The Safe Zone Project A free resource for creating effective, engaging, and fun LGBTQ-inclusion and ally training workshops Thu, 18 Jul 2019 16:53:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Safe Zone Project 32 32 Our Birthday Non-Update: A Conversation with SZP Co-Creators Meg & Sam Thu, 18 Jul 2019 17:00:51 +0000 Why we're not releasing a bunch of new stuff this summer like we have for the past several years.

Our Birthday Non-Update: A Conversation with SZP Co-Creators Meg & Sam, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Every year for the past 5 years we’ve released a big update to the Safe Zone Project on our birthday as a present from us to you. This year, when we were chatting about what we would create and release as part of our “Birthday Update,” we realized a lot of things that might be useful to share with the community.

Here’s the short version: We aren’t releasing anything (yet) for our birthday. Instead, we’re sharing the why behind that decision.

The conversation below was copied from an SZP Slack channel, where SZP co-creators Meg Bolger & Sam Killermann were revisiting potential ideas for the release. We decided to share it with you (lightly edited — some capitalization, grammar, etc.) so you can see what we’re talking about, and what we’re thinking about:


So, the other day we were talking about the birthday release, and a bunch of things came up. What do you think we should start with?


I think probably the thoughts on updating the curriculum. And why this year is different than in the past.

As we were talking the other day the biggest difference between this year and years prior is that we’re not facilitating the SZ curriculum as a service anymore. So it’s hard to have a pulse on what changes are needed, what’s coming up in workshops, etc.


Yep yep yep. And the other difference is that every year the curriculum is getting closer to being solid — at least we hope that’s true — and not needing huge, overhaul-y updates (other than tweaking language/cultural/zeitgeist stuff)


That’s true. Honestly, I hadn’t really thought of that until you said it the other day, but of course, with the more you improve a thing, ideally the less and less overhaul-y updates.

But it does make the whole “we do a big update every year” harder to make good on. Definitely one of those “good problems to have”.


Yeah, and it would be easy to update it just for the sake of updating it, but we don’t want to accidentally make it worse. Which brings us back to the “we’re not doing lots of SZ trainings any more to field test things” dilemma.

We used to test every change we were considering making tons of times before we put it down in writing (I’m thinking of DOs/DONTs, Queer Umbrella, etc.) to make sure it was something that would work in most settings, with most groups.

There are still (small) things we know we wanna improve in the curriculum, but we’re going to have to rely on community input/feedback for any big overhauls or improvements.




Which brought us to talking about feedback?



Our perpetual struggle!

Honestly, if I was an outsider looking in I would definitely assume that people email us on a regular basis with their thoughts and feedback, especially considering just the volume of people who touch the site. But one thing that has been just as consistent as the flow of people every year has been the amount of feedback we get which is…supa tiny.


We got one yesterday!


That was so exciting. I truly can’t believe that came in right as our conversation was ending. thanks universe + human who wrote us.

And it was super useful to boot.


But your point stands. The more people we have using our curriculum (I think we’re past 35,000 now), the smaller the percentage of those folks who give us feedback gets, and it was never even a solid 1%. Now we’re down to fractions of a fraction of a percent.

So we were thinking we could use the birthday release to do a big “Want to give us a gift? Give us the gift of constructive feedback if you’ve been using our curriculum and have something to share!”



Which I was really excited about. Because feedback would be such a gift because (as we said before/earlier) we’re not facilitating the curriculum anymore, so feedback is the touchpoint that we have to the people who are actively facilitating.

But one of the things that came up was what type of feedback would be likely to receive and could we use it to actually change the curriculum,


What type do you mean?


Type as in the ‘flavor’ of feedback, or like what would the feedback be pointing at or speaking to.

The ones we came up with I think were like people encouraging us to change the curriculum so that it reflected more of the social justice dogma, facilitators struggling to respond to those pressures, big changes or additions people would want to see reflected in the curriculum… there might have been a few more.


Ah yeah, and we also talked about getting a lot of feedback we’ve already heard (because when we do get feedback, it’s often from people newer to the work or earlier in their SZ facilitation experience, who are encountering things we already encountered, and haven’t made the same mistakes we’ve made yet), and feedback that we haven’t heard, but would require a bunch of testing to see if it’s something we’d recommend or not (which, as we talked about above, isn’t something we can easily do any more, without offering SZ trainings as a service).



And as we were laying all this out we saw a few categories of likely feedback (a) feedback that we would be likely to get but that we’ve already considered (b) feedback that would be big changes we wouldn’t want to implement without testing first (c) feedback that relates to social justice dogma in some way.

The A & B we can’t make good on. And the big thing with the SJD feedback is that we realized it would probably be more useful to ask about that specifically right?


Yes, and we weren’t sure if it was something we wanted to ask about, or invite, because it would mean that we (SZP) are entering that conversation. While you and I have personally be talking about “social justice dogma” for awhile now, we’ve largely kept the SZP out of it. (Something we can talk about here if you want?)

But just focusing on the feedback part, if we had to guess what percentage would be A and what would be B, we assumed they’d both be small, and even if it was all A or all B, there wouldn’t be a whole lot we could do with that feedback at this point.

And it started to feel like we might be wasting our Birthday celebration to send 20K+ emails to people for — what would likely amount to — little to no real benefit for the curriculum, the SZP, and all of the people using our resources. And! Most important! The participants in the rooms of the people facilitating using our curriculum.

We realized that we wouldn’t be following the advice we give in Train-the-Trainers: only ask for feedback that you’re going to utilize.


Right. So that really took asking for A & B feedback off the table and lead us down the “should we enter the SJD conversation” part of our conversation.

Do you wanna go into that part or want to go somewhere else?


We might as well. After all, we started talking about it because we kept noticing it come up in the SZ train-the-trainers we were facilitating.


And in the most unexpected locations!

We definitely anticipated some SJD stuff coming up in our last few train-the-trainers but I think one of the most clear examples that I remember was from someone who was in their like 40s/50s in rural MI, so I think it’s probably safe to assume if it’s popping up there it has the potential to pop up everywhere.


Yeah, it’s not just limited to the “most progressive” urban centers.

For me, it feels like a lot to bring up within the SZP context, because we know how overwhelming the challenge feels for so many people to simply facilitate a safe zone training.

They’re freaked out, nervous, worried they’ll say the wrong thing, or don’t know all the vocab, etc.

So us saying, “Also! Make sure you don’t reinforce dogmatic ways of doing social justice, this amorphous but pervasive trend we’re noticing in tons of activism spaces that you probably don’t even have a name for but are definitely feeling pressured by.” feels like a bit of a leap.


“amorphous but pervasive trend” is definitely an accurate and intimidating description.

Yeah we didn’t really get into that the other day but it’s true. It’s probably one of the first things we’re discussing bring into the SZP that would possible feel like increasing the difficulty, imitation, etc. people feel around facilitating SZ workshops, not less. Our whole site is basically dedicated to the “you can do this, you got this,” and this would be one of the first things that might decrease that feeling rather than increase it.

Which makes it really different from things we’ve done in the past and is definitely off-putting. Even tho, to be clear, I think it’s really important, it’s just really different (and not in fun ways).


Totally agreed. What did we get into the other day re: SJD and birthday release?


We talked about auditing the site. Kinda going through and reviewing the content (activities/curriculum) with SJD lens to see what new thought we would have.

We talked about creating a kinda short write up sharing some thoughts from the audit with folks.

Did we talk about doing those for the birthday release? Or just that we could share we would be doing them?


Oh right. The idea was that we’d announce we’re doing it — that would be our big birthday announcement: we’re going in this new direction, and we’re going to look back through everything we’ve created and released in this way.



Which would be a big thing to announce, at least for us it would be really committing to a new direction. Which I was about to say would feel like a really “political” move, as if our site isn’t super political already. As we always pointed out in train-the-trainers. It’s in 🏳️‍🌈 for a reason.


Lol yes.

The tricky thing about SJD is that it’s primarily controversial within the social justice / LGBTQ+ equity / progressive movement, whereas everything else we do is less controversial amongst our peers (but super political/controversial amongst more moderate-to-conservative people).




And we didn’t want to do that, right now, just because we felt like we had to do something big for our birthday? That felt brash.


It felt brash. We talked about maybe asking for feedback specifically around SJD stuff before announcing it (I think), but most of all I think we concluded we should give ourselves some more time to think about it.


Okay, so we talked about the big “give us a present of feedback” birthday release, and talking about the SJD elephant in the room. Were there other things we were considering?


Even tho it was just the other day, amazing how hard I’m having remembering.

We talked about doing a 5.1 update, and how that wouldn’t likely feel like a good enough reason to send an email.

We talked about how we aren’t quite ready to release the Spanish-translation curriculum, because we need a few more things translated.

What else?


We have those online courses in the works, but those works are gunked up by the whole “SJD” thing.

And the Spanish-translation curriculum has been held up by the feedback thing.

Dang — I’m just realizing how hilariously connected this all is.


Dude, it’s true.

I definitely know how consciously stuck I’ve been feeling by SJD stuff in making new content. I can’t even imagine how it affects me on an unconscious level.



And we probably wouldn’t have talked about all this stuff if not for the birthday release, which we’ve always loved as an annual deadline that pushes us to be creative and make new things (the good part of the pressure we feel, that we’ve 100% created for ourselves).


the meta birthday gift!




It is good though. Because if we have both been (un)conscious feeling stuck, esp by the SJD thing, it’s good to have to talk about it, to have to air it out.

I think one of the things that’s interesting is how many good ideas, or ideas that seem good right off the bat, when we talk through often have huge pitfalls. Its really cool in lots of ways, though from the outside it looks like nothing has changed.


