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Safe Space

A supportive and safe place for you

 

What is the safe space program?


Look for this sticker around campus to find Safe Spaces and people with whom you can feel free to be yourself.


According to GLSEN’s 2001 National School Climate Survey, a majority of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ) students feel unsafe at school and are likely to skip class or even days of school out of fear for personal safety. The research also indicates that students who can identify a supportive faculty/staff member or student group are more likely to feel a sense of belonging at their school than those who cannot.

 

For many students, the presence of allies to whom they can turn for support—or even the simple knowledge that allies exist—can be a big factor in developing a positive sense of self, building community, coping with bias, and working to improve school climate. Safe Space programs increase the visible presence of student and adult allies who can help to shape a school culture that is accepting of all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other difference.

 

Safe Space Trainings are held twice per semester for faculty, staff and students of Los Medanos College. Trainings are advertised through campus posters,  classroom announcements, and email communication. FLEX credit is available.

 

 

Frequently asked questions

Why should someone take part in the Safe Space program?

All students deserve to learn in an environment that’s supportive and friendly, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. Anti-LGBTQ bias affects the school performance, school experience, and mental and emotional health of the students who experience it. Unfortunately, protection of actual or perceived LGBTQ students is the exception, not the rule, in most schools across the country. Change has to start with the grassroots effort of a group that is willing to start positive changes through support, education, and publicity.

 

Another reason to take part—a reason just as valid as the reality of bias and its effects— is the fact that homophobia and transphobia hurt us all. They discourage diversity, encourage hurtful behaviors, and put limits on our relationships and roles in the school community. Being a part of the Safe Space program will give you an opportunity to learn about yourself and others, and will help you make your school a better place for everybody—LGBTQ or straight. With all these great reasons for joining, who wouldn’t want to be a part?

How does a Safe Space program work?

The main purpose of a Safe Space program is to visibly mark people and places that are “safe” for LGBTQ students. This is usually accomplished through a sticker with a pink triangle, rainbow flag, or other recognizable LGBTQ symbol on it. When students and staff put stickers on their lockers, backpacks, binders, or office doors, it stands out as an affirmation of LGBTQ people and lets others know that they are a safe person to approach for support and guidance.

 

Often the idea behind Safe Space stickers (and the stickers themselves) gets passed around by word of mouth and there is no organized program within the school. Ideally, however, each participating school should have a Safe Space team made up of students and staff that publicizes the program, hands out materials, provides basic training to allies who wish to be involved, and educates the larger school community about the meaning of the stickers and importance of building safe spaces for LGBTQ and all students impacted by anti-LGBTQ bias.

What is a straight ally?

While there are many out and empowered LGBTQ students who are more than capable of standing up for their own rights, straight allies have a special role to play in the Safe Space programs. An ally is a member of the majority or dominant group who works to end oppression by supporting and advocating for the oppressed population. The work of allies has been a historically effective way of changing the thinking of the dominant culture. In your social studies class, you might have learned about the Freedom Riders, a group of students, ministers, and others who rode interstate buses in an effort to test the enforcement of desegregation laws. Many of the Freedom Riders were White allies who stood up for the civil rights of Black citizens. Their work brought media attention to racist practices and helped force bus companies to abide by the law.

 

A straight ally is any non-LGBTQ person who supports and stands up for the rights of LGBTQ people. It is important for straight allies to demonstrate that LGBTQ people are not alone as they work to improve school climate, and to take a stand in places where it might not be safe for LGBTQ people to be out or visible.

Why do I need training in order to be a Safe Space ally?

Maybe you feel you are pretty well versed in LGBTQ issues, and don’t need to sit through a training to be able to support your classmates. Maybe you feel that being supportive is a matter of common sense and doesn’t require any special know-how. But there are a few good reasons for everyone who wants to be a part of the Safe Space program to attend the standard training. We all were taught not to know. The society we live in allows LGBTQ people and issues to remain largely invisible. Even though you might have good intentions, you might not know how to best support your peers. How much you know about LGBTQ people and the issues that impact them directly affects your effectiveness as an ally.

 

If you are interested in learning when the next training is please email LGBTQ@losmedanos.edu for information

 

 

Is this program only about LGBTQ students? What about other groups who experience bias?

Safe Space programs focus on LGBTQ students for protection because this issue remains largely invisible in the classroom and in the law. Homophobia, transphobia, and heterosexism are socially acceptable in many schools. Even in classrooms where bigotry is not tolerated, LGBTQ issues are considered taboo and not appropriate for discussion.

 

While there is a need for programs that specifically address anti-LGBTQ bias, it is also important to acknowledge the interconnectedness of all prejudices. The same conditions that allow homophobia and transphobia to develop most likely promote racism, classism, sexism, ableism, and other forms of prejudice. Any effort to reduce one type of bias will probably help reduce other kinds of bias, and will help individuals from a variety of backgrounds feel safer. In this way, a Safe Space program focused on LGBTQ students may serve as a springboard for work in other areas.

 

Just as all forms of oppression are related, so too are the many identities within each of us. None of us are just one thing—we all have sexual, gender, religious, ethnic, racial, class, and other identities that mingle together in complex ways. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are also Black and Latina/o, Jewish and Muslim, rich and poor, physically or mentally gifted and challenged. When LGBTQ people are targeted for harassment, it is often about more than just sexual orientation or gender identity. A Safe Space program that protects LGBTQ people should therefore be designed to incorporate other “isms” through coalitions and partnerships with other groups both on and off campus.

 

What does the Safe Space symbol mean?

You might recognize the rainbow LGBTQ Pride colors on our symbol, and perhaps you’ve seen a rainbow flag flying at an LGBTQ event. Understanding the history of this symbol might give you an idea of its importance, and an understanding of its enduring popularity among LGBTQ people and their allies.

 

The rainbow flag first appeared in 1978, when it was flown during the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day Parade. Gilbert Baker, a San Francisco artist, designed the rainbow flag in response to a need for a symbol that could be used year after year. Baker borrowed symbolism from the civil rights and hippie movements, and created a flag that has gained worldwide recognition. The different colors of the flag symbolize different components of the community: red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sun, green for nature, blue for art, and purple for spirit. A black stripe added at the bottom symbolizes a hope for victory over AIDS.

 

This emblem reminds us of the joy of the diverse, accepting community we hope to build through programs like Safe Space, as well as the struggle against oppression we face as we try to make that vision a reality.

 

For more information about LGBTQ resources, please call Liz Green at (925) 473-7857 or Josh Bearden at (925) 473-7841, or email LGBTQ@losmedanos.edu.