Safe Zone Workshops are wonderfully unique opportunities for people to talk, learn, and ask questions about sexuality and gender in a non-judgemental, safe, educational environment.
These are essential elements to any successful Safe Zone: a safe space free of judgements where people can honestly communicate with each other, educate one another, and ask any and all questions.
We live in an ever-diversifying society, and in order to be supportive and aware of different identities, perspectives, and experiences, we must pursue (and provide) opportunities to learn about different identities, perspectives, and experiences – particularly ones that are stigmatized, marginalized, and largely silenced.
Safe Zone Workshops are opportunities on college campuses for students, staff, faculty, and community members to learn a little more about how sexuality and gender influence our everyday experiences, and often a chance to learn about these topics from individuals within the university community.
The best Safe Zone Workshops do the following:
- Set and clarify a common vocabulary on LGBTQ issues
- Provide activities and lectures that serve as a space for critical discussion and examination of privilege, bias, and identity
- Give space for participants to ask and discuss any questions they have
- Empower participants to feel personally involved and invested in issues of gender and sexuality
Our Safe Zones Pillars
Following are the core pillars of our Safe Zone workshops, and ideals that we encourage you to embrace as you facilitate Safe Zone workshops or use our activities on your campus.
Low Tech, High Engagement
We believe you don’t need any fancy-shmancy accessories for Safe Zones workshops. All of our activities are designed to require little more than a writing utensil and easel/whiteboard/someone’s blank t-shirt. Safe Zones offer unique spaces to engage in conversation with one another and the facilitator, and we feel technology often interferes with the interpersonal awesomeness of the workshops.
You can always say “I don’t know”
You are the educator, the facilitator, the master of ceremonies. But you — you wonderful individual, you — do not know all. None of us do. This is both important to know, and to be willing to admit throughout your facilitating experience. It is always ok to say, “I don’t know… but I’m going to think on it/look it up/ask around,” and then to do that! It is actually very empowering for participants to realize that, hey, you don’t know everything either!
Challenge by Choice
Safe Zone activities are, by their nature, challenging to the social and moral upbringing that participants have experienced. Some activities require more trust amongst group members, or between group members and the facilitator. And some activities will make participants uncomfortable. This is by design. But it’s important to allow your participants to choose the level of challenge they are ready to handle, and to allow them to back down or stay out of an activity or discussion if it’s too much for them. Encourage participants to challenge themselves, and step outside their comfort zones, but also support them if things get to be too much.
Facilitate throughout, lecture sparingly
We feel it is important to highlight that we think the most successful Safe Zone workshops are facilitation-based (not lectures). A facilitator’s job is to be a jack/queen/ace of all trades — to be able to lead discussions (when necessary), sit back and listen, ignite a conversation, and allow people to learn from each other whenever possible.
Safe Zone is about the person, not the place
While the term “Safe Zone” may lead you to believe that you are designating a “safe space,” what you are really doing is creating people who are willing to talk about these issues, trained on how to address them sensitively, and who know how to create “Safe Zones.” We do not endorse people putting “Safe Zone Trained” stickers onto shared office doors or other surfaces that designate broad areas as Safe Zones. We embrace the term Safe Zone because it is nearly universally understood, but we feel it is important to point out that you are training the person, and that the stickers should be used to designate a specific person as Safe Zone trained, not the entire shared office they work in.
A promise of food, stickers, and a good time never hurts
We want people to learn about sexuality, gender, and LGBTQ issues. And we know you do, too! It never hurts to encourage people with promises of free food, stickers, and a little bit of fun! We fully endorse the use of light bribery to get those seats filled. Once you have ’em in the room, that’s when you get to do your thing! If you want a sticker that you can use to remind people that a specific place is to be free from discrimination bias, or privilege, we’ve got one you’re welcome to use.