Yeah, it’s hard to “publish” a thing we didn’t create for good reasons, or because we thought through it all and decided it might do more harm than good. You can’t make a non-thing.


Hence this conversation I guess!


yepppppp so one last try: is there something we can/should/wanna make and release for our birthday this year?



So since our conversation, I haven’t had any new ideas. I think it feels more clear to me that doing the SJD audit and with it a ‘some of this stuff is 6 years old now, does it still make sense’ overhaul would be a really good idea. Something worth doing.

But in both cases I don’t feel clear that that is necessary to send as an announcement to the list. Which is what we’ve done every year. So while there is part of me that wants to have something to send out, another part thinks it’s okay not to.

And that maybe it’s okay to send a big update after the audit. Even if it’s not on our birthday.


I think we could totally do that, especially cuz we do have some small updates for the curriculum we want to publish, and we don’t want people to think we’re abandoning improving the curriculum (if they’re expecting a big “new version” release).


when you say “do that” you mean send a release update to everyone after we do the audit along with sending them the v5.1 curriculum?


yeah, or v5.2 or 5.3 or whatever version we’re on at that point.


I think that sounds good.

I think also it is likely that the audit will have impact on the curriculum and would be cool to be able to update folks on that too.



I really like that idea. Should we publish anything on the site about any of these plans?


Honestly, I’m down with publishing this convo, I think for the uber-curious, people who are into seeing behind the scenes, etc. could be interesting.

Plus there is part of me that is always excited about the annual blog post 😉


You wanna publish it as it? Or like write up a summary of it?


Lol yes! Our super-relevant at-least-once-a-year-updated blog 😊


“Welcome to the SZP blog, it’s like the opposite of Seth Godin’s.”

I say as is. You?


I’m down! I mean, assuming we edit it.


“Welcome to the SZP blog: it’s like finding a flyer on a billboard on campus that’s for a Y2K party”


…no, like finding a flyer for last year’s new years eve party


yes, better. We’re not THAT out of touch.


And, of course, we still wanna get feedback about the curriculum! (In case anyone is listening 👀 )



So not sure this is relevant information but I copied and pasted this convo and it’s about 2500 words (including all the “sK 1 minute ago”) things


numbers make things sound important


Oof. Well, we can trim it down if we need to. We need to figure out a good way to post it to the site.


But first I gotta walk the pups.



Our Birthday Non-Update: A Conversation with SZP Co-Creators Meg & Sam, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Why We Stopped Offering Train-the-Trainers as a Service Wed, 01 May 2019 19:34:43 +0000 We didn't want to get in our own way, and we decided to focus on creating a(nother) free online resource and supporting from afar instead of flying everywhere.

Why We Stopped Offering Train-the-Trainers as a Service, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

We included the text below when we released the Train-the-Trainer Retreat Guide, but we still get questions about why we don’t do train-the-trainers and even more often we get messages asking us to facilitate one. Because of this we felt it was a good thing to have its own blog post for.

For years, we facilitated Safe Zone Train-the-Trainers as a service. We do not do that any more for a few reasons.

The first is that our goal for the Safe Zone Project has always been to be a free online resource first and foremost. When we were traveling around conducting Train-the-Trainers, we were spending more time doing the trainings than creating resources that could empower you to do your own.

The benefit of doing dozens of Train-the-Trainers with a ton of different types of organizations, however, was that we learned a lot of lessons. We did enough Train-the-Trainers to test out new activities and schedules, tweak our prep and goals, get a solid sense of what works well for most groups, and what doesn’t.

We realized we were at a place where we could literally write down all that stuff we had learned, and translate it into a guide for others to follow. And that’s exactly what we did with this guide. We stopped accepting Train-the-Trainer requests, and started planning out the Safe Zone Train-the-Trainer Toolkit.

And the final reason we’re happy to have worked ourselves out of a “job” by providing these resources to empower you to do these trainings yourself: this is way more sustainable!

At least in terms of gas, dollars, logistics, and the ability for an organization to keep improving their Safe Zone Program, running it all internally is the best way to go. We’ll count on you to print responsibly, and we can add some sustainability points on that measure as well.

Have any questions for us about how to start a Safe Zone Program in your community? Check out our lead page for help and if you don’t find what you’re looking for—send us a message and let us know what support you need!

Why We Stopped Offering Train-the-Trainers as a Service, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Defining LGBTQ+: A Guide to Gender & Sexuality Terminology Mon, 25 Feb 2019 22:38:25 +0000 A handy lil e-book that demystifies LGBTQ+ terminology

Defining LGBTQ+: A Guide to Gender & Sexuality Terminology, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Demisexual. Agender. Non-binary. Ally. Cisgender. Constellation. Pansexual.

When I first attended a Safe Zone training in 2009, I wouldn’t have been able to define any of those terms. When I first started facilitating in 2010, only about half of those words were even in my vocabulary activity.

Vocabulary has changed a lot in the past 10 years that I’ve been interacting with gender and sexuality in an educational setting. And it can be intimidating. There are new terms that didn’t exist 10 years ago and there are even more terms that existed but were not part of popular culture.

And this can create a real barrier to anyone who wants to be part of the conversation.

Whether you’re looking for an identity term that fits you, or just wanting to know what all the different language used around you means, vocabulary is often the place you need to start. But when it changes so rapidly and new words enter the lexicon constantly, it can be hard to feel like there is a place to start your learning. Especially a place that you know is LGBTQ+ affirming, accessible, and friendly for beginners.

For years now Sam (Killermann, the other co-creator of this site) has been maintaining a list of LGTBQ+ vocabulary (centered around identity terms) on his site It’s Pronounced Metrosexual. The vocab list is updated regularly and informed by thousands of emails that Sam gets from people all around the world weighing in on the definitions and sharing new identity terms/definitions.

Recently Sam decided to turn it into a lil e-book!

Behold! Defining LGBTQ+: A guide to gender & sexuality terminology.

In this book you’ll find:

  • Primers on why terminology is so important
  • A list of dozens of frequently heard gender/sexuality terminology, including all the ones I listed above 🙂
  • Some good best practices when it comes to vocabulary (like parts of speech)
  • A short write up of why to use this term vs. that term
  • And so much more!

Head over to IPM to download a copy of the e-book. It’s:

  • Pay-what-you-want/can. You can get it for free $0 or choose whatever amount you’d like/want to pay).
  • Uncopyrighted free for you to use, share, edit, etc!
  • Rainbow-tastic seriously, lots of rainbow and features a font that was specifically designed to honor Gilbert Baker the designer of the rainbow flag.

When I ran Safe Zone workshops people would often think, “wow this is a lot of vocabulary,” and it is. It is a lot. But you don’t have to memorize or even know all of the terms in order to be a rad and supportive ally. Heck — even when I was teaching Safe Zone workshops often people would bring up terms to me I hadn’t heard. The trick isn’t to memorize all the terms, but to get comfortable with them, get a sense of the concepts they are pointing to, and begin to appreciate the feeling of learning something new.

And this lil resource can help with all of that.

Defining LGBTQ+: A Guide to Gender & Sexuality Terminology, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Introducing: Safe Zone Train-the-Trainer Retreat Guide Thu, 14 Feb 2019 23:15:26 +0000 A step-by-step, activity-by-activity walkthrough to plan, prepare, and run a two-day train-the-trainer retreat.

Introducing: Safe Zone Train-the-Trainer Retreat Guide, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Getting a Safe Zone program off the ground and training new facilitators just got a tiny bit easier. Don’t get us wrong: we know it’s still a Herculean task.

Today we are really excited to introduce you to our newest curriculum: The Safe Zone Train-the-Trainer Retreat Guide.

This guide is meta-tastic: it’s a guide for trainers who want to train other people on how to be Safe Zone trainers for other people.

Put in a less 🤯 way: if you want to help prepare a group to lead Safe Zone trainings, this is for you! You can get started over on the Train-the-Trainer Toolkit Page, or keep reading below for more information.

what’s in the Retreat guide?

This guide is a step-by-step, activity-by-activity walkthrough to plan, prepare, and run a two-day train-the-trainer retreat.

Weighing in at over 75 pages, it has everything you need to know:

  • All the individual activities we’d recommend for a TTT, from the LGBTQ+ content knowledge to the facilitator skills
  • Advice on logistics, participant selection, supplies, prep, etc.
  • A retreat schedule with detailed walkthroughs for every step

And a whole lot more.

Like with our Foundational Curriculum, we offer this to you as editable Google Docs for your customizing convenience.

WHo is the retreat guide for?

The short answer: it’s for folks who have some Safe Zone training experience themselves, who want to train new SZ facilitators, and who are looking for help in doing the latter.

We have a longer answer in the guide itself if you’re curious.

This guide is not, however, for training Safe Zone participants (i.e., it’s not a new LGBTQ+ 101 type training).

Why we stopped running Train-the-trainers

For years, we facilitated Safe Zone Train-the-Trainers as a service. We do not do that any more for a few reasons.

The first is that our goal for the Safe Zone Project has always been to be a free online resource first and foremost. When we were traveling around conducting Train-the-Trainers, we were spending more time doing the trainings than creating resources that could empower you to do your own.

The benefit of doing dozens of Train-the-Trainers with a ton of different types of organizations, however, was that we learned a lot of lessons. We did enough Train-the-Trainers to test out new activities and schedules, tweak our prep and goals, get a solid sense of what works well for most groups, and what doesn’t.

We realized we were at a place where we could literally write down all that stuff we had learned, and translate it into a guide for others to follow. And that’s exactly what we did with this guide. We stopped accepting Train-the-Trainer requests, and started planning out the Safe Zone Train-the-Trainer Toolkit.

