive to members of the GLBTQ community, according to a press release.
In the past, Safe Zone only offered a series of ally development workshops to teach members of the UA community how to be friends and allies of the GLBTQ community.
"We couldn't get everything into (the workshop series)," said Ryan Windows, a member of the Safe Zone steering committee. "Now you can go to a general education session and just gather information to see if this is something you want to learn more about."
But several people had limited knowledge and many questions about gender and sexuality issues, so the ally development workshops started to get sidetracked, Windows said.
In addition to the five ally development workshops, the Safe Zone program will host two general education sessions this semester that focus on raising consciousness and answering questions about GLBTQ issues, Windows said.
The two-hour training workshop is skill-based and involves role-playing and discussions about how an ally can effectively advocate for GLBTQ people.
The second session tomorrow will focus on gender identity issues.
There is still not a lot of knowledge of transgender issues and there's a hunger for that.
- Ryan Windows, member of Safe Zone
"There is still not a lot of knowledge of transgender issues and there's a hunger for that," Windows said. "So we decided to create a separate discussion just about those issues."
If anyone at the UA wants to request an additional Safe Zone session, the committee will do its best to schedule one, Windows said.
"I think it would be a good thing for other students to be knowledgeable about these kinds of things so they can be diverse and proactive on campus," said Megan Lustigson, a public health junior.
The importance of both the general education sessions and the ally workshops is present now more than ever because of the many recent societal issues, such as gay marriage and state benefits for same-sex domestic partners, Windows said.
"Those types of societal issues are things we want to bring to the fore," Windows said. "Basically it's an issue of equity and fairness."
The UA set an example for other universities over the summer by changing its policies to offer tuition breaks to same-sex domestic partners and their children.
At the end of yesterday's session, Ray Gasser, a workshop facilitator and assistant director for Residence Life, passed out stickers displaying an upside-down pink triangle, the symbol Adolf Hitler used to label homosexuals in Nazi Germany.
He challenged participants to wear the sticker around campus for one day and to notice the reactions and looks from other people.
Gasser said this challenge would enhance the participant's awareness of GLBTQ issues at the UA.
"I really take it as an opportunity to learn something from someone and break down stereotypes that are so inherent in our society," Gasser said.
For more information about future Safe Zone sessions, log on to www.safezone.life.arizona.edu.