To kick off Pride Month, the Pride Center for Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity held a Safe Zone training session on Monday to train students, faculty and staff on how to handle matters regarding the LGBTQIA community.
“A Safe Zone is a welcoming, supportive and safe environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) people,” according to a Safe Zone manual distributed at the training. “Safe Zone programs are designed to help LGBTQ persons identify safe spaces where support and understanding is the key and where bigotry and discrimination are not acceptable, and to provide increased visibility for the LGBTQ community.”
Pride Center Director Trish Boyles led the session. She said she hoped it would help attendees understand appropriate language and terminology; recognize homophobic behaviors and develop strategies to address them; and understand sexual orientation and gender identity.
“We hope to utilize the Safe Zone training as a means to get us closer to our overall mission to provide a safe and welcoming environment by establishing an identifiable network of spaces and people where LGBTQIA persons at Lehigh University feel welcome and can get support and information,” said Theresa Mejia, a graduate assistant at the Pride Center.
Diana Shepherd, director of the Pennsylvania School for Global Entrepreneurship, attended the session and said it was an “eye-opening experience” for her. Shepherd said one of her biggest takeaways from the training was learning about the various terms for sex, gender and sexual orientation definitions.
“This fun experience taught me to be more confident in myself and my ideas,” Shepherd said. “I also became bolder, more proactive and less afraid to speak out when asked. It’s a great opportunity (that) all students and staff should take advantage of.”
The general consensus from participants was that the training was a success. At the end of the session, participants filled out an evaluation form, and nearly everyone noted that the training was helpful and that they learned a lot of information. Boyles said a lot of participants even mentioned that they wanted more training in LGBTQ topics.
“I was very pleased and proud about the various discussions we had during the training because I felt that the participants were really challenging themselves and each other in thinking and re-imagining their thoughts and beliefs about new issues,” Mejia said.
For LGBTQIA students looking for a Safe Zone, Boyles said students can look for Safe Zone indicators in offices or posted on doors, which are provided for everyone who completes the training. The department also gives Safe Zone training participants buttons to wear.
Safe Zone training is free and is available to Lehigh students, faculty and staff members, in addition to specific organizations.