And the final reason we’re happy to have worked ourselves out of a “job” by providing these resources to empower you to do these trainings yourself: this is way more sustainable!

At least in terms of gas, dollars, logistics, and the ability for an organization to keep improving their Safe Zone Program, running it all internally is the best way to go. We’ll count on you to print responsibly, and we can add some sustainability points on that measure as well.

From Us, To You: Use it to do some good.

We’re really excited to share this with you.

The Train-the-Trainer Retreat Guide is uncopyrighted, like all of our other activities and curricula, and you can use it in whatever ways you want to advance the goals of LGBTQ+ inclusion, understanding, and respect in your community. And we hope you do just that.

We truly appreciate how much energy, effort, and labor goes into a train-the-trainer. While this guide won’t make all the chaos disappear, we hope it helps you identify a walkable path forward to getting a Safe Zone program up and running.

You can get started now.

As always, let us know how we can help!

❤ Meg & Sam

Introducing: Safe Zone Train-the-Trainer Retreat Guide, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Announcing S.T.A.R.L.A.B. and a Train-the-Trainer Clearinghouse Thu, 02 Aug 2018 23:35:52 +0000 An academy for aspiring Safe Zone facilitators and a bunch of tools and resources for training trainers coming your way

Announcing S.T.A.R.L.A.B. and a Train-the-Trainer Clearinghouse, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

This is it, friends. The end of our 2018 Birthday Extravaganza. Today we announce two big projects, one of them for all of you future-Safe-Zone trainers out there, and the other for all of you who are looking to start a Safe Zone program in your community.

Hey, wait. Is there a lot of overlap there? That’s so convenient.

S.T.A.R.L.A.B. – An Online Academy for Safe Zone Trainers, and Gender/Sexuality Educators

STARLAB is an academy for people who want to be Sexuality/Gender/Safe Zone Trainers. We will be using the platform we created to launch our online courses this week to power this new initiative, which will be cohort-based, and facilitated by Meg and me.

We’ve been tinkering on STARLAB for the past couple of years.

Some of you may remember that we announced it in our last Birthday Release. A few hundred of you are already on the waiting list. A lot of our work has been figuring out exactly how to deliver the program, as well as what would go into it, and what would be expected from the participants.

Now, we have the technology. And together, we will learn, advance, and better ourselves in the service of those we teach.

So, despite our mission delays — or maybe because of them — we’re thrilled to  finally be making it happen.

In the next couple of weeks, we’ll be rolling out invites to people who are our list (giving priority to those of you who signed up first), and recruiting our first Cohort of S.T.A.R.L.A.B. Cadets.

If you’re already on that list, you’re good to go. If you’re not, and this sounds like something you (or someone you know) would want to participate in, you can still sign up for an invite! Here’s the link:

For more information about STARLAB, you can head over to

Train-the-Trainer Clearinghouse

Despite our curriculum being totally free and uncopyrighted, and ditto with all of our activities and other resources, there are still a lot of organizations who need help getting a Safe Zone program off the ground.

We’ve been here to help.

For several years, we visited dozens of schools, universities, and organizations and conducted Safe Zone Train-the-Trainer retreats: 2- or 3-day long trainings where we would take a group from never having facilitated a Safe Zone training, to rolling out a tailored curriculum and training their peers.

We are no longer offering Train-the-Trainer visits as a service.

Now, we are going to be offering even more help, albeit in a totally a different package.

In the spirit of the Safe Zone Project, we’re translating everything we learned doing those train-the-trainer visits into a free online resource for any organization or individual looking to train a group of trainers, and get a Safe Zone initiative started in their community.

The Safe Zone Train-the-Trainer Clearinghouse is a new resource within the resource that is the Safe Zone Project. At the risk of getting too meta, here’s what we mean:

  • You know how we have a bunch of activities for people doing safe zone trainings? We’ll soon be publishing a bunch of activities conducting Train-the-Trainers
  • You know how we have our Foundational Safe Zone Curriculum? Well, we created a Train-the-Trainer Curriculum for people to teach others, over the course of a several-day retreat, how to facilitate the Foundational Safe Zone Curriculum.
  • And we also have sub-sets of most of the other resources on the way for you, including Train-the-Trainer FAQs, resources, best practices, and facilitation tips & tricks

All of that, combined with some new things we have in the works, make up what we’re calling [for the moment, until we come up with a cuter name] the TTT Clearinghouse.

You’ll be able to find these resources, as we create and publish them, at

Our Final Birthday Update Update

Because this is the end of our Birthday Extravaganza, it seems like a great time to report on the key numbers. Here they are, as of August 2nd:

  • 990 people have downloaded the 5th Edition of our Foundational Curriculum (it’s heartbreaking that I couldn’t report a cool one kay)
  • 97 people entered into the Birthday Gift 🎁Scavenger Hut (again, painfully close to a nice round hundo)
  • 21 people have started our online course Self-Guided Foundational Safe Zone Training (it couldn’t have been 20?)
  • And 5 people have already graduated and earned their certificate of completion! (5! Now that’s a comforting round number)

Thanks to everyone for playing along. For our tiny team, with a $0 marketing budget, this has blown away all of our expectations.

Announcing S.T.A.R.L.A.B. and a Train-the-Trainer Clearinghouse, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

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Announcing Online LGBTQ+ Courses at The Safe Zone Project Mon, 30 Jul 2018 22:49:07 +0000 You can start learning online today with our first course, and we'll be releasing more in the coming weeks.

Announcing Online LGBTQ+ Courses at The Safe Zone Project, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

How was your weekend? You staying cool? Are you ready for the next bit of our Birthday Extravaganza? Maybe the biggest bit? Definitely the penultimate bit?

Well here it is: we now have online courses (well, “online course” for now, no S), and we hope we’re ready.

The Story Behind Our Online Course Decision

There is literally nothing we’ve been asked for more than for a way to “become safe zone trained” online.

For us, the hesitation was always the same: no online experience will ever beat — or even match — the power of an in-person Safe Zone training. Things like tone, vulnerability, are emotional connection are all crucial to what makes Safe Zone trainings work, and all of those are tough to recreate online.

For a little while, we experimented with online trainings where we’d facilitate a training for a small group (about 10 people) through a Google Hangout. Those sometimes came close to an in-person training, but there were usually a ton of technical glitches, difficulties in participation, and they were a scheduling fiasco. So we stopped doing them.

Instead, we have referred people to local organizations and encouraged them to find a training they can attend in their area, in-person.

But we still felt the pressure. Because while online trainings will never be perfect, for a lot of you they are the only option.

Whether it’s because you’re in an area where no “Safe Zone”-type trainings are being offered, or because you have a demanding schedule that prevents you from spending 3 hours in an elective workshop, there are a ton of reasons we’ve heard that make our general recommendation of “find a local trainer” a non-starter.

And you kept telling us that.

We promise we weren’t playing hard to get, but we understand why, for many of you who have followed/used our work for several years, it might feel this way.

We’re just a thoughtful, intentional, and social-justice-committed tiny team, and sometimes that means you move slowly and say no to things until you’re sure.

So we started thinking about online courses in a different way:

If there’s no local training, or no ability to attend a training, should someone not be allowed to learn about gender, sexuality, and LGBTQ+ concepts?

Asked that way, our hesitation transformed into a clear resolve: we’ll do our best.

How We’re Doing Online Courses

A few days ago, we sneakily enabled a part of our site that some of you had already found as part of our Birthday Scavenger Hunt:

As part of this release, we’re starting with one course offering: a self-guided online course version of our Foundational Safe Zone Curriculum. This is our most sought-after and used resource, and because the in-person curriculum has been vetted and tested for years, we see it as a sturdy starting place for this new endeavor. 

(And some of you already enrolled and started in the courses this weekend. We were surprised, impressed, and nervously excited. Nice work!)

Our goal in creating a self-guided online course version was to be as true to the learning outcomes, experiences, and goals of our in-person curriculum. We kept asking, “How can we reproduce that experience with the highest fidelity?”

So every lesson, topic, quiz, and worksheet was created in pursuit of that goal. 

You’ll have to let us know how you think we did. We’re all ears.

The Courses will be Powered by this Site

More than just a superficial makeover, the rebuild of this site included a bunch of functionality behind the scenes.

Our courses will be hosted directly on our site, so learners will be able to:

  • Create an account
  • Use this account to enroll in an online course, complete it, and access in the future (helpful for revisiting lessons, or printing certificates of completion)
  • Access other courses using this same account (as we add more offerings to our catalog)

Pricing? Tuition? Will these be free?

Like the rest of the activities, curricula, and resources we’ve created for you here, the online courses will be offered in the spirit of the gift economy. For us, this is an expression of a core principle of doing social justice work.

What this means, in short, is we are letting you (the learner) decide what to pay for this course, based on your gratitude, ability to pay, or sense of what is fair.

How this looks for our first course is we have three enrollment options: standard tuition ($79 right now), full scholarship ($0), and standard tuition plus gifting a scholarship to someone else ($158).

We aren’t going to “police” this in any way, or be gatekeepers: we’re going to trust you to decide what’s right for you. We’re only here to support you in your decision, and to try to make these courses as accessible as possible to everyone!

The plan is to also release shorter courses that are entirely pay-what-you-want/can/choose, and we’ll be adjusting all of our tuition fees in response to feedback from you.

A few final thoughts about our online courses

Before you get started, we just want to make a few things as clear as can be.

While our online courses won’t match the experience of being in a room with a group of strangers, and should never supplant an in-person training if someone has access to one, we’re putting a lot of effort into making sure they’re still effective, engaging, and fun.

