MUW Counseling Center held the first Safe Zone seminar for this semester on Thursday, Feb. 7.
I completed my training at the seminar, and learned a lot of useful information on the LGBTQ community. After the seminar was over, I received my rainbow placard and placed it on my dorm door as a safe zone for anyone who needs a listening ear. If you walk around campus and see rainbow colored placards, it means that person has gone through training to be a certified Safe Zone volunteer. Anyone who is a member of the LGBTQ community knows that person is someone who will understand their issues without judgment. If you haven’t been educated on what LGBTQ stands for, it’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Questioning.
The seminar helped to eradicate some of the myths and fears behind the community. MUW counselors Yvette Harris and Alicia Mainka helped to educate students, faculty and staff on the many issues LGBTQ face, and equipped us with knowledge on how we can help those who are part of the community feel safe. Some people do not realize that the students, family members or friends who are dealing with their sexual orientation are still human beings with feelings. Safe Zone provides a way to allow those who are part of that community to feel comfortable in their own skin without the fear of being judged or criticized.
The mystery behind LGBTQ has led people to believe in myths because of the lack of education. Some people make the assumption, “she’s lesbian, so she is going to hit on me,” but this is a common myth. When a person is gay or lesbian, it does not mean they are attracted to every man or female that they see. It is just the same as when a straight person sees a person of the opposite sex, it does not necessarily mean they are attracted to them.
Word usage such as phrase, “that’s so gay,” can be potentially harmful to those who are dealing with these issues. We have to become more sensitive and aware about the words we say because it might be offensive to the ones around us.
To help us understand the experience of how people in the community have dealt with the issues they have faced for being gay or lesbian, Mainka introduced us to an African-American lesbian couple who have been in a relationship for more than a year. They are college students and are also living together despite the criticism and judgment they have received from family and friends.
Although their journey was not easy, they still were positive and confident in themselves and the relationship, and would not allow any negativity to affect their beliefs. They gave very inspiring stories of how they overcame the struggle of “coming out,” and how it has helped each of them figure out who they are as a person.
Safe Zone is a great way to deal with the transition many people may be facing if they need someone to talk to. By being certified as a Safe Zone volunteer does not mean that you have to accept someone’s lifestyle or that you agree with it, it simply means you acknowledge them as human beings and will support, understand and be a listening ear when they are in need. You will provide a Safe Zone for them to communicate with you, whether it’s needing help with “coming out,” relationship problems or any other problems they may be dealing with. If you know someone who is dealing with coming out, direct them to someone with the rainbow colored placard on their door, or the counseling center. Don’t let them go at it alone, and remain confidential until they are ready.