We’ll be releasing our courses slowly, starting with our Self-Guided Foundational Safe Zone Training, and expanding from there, to fine tune and improve the experience with each group of students.

Finally, just to make sure this is as clear as can be: we’re doing everything in our power to make our online courses accessible — financially, as well as pragmatically.

So if you notice a barrier of any kind, and it seems like we constructed it, please let us know. We’ll figure out a way to dismantle it together.

Announcing Online LGBTQ+ Courses at The Safe Zone Project, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

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Announcing Spanish-Language Safe Zone Curriculum, and Safe Zone 201: Race + LGBTQ Mon, 23 Jul 2018 12:30:16 +0000 Because we know this conversation needs to keep going.

Announcing Spanish-Language Safe Zone Curriculum, and Safe Zone 201: Race + LGBTQ, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

As part of our Birthday Extravaganza, we’ve already announced our new website, and the 5th Edition of our Foundational Curriculum. Today, we have two more LGBTQurricular announcements for you.

Foundational Curriculum… ¡en Español!

That’s right. Thanks to the the help of a professional translator and several volunteers, we now have a Spanish-language version of the Foundational Curriculum.

The translated version includes all of the same activities and learning outcomes as the English-language version, with one new handout (out with the “LGBTQ Umbrella,” in with the “Términos Globales sobre LGBTQ”). It is a direct translation of Foundational Curriculum 4.1, because that edition had been tried and tested for several months before being translated.

The translated curriculum will be downloadable directly from our site soon (just like our other curricula and activities). It will come with a Facilitator Guide and Participant Packet, and be freely available and fully editable.

But first we are asking folks to email us for a [digital] copy of it. We’re doing this as a form of “beta” testing, so we can collect feedback directly from those of you using it, and make any necessary tweaks before we publish it widely.

If you’d like a copy of the Foundational Curriculum in Spanish, email and we’ll send it right along.

If you’d like to be alerted when we publish it for the public at large, subscribe for blog updates and we’ll be sure to notify you here when it’s available:


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Every blog post. In your inbox. Easy-peasy. (Note: this is a separate service from the Foundational Curriculum updates)

Safe Zone 201: Intersections of Race + LGBTQ

We’re also thrilled to announce our first official Safe Zone Project 201 curriculum, which will focus on the intersections of race and LGBTQ identities.

A couple months ago, we announced our Project Internships, and with them the idea for Safe Zone 201s: trainings for participants who had completed a “101”, introductory Safe Zone, and wanted to dive deeper into the material. 

This curriculum, which is being created in collaboration with our project intern, will build on the themes established by our Foundational Curriculum and enable participants to dig deeper into identity, privilege, vocabulary, and apply their knowledge in scenarios.

We’re hoping to have this curriculum published by Winter 2018. Stay tuned for that!

More Birthday Releases Coming Your Way

That’s all for today, but we have a lot more in store for you. And for those following along, here’s a quick Birthday Extravaganza Update:

  • Over 500 people have already downloaded the 5th Edition of the Foundational Safe Zone Curriculum
  • Almost Over 50 of you are playing along with our Birthday Scavenger Hunt (read about that at the end of our 5th Birthday Release blog post, or just look for the 🎁s around the site and jump in), which is AMAZING! So many good guesses, so little time left.
  • Almost Over 10 people have helped us by pointing out bugs or other errors on the site, and we’re working to fix them (or have fixed them already). THANK YOU, KIND STRANGERS!

Look for the next Birthday Release in a few days, and get excited: it’s something that, over the course of the last few years, we’ve been asked for a million* times.


Get new blog posts directly in your inbox

Every blog post. In your inbox. Easy-peasy. (Note: this is a separate service from the Foundational Curriculum updates)

*Exaggeration, but only kinda.

Announcing Spanish-Language Safe Zone Curriculum, and Safe Zone 201: Race + LGBTQ, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

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For Our 5th Birthday, 5 Fabulous Announcements Thu, 19 Jul 2018 04:17:32 +0000 Our gifts to you: new website, curriculum, online LGBTQ+ courses, S.T.A.R.L.A.B., and Train-the-Trainer Clearinghouse

For Our 5th Birthday, 5 Fabulous Announcements, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Every year, on our birthday, it has become a Safe Zone Project Tradition to give you a bunch of presents. Maybe we’re German.

And this year we are going. super. extra. Welcome to our Birthday Extravaganza.

We have so many announcements for you — so many big contributions to the Safe Zone Project, new resources you’ve been asking for, and improvements that have been in the works for years — that it would be ridiculous to try to cram them all into a Birthday announcement.

Nope. We’re doin’ Birthweek.

Think of it like Shark Week, but with more curricula. And fewer sharks.

Today, we are thrilled to announce the 5th Edition of our Foundational Safe Zone Curriculum, and this almost-too-shiny new website you’re reading this announcement on.

In our next blog post, we’re going to announce two more big releases. Then, in the blog posts after that, we’re going to announce two even more bigger releases!

All of that will be happening in the next few days. So if you’re a Sexuality / Gender / LGBTQ+ / Safe Zone educator, or otherwise a fan of our stuff, and you’re not already getting blog posts by email, now would be a good time to start.

But for now, let’s just focus on what we’re announcing today, shall we?

Update: Scroll down and read all the announcements for our 5th Birthday!

Get new blog posts directly in your inbox

Every blog post. In your inbox. Easy-peasy. (Note: this is a separate service from the curriculum updates)

Download the 5th Edition of our Foundational Curriculum

If you’re one of the 25,000+ people who are using the Foundational Safe Zone Curriculum (what we used to refer to as our “2-Hour Ready-to-Rock”), you’ll be excited to know that it was not neglected in this makeover.

Here’s the short version of what’s new:

  • Accessibility overhaul, including higher contrast and more legible body text typefaces
  • Every activity and handout links to a parallel document on the SZP website (using a super fun shortlink), where you can find more tips, context, and help
  • Added multiple training timelines, a training set-up guide, and “about this curriculum”
  • Reworked lectures and example framing for most activities
    Sprinkled more facilitator advice throughout, including new“Unlock the Magic” tips
  • New vocab terms, updated definitions, and rewrote facilitator steps in activity walkthrough

For the longer version, you’ll have to dive in yourself.

The new covers for the Facilitator Guide and Participant Packet

Here are some things that haven’t changed:

  • It’s still totally free, uncopyrighted, and yours to improve/change

Head over to the curriculum page, or click any of the gigantic rainbow buttons around the site, download the new edition and get started. 

You’ll get a .ZIP folder with everything you need to start some meaningful conversations about sexuality, gender, and LGBTQ+ identities and experiences.

Let us know if you find any tpyos. There are definitely a few sprinkled in there, ready for that 5.1 update.


And Meet our Shiny New Website

Our old website was more than dusty: it was slow and difficult to navigate.

That was a big problem for us.

As you might know, we’re all about accessibility here.

It’s why “free online resource” is part of our mission, and we don’t construct pay barriers preventing you from accessing of our work (i.e., why we operate in the gift economy).

It’s why we’re constantly tweaking our materials based on educator feedback. To make the lessons work better, include more people, not leave important voices out.

Educators in over 100 countries use our curriculum, and a lot of you are accessing the site from places where bandwidth is tough to come by. So slow loading times, and heavy page loads in general, were making it tough for a lot of people to use this resource.

And despite us having hundreds of little nuggets of helpful content here, most of which is designed to preempt your need to reach out and ask us for help — or permission — we would frequently get asked the same questions. It was because navigating site was more like a maze, and less like a map.

But building new websites is difficult, and a huge investment of time and effort, so we kicked the can down the road. Well, no further!

The new site:

  • Scores two letter grades faster on Pingdom’s speed test (from a C to an A);
  • Has a totally re-worked navigation that we’re hoping will help you find what you need (and enhanced search to make that even easier); 
  • Features more fun bells and whistles than the old one (seamless Google Drive integration anyone?); and
  • Is (somehow) even more rainbow-packed.

That’s what we call a zero compromise website.

Actually, now that we think of it, calling this a website is like calling a book a stack of paper.

This isn’t a website. It’s a Digital Experience®.

Just kidding, y’all.

(But our new hosting company, WPEngine, un-ironically calls it that. Please don’t get mad at us, WPEngine. We lurve yew!)

Oh, and speaking of new website: we hid some presents 🎁 for you

If you poke around the site, you might stumble upon an empty box with a dashed border where one of our newly-created, soon-to-be-released-in-this-birthday-extravaganza projects will eventually live.

If you find one, and you guess what’s going to be published there (before we publish it — so, like, within the next few days), we’ll enter you into a pool for a literal present from us: we’ll send you a goodie box full of our stickers, shirts, books, and some super-secret surprises.

In the meantime, we hope you dig the new digs, and see the Foundational Curriculum 5th Edition as a worthy successor to the 4th (at least worth of an update in your printing routine).

We’ll be in touch soon. In a couple of days, actually. When we release our next surprise here on the blog 😘

– Meg & Sam

Birthday Extravaganza Update #1: New Spanish-Language Curriculum, and Safe Zone 201: Race + LGBTQ

You can read the full announcement in the blog post, but here’s the short version: 

  • We have a Spanish-language translation of our Foundational Curriculum READY, but we don’t want to publish it widely until we get some feedback from more people. Email us and we’ll send it along for review.
  • We announced a Safe Zone 201: Race + LGBTQ curriculum that’s currently in development. We’re hoping to have it out by Winter.

Birthday Extravaganza Update #2: online LGBTQ+ Courses

Check out the full announcement in the blog post, or read on for the nuggets:

Birthday Extravaganza Final Update #3: starlab & train-the-trainer clearinghouse

You can read the full announcement in the blog post. Here’s the short version:

  • STARLAB is an academy for people who want to be Safe Zone Trainers. We will be using the platform we created to launch our online courses this week to power this new initiative, which will be cohort-based, and facilitated by us. (Meg & Sam) — sign up here!
  • The Train-the-Trainer Clearinghouse (cuter name in the works) is going to be a resource people who want to start Safe Zone programs, with a train-the-trainer curriculum, tools for planning & rollout, and more. 

Get new blog posts directly in your inbox

Every blog post. In your inbox. Easy-peasy. (Note: this is a separate service from the curriculum updates)

For Our 5th Birthday, 5 Fabulous Announcements, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

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A Few Pronoun Best [Preferred?] Practices Tue, 12 Jun 2018 02:31:16 +0000 Tips for how-to, when, and how-not-to ask for someone's pronouns.

A Few Pronoun Best [Preferred?] Practices, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Pronouns: reentering prominence in many people’s lives for the first time since grammar school. How do we do them best? What should we avoid?

A couple things to keep in mind up front:

  • Pronouns replace people’s names (e.g., “Sam is nice” → “He is nice”), so it makes sense to give them the same respect we give people’s names.
  • Pronouns add gender, and all the implicit assumptions and associations we have with gender (e.g., “He is nice” → “[Everything the listener associates with man] is nice.”).
  • We don’t have to use pronouns, ever. We can always just use the person’s name (or language like “the person”), it just might sound repetetive.

A few ways to ask:

  • Offer your name and pronouns, which indirectly asks the person you speaking to share their name and pronouns.
  • Explain why you are asking (e.g., “I want to introduce you to my friend, and make sure I get your pronouns right. What are they?”).
  • Just ask! “What are your pronouns?” (And be ready to explain why you’re asking, or for the person to be confused and need a little coaching)

Confusing language to avoid:

  • “Preferred.” Generally, this isn’t about a preference; it’s about respectfully referring to someone. But sometimes, like with nicknames, people have “preferred” pronouns (e.g., a person might prefer “ze,” but be comfy with “she”).
  • “I use…[pronouns]” or “What pronouns do you use?” We all “use” a bunch of pronouns when referring to others. And we rarely, if ever, use our pronouns to refer to ourselves [he wrote, being clever].

Which pronouns are valid?

  • Whatever pronouns someone tells you, if you decide that you want to respect them in the ways they are asking to be respected. That’s it. One bullet. We learn hundreds of names, we can learn pronouns if we want.

This article was originally published at It’s Pronounced Metrosexual

A Few Pronoun Best [Preferred?] Practices, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Redirection for The Safe Zone Project Internship Program Fri, 04 May 2018 01:30:52 +0000 Moving from one general internship to two: Seasonal Interns & Project Interns

Redirection for The Safe Zone Project Internship Program, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Last year, for our birthday, we announced a long overdue Internship Program. Today, in anticipation of our next birthday update, and after a year of experimenting, we’re announcing some slight tweaks to how we’re doing to be doing internships from here on.

First, let us say two things: (1) our Spring Intern Jess was absolutely amazing; and (2) our Spring Intern Jess was absolutely amazing. She was so amazing we had to say it twice.

We were fortunate to be able to work with her and positively overwhelmed by all the contributions she was able to make to the Safe Zone Project in such a short amount of time.

The changes we’re making to the Internship Program are in the hopes that we can recreate a similarly wonderful internship experience in the future (for us and for the intern), knowing what we’re good at, and knowing where we have room to grow.

Now, the changes!

In addition to Seasonal Interns (the “general” intern positions we have throughout the year in Fall, Spring, Summer), we’re going to have ongoing openings for a new type of intern: Project Interns!

Project Interns will be selected based on applications to contribute a specific project to the Safe Zone Project (e.g., a 201 version of our foundational curriculum, a video walkthrough of the facilitator guide).

The big differences between “Seasonal Interns” and “Project Interns,” as we’re thinking about them, are the types of guidance and supervision we’ll provide, what is being worked on, and the timeframe of the internship term.

Seasonal Interns Project Interns
Guidance/Supervision Weekly check-in meetings; Slack team membership for daily open communication Initial meeting to establish the project and scope; emails or impromptu calls/meetings as questions come up
What is being Worked On A combination of tasks related to the Safe Zone Project at large and the intern’s personal project The project that the intern applied to work on, or submitted for us to co-create
The timeframe of Internship Three months, with the expectation of at least 4 hours of week commitment However long the project takes, from a few days to six months

We’re hoping this change will help clarify the expectations for potential interns, as well as set us up to better provide guidance and help.

For Seasonal Interns, the list of projects we’re hoping to host can be an inspiration for what personal project you work on during their term.

And for people who have a really specific, meaningful project in mind you want to contribute, but may not be able to commit to the Seasonal Intern requirements, we’ve got you covered.

Finally, this summer, instead of hiring a Seasonal Intern, we’re only looking for a Project Intern to help contribute to our annual birthday update. We are, however, still accepting Seasonal Intern applications on a rolling basis, and plan to hire a Fall Intern this August.

In a lot of ways, this “Project Intern” process is how we created the Safe Zone Project to begin with (project by project that we worked on together, or individually) — just without the guidance, or the foundation in place for our ideas to live. Now, we’re happy to provide both to you, and invite more people to help continue to improve and expand upon this project with us!

– Meg & Sam

Redirection for The Safe Zone Project Internship Program, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Meet the Spring 2018 SZP Intern: Jess Brundige Tue, 16 Jan 2018 21:35:12 +0000 Jess is from East Tennessee and would love to facilitate a Safe Zone training for Seth MacFarlane

Meet the Spring 2018 SZP Intern: Jess Brundige, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Say hello to the newest addition to the Safe Zone Project Team, the 2018 Spring Intern Jess Brundige.

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Jess Brundige, and my pronouns are she/her. I’m a 29-year-old graduate of Austin Peay State University, and I grew up in rural East Tennessee. I love learning about and communicating to the world around me. My dream is to someday work with a large company or organization to help them manage their brand. One fun fact about me: I’m really into the history of the modern Olympic Games! If you give me any year, I can tell you off the top of my head when and where the next Olympics were held.

Why did you apply for the SZP Internship?

I used Safe Zone Project materials to facilitate trainings at my university for years, so I’ve seen first-hand the good the organization is doing. I’m excited to be part of the growth of the Safe Zone Project, and for the Safe Zone Project to be a part of my growth as well!

What’s your favorite thing about safe zone trainings, or the safe zone project?

I love watching people apply the things learned in safe zone trainings to their everyday life. I’ve seen people add inclusive language to their speech. I’ve seen people stop making offensive jokes. I’ve even watched people who, after hearing terms for gender and sexuality that they had never known before, start defining themselves in ways that made them feel more comfortable with themselves.

Do you have any experiences or anecdotes from safe zones you’d like to share? (from participating, or facilitating)

At my first safe zone training, there were many university faculty and staff in attendance. I remember being paired up with one professor, who seemed new to a lot of the concepts in the training. She was very curious and willing to learn, unlike some of the other faculty. I took one of her classes a few years later, and she seemed to have incorporated some of what she had learned that day into the way she ran her class. It was great to see the safe zone training had stuck with her and helped her make her class more inclusive.

What are you excited about doing as the SZP intern?

I’m working on materials to make Safe Zone Project materials more accessible. There are many people who learn better visually rather than verbally or by reading. I will be creating visual materials to supplement the great activities that the Safe Zone Project already has.

Who is one person (living, dead, or fictional) you wish were safe zone trained? Why?

This is a tough question. Ideally, I’d say “all of them”, but I don’t think that’s the answer you were hoping for. I do think having more safe zone trained celebrities would do a lot of good in the world. People listen to influential people, and follow their example.

If I had to choose one, I’d say I would love for Seth MacFarlane to have been safe zone trained around 1999. I’m not a fan of his work, but I would love to see a world in which Family Guy was created by a man who was sensitive to how negative portrayals of minoritized groups (including the LGBTQ community, but even beyond that) can do harm. Think of how many people would have positive views of people in minoritized groups today because they grew up watching a show that didn’t perpetuate harmful stereotypes!

Are there any communities you’re particularly passionate about having more LGBTQ-inclusion education?

Growing up in rural Tennessee, I saw how little people in towns like mine knew about the LGBTQ community. People in poor and/or rural areas have barriers to LGBTQ-inclusion education that many people don’t have. Their internet access is often poor, so something as simple as a YouTube video on life as a transgender person, for example, can take a lot more effort to watch. Some people don’t have internet access at home and have to get their internet access at a school or a public library, where access to LGBTQ-related websites is often blocked. Furthermore, these areas often don’t have nearby LGBTQ spaces, leaving people without a place to go to for community. As advocates for LGBTQ inclusion, we should do what we can to arm individuals with the tools they need to educate themselves and their communities, and to not let those barriers get in the way.

Additionally, I think all inclusion and diversity advocates should work hard to include people with disabilities into our work. Something as simple as asking everyone to stand can be alienating to someone with a physical disability. We should all be mindful that not everyone has the same abilities, and that we also cannot tell who has a disability by looking. We should also be mindful of people with learning or developmental disabilities, and people with past traumas and PTSD. Including all people into our movements, even if it takes more time or effort, only makes our causes stronger.

Anything else?

I hope that this experience is a success for not only me, but the Safe Zone Project as well. By the end of my internship, I plan to have accomplished a lot for the SZP and to have gained valuable experience that will help me further my professional career. I’m excited to be a part of the Safe Zone Project team!

Meet the Spring 2018 SZP Intern: Jess Brundige, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Be Our Spring 2018 Intern: Join The Safe Zone Project Team! Mon, 04 Dec 2017 18:10:14 +0000 The SZP team is looking to bring on a spring intern!

Be Our Spring 2018 Intern: Join The Safe Zone Project Team!, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Applications for our Spring 2018 internship are live, and they are due December 15th! (but we’re accepting application for future terms on a rolling basis after that date)

We know there are so many folks out there who want to be able to contribute their time, energy, and ideas towards making the world a better place.

The Safe Zone Project has largely been a two-person effort since we launched in 2013 we’re excited to bring new energy and our team and that could be you! We’re looking for an intern who will will help us continue to improve and evolve The Safe Zone Project’s website as well as add to SZP with a project of their own creation.

Think you might be a good fit or know someone who is for this internship? We’re looking for someone who:

  • complements the existing SZP team in a unique way;
  • has passion for LGBTQ+ inclusion education;
  • has an idea for project that would expand/deepen our impact;
  • wants to make a big impact through lots of little contributions.

To read all about our qualifications, nice-to-haves, and additional details on the internship and apply check out our internship page.

Have any questions? Email us at and we’ll touch base with you soon!

~ Meg & Sam

Be Our Spring 2018 Intern: Join The Safe Zone Project Team!, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

New Curriculum, Internship Program, & More: Our 4th Birthday Update Wed, 26 Jul 2017 17:20:45 +0000 Adding a little silver lining to the storm cloud that is 2017.

New Curriculum, Internship Program, & More: Our 4th Birthday Update, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Every summer for the past few years, Meg and I have put our heads together to release a big update and improvement for the Safe Zone Project. This summer is no different: to celebrate our birthday, we’ve put together a lot of new stuff to gift to you.

As usual, we’re releasing a new version of our core 2-hour ready-to-rock curriculum. We’re also excited to announce a Safe Zone Project Internship Program, an online facilitator training initiative we’re calling S.T.A.R.L.A.B., plans for translations of our curriculum, and some improvements to the online resource.

Let’s get into these one-by-one.

Curriculum Version 4.0

There are three big changes to the new curriculum that previous facilitators of our curriculum will easily spot: overhauls to the genderbread activity, scenarios, and a brand spanking new handout. We’ve also substantially improved vocab (new terms, grammar, and more consistency in formatting), and tweaked little things throughout.

We’ve reframed the sample lecture from the genderbread activity to make it more personal for participants. A lot of educators have been using genderbread in this way for a long while, and in our train-the-trainers this past year we piloted it ourselves. Our findings: it seems easier for new facilitators to grasp, makes a meaningful connection for participants, and still gets similar learning objectives accomplished.

Something a lot of facilitators have asked is “What are the correct ways to handle the scenarios?” Our answer was generally “There is no one correct way to handle any scenario,” but we have finally given folks what they were really asking for: more guidance in what we would recommend. Each sample scenario in the facilitator guide now has bullets that facilitators can use to steer the conversation.

And the new handout is a response to another common request. After vocab, participants often express a concern that they’ll say the wrong thing. The new DO/DON’T SAY handout is our response to that request. We think it fits nicely into the curriculum, and it’s also a great handout all by itself.

Safe Zone Project Internship Program!

We get a lot of emails from people who want to help, many of whom are college students looking for skills to add to their tool belt, or experience to pad their resume.

The SZP Internship Program was designed to create an opportunity for up-and-coming LGBTQ+ equality advocates and educators to get insight into the field, and hands-on training, and invaluable experience to apply to their future endeavors.

We’ll have three internship terms throughout the year (Fall, Spring, and Summer), and have the capacity to support one intern during each term. The SZP Interns help with everyday operations, website and content improvements, outreach efforts, content development and upkeep, as well as complete a project of their own design, which is contributed to the Safe Zone Project, or the hues global justice collective.

All interns receive guidance and mentorship from Meg and I, t-shirts, books, and other swag from SZP and other hues initiatives, and access to a massive platform to meaningfully influence change and contribute to global justice.

Announcing: S.T.A.R.L.A.B. and Curriculum Translations

There are two things that we’re really excited about, and we’ll be working on over the next several months.

S.T.A.R.L.A.B. Online Safe Zone Trainer Academy

S.T.A.R.L.A.B. is something that we’ve been dreaming up for a couple years now. It’s designed for folks who want to facilitate Safe Zone trainings, but don’t have access to a training program, or facilitation mentorship in-person. Think of it as a self-guided, curated, and community-supported online train-the-trainer academy. Pretty cool, right? You can sign up for an email to get early access as soon as it’s ready.

Translating Our Curriculum into Spanish

And we’re seeking an English-to-Spanish translator who can help us make our curriculum more globally accessible. We’re starting with Spanish, and in need of someone who can help with both literal and cultural translation (making the examples, vocab, and facilitation guide more relevant for Spanish speakers in the Americas, specifically). If you are interested in helping with this, or know someone who is, please email us with a quote for translation:

And Some Assorted Website Improvements

We’ve created a new team page, a collection of all of our handouts, FAQs all over the place, and improved the curriculum download process. There were also a lot of other little bugs people have pointed out over the past year that I’ve been squishing relentlessly.

Over 20,000 people are now using our 2-hour curriculum, and there are over 10,000 of you beautiful people who use the site each month. If you keep using it, we’ll keep improving it.

That’s all for now, folks.

New Curriculum, Internship Program, & More: Our 4th Birthday Update, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

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Why we don’t certify “Safe Zone Trainers” (and don’t plan to). Mon, 24 Jul 2017 17:02:43 +0000 It would create a problematic power relationship, add to a specific problem we're trying to solve, and is simply beyond our capacity.

Why we don’t certify “Safe Zone Trainers” (and don’t plan to)., by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

When Meg and I launched this project back in 2013, we had one clear goal: to build a free online resource for creating powerful, effective LGBTQ awareness and ally training workshops.

The hows of that goal have expanded a bit (so far: with our updates to the curriculumonline trainings, new activities, facilitator education series, and book about facilitation), but the what has not.

For every new offering or expansion, Meg and I engage in a consensus decision-making process, and the eventual decision is generally made by answering the question: “Will this new offering be free, online, and/or helpful in creating powerful safe zone trainings?”

We’re clear about what we want the Safe Zone Project to be, and, perhaps more so we are clear about what we do not want it to become. Which brings us to certifying safe zone trainers, something Meg and I do not want the Safe Zone Project to do.

Deciding not to certify safe zone trainers wasn’t as simple as answering the question above. Instead, the decision is one that rooted in a fundamental understanding of social justice work, this project, and our individual perspectives on both.

In the rest of this post, I’ll explain why I am opposed to certifying safe zone trainers, and am not thrilled about certifications in general.

An important clarification up front: for anyone who completes one of our trainings, we’re happy to provide you with a certificate that says you did, but that only says that: “You completed [blank] training with the Safe Zone Project.” It is not meant to – and does not – certify you as a safe zone, as an expert, or as a trainer.

That’s not our place. Below are my (Sam’s) thoughts on why.

Certifying safe zone trainers would emblemize a problematic power relationship.

Actually, several: (1) between us, the certifiers, and the potential trainers; (2) between us, the certifiers, and groups that have populations that need to be trained; and (3) between us, the certifiers, and other organizations doing safe zone trainings and work. I’ll explain each briefly:

1. Certifications would create a problematic power relationship between us and the potential trainers because they put us in a position to either grant, or withhold, a certification, thus empowering or disempowering a person’s ability to be a safe zone trainer. Further, we could (or would have to) install barriers that would have to be navigated in order to be certified (time, money, knowledge, etc.). Who are we to say who is and isn’t good enough to be a trainer? 

2. The problematic power relationship would extend to groups that have populations that need to be trained because they, or others, might see our certification as a necessary credential in the trainers they want to bring it — or even just as a perk. Both have their own issues. Who are we to say who is and isn’t good enough to train your population?

3. And granting certifications would create a problematic power relationship between us (the Safe Zone Project) and other organizations doing safe zone trainings because it would create (or add to) the “who is the official/best/right/etc. org?” question game. We don’t want folks valuing our work more, or valuing anyone else’s less, because we position ourselves as the certifier of safe zone trainers. Quite the opposite: it’s our hope that this project can continue to supplement and support other organizations doing this work. Who are we to say our approach to safe zone is worth certifying while others’ approaches are not?

It would add to a problem similar to one that we were trying to solve: who’s right?

The problem that led us to creating this project was how many different “safe zone trainings” there were out there, and how little ubiquity there was in what it meant to be safe zone trained. There are over 17,000 trainers and educators around the world using our curriculum in a variety of capacities (from verbatim as printed, to modified to the point of unrecognizability – all awesome!).

I don’t care so much about whose curriculum is the most-perfect, the best, or the “right” curriculum – I just want to get good tools into the hands of people trying to do good work. Our safe zone curriculum is one of many, and we hope that folks will use it in whatever ways work best for them (even if that’s simply to improve their own curriculum).

Along these lines, I see us certifying safe zone trainers as adding to the problem of “who’s right?” But instead of on the curriculum front, on the facilitator/trainer front. Instead of claiming ownership over the ways we train trainers, and certifying trainers in our programs or educational values, I’d rather just provide as much education and free resources for trainers as possible, and allow them to use that in whatever ways they see fit.

And, ultimately, we don’t have the capacity to do it well.

For a certification to mean anything significant, or create more good than harm (or at least indifference), it needs, at least, (1) careful design in what qualifies one as certified; (2) continuing education and support for certificate holders, and for those seeking certified folks; and (3) a continued verification that certified folks are living up to the standards of the certificate.

This project is primarily operated by just us two people, in addition to a million other things we do. That list above is far beyond us, and would require us to entirely refocus our energies, and the nature of this project, in ways that would distract us from why we started it to begin with: to be a free online resource for creating powerful, effective LGBTQ awareness and ally training workshops.

We’re going to keep focusing on doing that, improving that, and being that as well as we can.

Why we don’t certify “Safe Zone Trainers” (and don’t plan to)., by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

New Curriculum for our 3rd Birthday — version 3.0! Mon, 18 Jul 2016 18:34:02 +0000 It's birthday #3 and we've got a new 3.0 curriculum to match!

New Curriculum for our 3rd Birthday — version 3.0!, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Three years ago today, we launched website complete with a 2-hour Ready-to-Rock, and totally free safe zone training curriculum. And that curriculum has been on quite the adventure! Since we started tracking downloads (two years ago) there have been over 11,000 downloads from 98 countries (578 last month alone).

As we’ve seen conversations of LGBTQ inclusion and sensitivity become more mainstream, we’ve also helped safe zone trainings expand beyond colleges and universities to health care organizations, domestic violence survivor advocates, and national non-profits. And we’re constantly excited to hear of more and more organizations starting educational efforts towards marking their environments more LGBTQ affirming and inclusive — whether they’re using our materials (hooray!), other folks’ (hooray!) or creating their own (hooray!).

Today is our 3rd birthday. And (as seems tradition at this point) we’re sharing our birthday present with you: A shiny new version 3.0 of the curriculum! (Link to download in top right of this and most other pages.)

Every page in the 3.0 curriculum got an tweak or an update and while some changes are small, we’ve got some new additions and complete overhauls as well.

What’s new in v3.0?

  • New cover design (oooh la la)
  • New activity (Fearfully Asked Questions)
  • New handout (Coming Out Handout)
  • Restructured timelines and activity flow
  • New Genderbread v3.3 lecture
  • New vocab terms; tweaked language in old ones
  • Updated and overhauled language and formatting in all activities
  • More detailed debriefing questions (with suggested learning outcomes)

We’re really excited about all the changes in the 3.0 curriculum and definitely believe it is our best, most facilitator-friendly, and up-to-date curriculum to date. It’s not done, and we’ll likely have a version 3.1 sooner than later fixing small tweaks, but we’re proud of what we have to offer. Beyond that, we’re thankful for all the feedback, input, and ideas generated by the crowd.

Here for you!

All of the materials on are offered to you for free and completely uncopyrighted which means you can use them, evolve them, and share them however you like. We’ve even shared this 3.0 curriculum with you in Microsoft Word version to make it easy to edit and modify for your use.

Curriculum = Content; Unlocking the Magic = Process

If you’re interested in creating the best experience in your Safe Zone workshops solid content it important and it is only half the battle. Unlocking the Magic of Facilitation is a book that we wrote to help folks learn key concepts in facilitation that they can use to improve their trainings and workshops. If this sounds up your alley check out Unlocking the Magic (physical book, e-book, and free pdf download) here.

As always we here at are excited to support all of you in your educational efforts and trainings and if there is anything you need to do gender or sexuality training better (that we can help with!), don’t hesitate to let us know — yo [at] thesafezoneproject [dot] com.

Happy Birthday SZP!

Meg & Sam

New Curriculum for our 3rd Birthday — version 3.0!, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

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All Star Facilitator Series – Meet Unlocking the Magic of Facilitation Wed, 23 Mar 2016 21:17:37 +0000 Meet the newest member of the Safe Zone Project toolbox - Unlocking the Magic of Facilitation

All Star Facilitator Series – Meet Unlocking the Magic of Facilitation, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

On August 1st 2014 Sam and I shared a post about the series of articles we were calling the All Star Facilitator Series and Sam kicked off that post with this quote,

Meg and I couldn’t be more thrilled to share with you the announcement that our All-Star Facilitator Series is officially open to the public. Couldn’t. Be. More. Thrilled.

Well. Turns out 1.5 years later we could in fact be more thrilled. Little did we know that those 11 things we believe to be integral to all-star facilitation would over the next 17 months morph their way into a book.

Enter: Unlocking the Magic of Facilitation: 11 Key Concepts You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know.


It even has stars on the cover and EVERYTHING.

Many of the All Star Facilitator posts translated directly into chapters in the book.  Including:

  • role modeling imperfection
  • the difference between facilitation, teaching, and lecturing
  • how to read a group
  • how to navigate triggers
  • the importance of the “yes, and…” rule

We believe this book is intregral to our work here on in sharing with you grab-and-go educational tools and activities. If you’ve ever had a subject you loved taught by someone who was not engaging, you, like us, agree that how we engage others in learning matters just as much as the content itself. Unlocking the Magic of Facilitation is all about ensuring that facilitators have the tools needed to create powerful learning opportunities for their participants, and that y’all using our curriculum to do important LGBTQ+ awareness work do, too!

You can read more about the book here, and there are a bunch of ways to get your hands, digitally or physically, on the book:

If you loved the All-Star facilitation track… get ready to unlock some #facilitationmagic.

With love!

Meg & Sam

All Star Facilitator Series – Meet Unlocking the Magic of Facilitation, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

LGBTQ+ Terminology – An Evolution Over Time Tue, 05 Jan 2016 14:26:26 +0000 The world keeps changing and so do the words that we use to describe it.

LGBTQ+ Terminology – An Evolution Over Time, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

When we started the Safe Zone Project one of the first activities that we created was Vocabulary Extravaganza an activity that focused on sharing and understanding many of the many words related to gender and sexuality.  While it was one of the first activities we compiled it was also one of the hardest.  Definitions are tricky enough, and attempting to define identities that are evolving as we sit down to write them, raises the bar even higher.

Over the years (it has been 2.5 years since we first published the site) we have received feedback on many of the words and definitions.  From our in-person workshops, the wonderful folks we connect with online, and many kind and thoughtful emails we receive from those who use our resources, we get some wonderful feedback that helps us continue to improve and evolve our definitions.

A few days ago we had the pleasure of connecting with the folks at The Guardian newspaper who asked us for definitions they could use in their 2015 Gender Dictionary.  We are excited to share that updated* post and its accompanying, newly updated Vocabulary Extravaganza activity!

While The Guardian didn’t include this disclaimer in the article, we think it is important to own that this list is neither comprehensive nor inviolable. With identity terms, trust the person who is using the term and their definition of it, above any dictionary. We don’t claim ownership of these definitions, they are part of the cultural commons, curated by us, but created by the many emails, online discussions, and in-person chats, we have had over the years.  We will continue to hone and adjust this language with the goal of creating definitions resonate with at least 51 out of 100 people who use the words.  We will continue to change the language as the culture changes its meaning. 

Let us know what you think of the definitions, help us evolve our 2016 list, and maybe give a little hat-tip to The Guardian for helping share some of these common and less-than-common words with the world!

Cheers 2015!

Meg & Sam


* If you read The Guardian post prior to Dec 30th, you likely read definitions different from the ones that you will read now.  The editors of The Guardian used an older edition of a lot of the words and graciously updated the post as soon as we pointed it out! 

LGBTQ+ Terminology – An Evolution Over Time, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

To 2016…and Beyond! Tue, 05 Jan 2016 01:25:53 +0000 This year we got to do a lot of awesome things, w/ some awesome people. Here's to another great year!

To 2016…and Beyond!, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

In 2015 we got to do many of the things we love to do (and many of those things… with all of you!)  We got to connect and collaborate with hundreds of people, travel around the country both physically and digitally, and talk to a bunch of passionate folks looking to make the world a better, more welcoming, more affirming place.

Thank you. For any of y’all who downloaded our curriculum, attended one of our online trainings, or invited us to visit — we thank you for the connection, for the energy, and for the big and small environments you’re making better by being you.

We learned a few things during this 2015 from our many adventures.

  • We learned that just like the big movies, our video outtakes are wayyy more entertaining than the finished product.
  • We learned that keeping your answers simple and knowledge level appropriate is way harder than not doing that.
  • We learned you can facilitate a two-hour online workshop from a cell phone (but we don’t recommend it).

We learned (reconfirmed really) that folks taking the time to offer kind and constructive feedback is invaluable to making our resources, our teaching, and our content better.

And we’ve got a lot more learning to do and to share with y’all in 2016.  Want a little glance at what’s in store?

We’re also excited to share a brand-new organization that will be an integral part of the Safe Zone Project (namely the umbrella part), hues.  Hues is an organization and resource hub, and one of those resources is The Safe Zone Project. This doesn’t change much in the way we operate (especially considering Sam is the director of hues and Meg is an advisor), but legally we are now organized a little differently.  All that said, hues is something we are really excited to share with you and encourage you to explore!

We are so thrilled to continue to do more of what we love to do, help y’all spread the important knowledge of gender and sexuality to your campuses and communities.

Please never hesitate to give us a shout and let us know what you’d like to see in 2016 and how we can help!

Cheers to a great year, and to the next!

Meg & Sam

To 2016…and Beyond!, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

SZP Co-Creators launch a Kickstarter! Read more! Tue, 20 Oct 2015 15:17:29 +0000 We think the SZP is neat. And we want to bring you another awesome free resource website, but we need your help! That's why we've launched our kickstarter today!

SZP Co-Creators launch a Kickstarter! Read more!, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Hello Safe Zone Project-ers!

We have some exciting news for you…Sam and I are getting married! Just kidding — not doin’ that. (Sorry, Jessica.) We are, however, taking a few big steps together and co-creating another project!

Our newest project (we hope*) is called FacilitatingXYZ: A Free Online Resource for ALL Facilitators. It’ll be a website where folks who are passionate about facilitating can watch videos, download chapters and discussion guides from our forthcoming books, and create community with other facilitators!  We are so excited about this project, because it — like The Safe Zone Project — is exactly the resource we wish we had had when we started our journeys as facilitators (and would love to have right now).


But there is a twist.  That little * after hope is very important because for this project we need your support.  We want to create an amazing resource website and some engaging high quality videos, but we can’t do it alone.  So TODAY we’ve launched a kickstarter campaign to help make that goal a reality and let our supporters help make FacilitatingXYZ into the resource we know it can be!  


We have some really cool rewards on this Kickstarter that we think you’ll be interested in, like early access to our forthcoming books!

Oh yeah, also we’re writing a book! Actually, two books. Because the best things come in twos!

Unlocking the Magic of Facilitation will be the first book we’ll be releasing and is all about the 11 key concepts every facilitator needs to know, but doesn’t know they need to know.

A Guide to Facilitation includes the concepts from Unlocking the Magic, as well as: the foundations of socially just facilitation, how to piece together the elements of a training, and lessons for finding your facilitation style.

These two books will be coming out soon (Unlocking the Magic this year, Guide to Facilitation next), but you can get early access, exclusive content, and more by supporting the Kickstarter!

To learn more about FacilitatingXYZ and to support all of our shiny new projects, head on over to the Kickstarter and take a look around! We really appreciate you taking the time, supporting us, and hope you’ll help us share this newest project with the world!

To new projects and double rainbows!

Meg & Sam

SZP Co-Creators launch a Kickstarter! Read more!, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

2nd Annual Birthday Post! Two Years Old and New Curriculum to Match! Thu, 23 Jul 2015 19:18:04 +0000 We thought our ready-to-rock curriculum was a solid start. This is even better.

2nd Annual Birthday Post! Two Years Old and New Curriculum to Match!, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Its been two wonderful years since this website first launch! We’ve added new activities, started the all-star track, and are even working on a new book to help y’all get your Safe Zone facilitation-on.

The big birthday present today though is a seriously updated curriculum!

What’s New in Version 2.0!

We’ve been at work over the course of the year keepin’ track of feedback (feedback!) on the Ready-to-rock curriculum and we are ready to say 2.0 is ready y’all.  We’ve made  changes, additions, and modifications that we feel will make this packet ever more helpful and useful in your quest towards Safe Zone Training superb-ness. 

What we added that we think you’ll love!

  • All star tips – these are little tid-bits at the end of many of the activities that relate back to how to become an even better facilitator for these Safe Zone Trainings.  These often relate (and link!) to our All Star Series articles so that you’ll know which skill we think is most applicable to certain activities.
  • Updated vocabulary – we’ve added some refinement and major changes to our terminology and included some new words in our list!  We’ve also added pronunciations to the most common words that get folks all twisted.  Shout out to all the feedback we got on vocabulary we tried to include and incorporate all the suggestions we received!
  • Improved activities – Almost every activity in the packet has been modified and improved.  These are some of the highlights

First Impressions – new worksheet – we’ve separated out gender identity and sexuality

Privilege for Sale – modified the privileges to be more poly-inclusive, added links and a new guiding questions (and changed up the name modified name!)

Scenarios – we’ve taken out our suggestions for scenarios as we’ve gotten feedback that every group is so different and we recommend writing your own for your population, (you can find higher education examples here! and medical oriented scenarios here) and added a new wrap up section featuring the platinum rule

Genderbread 3.3 – we’ve overhauled the Genderbread activity with a new worksheet, new lecture, new… everything. We’ve added another handout to help you suss out the difference between the L, G, B, T, and Q of LGBTQ.

  • Resources page – We’ve also added a resource page for participants to continue learning and educating both from us and other awesome resources around the web!  This resource page is not only included in the facilitator and participant packet you can also see an even more complete listing right here on the Safe Zone Project website! 

We’ve also made the curriculum downloadable as both a PDF and a word document!  This is to ensure that any modifications that you want to make it is easily and accessible to do!  (read more about our uncopyright here)

We did remove a few things from the original curriculum to try to tighten up the training and make it even more possible to fit it all into those tight two hours!  The coming out story can still be found in the activities section!

Let us know what you think! yo [at] thesafezoneproject {dot} com!  What do you need, what do you want to see in version 3.0?!

2nd Annual Birthday Post! Two Years Old and New Curriculum to Match!, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

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Happy Birthday to Us: Two Big Announcements for You Tue, 05 Aug 2014 19:48:31 +0000 You’re probably thinking “Oh no! I didn’t get The Safe Zone Project a present.” Awkward. We know. But we were prepared.

Happy Birthday to Us: Two Big Announcements for You, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Instead of expecting a gift from you, we decided to give you a bunch of cool stuff instead! If it’ll help, you can consider this one of those reverse-birthdays. You know. Those are a thing, right? (They aren’t?) I’m being told they aren’t. Okay. Well this is awkward now.

But we’re doing it anyhow: Happy Reverse-Birthday!

Two New Things, One Improved Thing

We’re now offering two brand new things that we got a lot of requests for throughout the past year. One is a resource helping facilitators get better at facilitation and the other is online safe zone trainings. You can read a bit more about each right below, or read our press release way below.

Presenting: The All-Star Facilitator Series

All-Star-Series-SZPImproving the quality and consistency of our safe zone curriculums around the country was one of our main goals when we launched this project. But the ultimate goal was to create better safe zone trainings. The logical next step toward that overarching goal, once we published our curriculum and activities, was helping facilitators do their thing, better.

That’s what we’re hoping to do with the All-Star Facilitator series. Like the rest of the Safe Zone Project, this will be a forever work in progress, but we launched with ten core lessons that will help any facilitator better accomplish the goals of a safe zone training. And we’re hoping our fellow social justice educators out there will submit lessons and help us as we build on the series in the future.

Presenting: Online Safe Zone Trainings

online-trainings-social-cardWhen possible, we always recommend in-person, intimate safe zone trainings. But, over the past year, we’ve come to terms with the fact that that is not always possible, and some training is always better than no training.

After doing a few pilot tests for online trainings using Google+ Hangouts last month, we were pleased with the results. To quote Meg, “It was much more like a normal training than I would have guessed.” We’ll now be offering online trainings on the second Saturday of every month, with registration on EventBrite (and scholarships available for folks for whom the cost is prohibitive).

Improving: Train-the-Trainer Program

For the past year, we offered the ability for folks to bring us in and have us train their group to facilitate their own safe zone trainings (call it the “teach a person to fish” method), but what, exactly, we were offering was unclear. Well, consider that cleared up.

Our goal with this project was to create a resource that stands on its own, and allows you to have everything you need to create safe zone trainings wherever you are, but we understand that some folks need extra help. We’re here to help.

The Press Release (for interested parties — copy/paste/reblog willy-nilly)

The Safe Zone Project Celebrates its One Year Anniversary

AUSTIN, Texas (August 5, 2014) – Last week marked the one year anniversary of the launch of The Safe Zone Project, a free online resource created by social justice advocates Meg Bolger and Sam Killermann to equip educators with the tools needed to start productive conversations amongst students and to create safe spaces for members of the LGBTQ community. In honor of the project’s first birthday, Bolger and Killermann are rolling out several exciting additions to The Safe Zone Project, including online safe zone trainings, an All-Star Facilitator Series, and their first train-the-trainer event, which will take place at San Jacinto College.

Since its launch, The Safe Zone Project website has provided a catalog of exercises and activities for anyone to use, but its premier offering is a comprehensive two hour workshop curriculum, a guide full of activities designed to help facilitators create dialogue and understanding amongst students who may not be familiar with LGBTQ issues. This curriculum has been used by over 1300 educators in 16 countries, and several thousand more have taken advantage of the individual activities on the website.

As part of the anniversary roll out, Bolger and Killermann will be facilitating online safe zone programs on the second Saturday of every month to intimate groups limited to eight participants, who are able to sign up for the courses through The Safe Zone Project website. They are also launching an All-Star Facilitator Series, starting as a ten lesson online program to help facilitators improve their skills in leading social justice workshops. Bolger says, “It was important for me that we build the all-star series, because it was the thing that I really wanted when I was a peer educator.” Lastly, the duo will be holding their first train-the-trainer event this August at San Jacinto College, where they will be conducting several in depth training sessions for members of the faculty and student body in order to prepare the participants to lead their own safe zone sessions.

Reflecting on their first year, Killermann says, “As I’ve been traveling the country, it’s been great hearing from folks all the different ways they’re using the project. I hope our updates will meet some needs we left unmet and inspire more educators to get involved.”

Meg Bolger is a gay/lesbian/queer-identified social justice educator facilitator who was drawn to social justice, gender and sexuality work through her experiences with creating a safe zone training program from scratch during her time as an undergraduate. She has since founded Pride for All, an organization dedicated to creating fun and interactive diversity and leadership workshops centered around the topics of gender, sexuality and social justice.

Sam Killermann is an ally, advocate, and social justice comedian, blending humor into much of the work he does. In addition to performing his one man show with a message, It’s Pronounced Metrosexual, for the past several years around the country, he is the author of A Guide to Gender, a full exploration of gender from a social justice perspective.

You can find out more from their website

Happy Birthday to Us: Two Big Announcements for You, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

11 Invaluable Lessons on the Path to Becoming an All-Star Social Justice Educator Fri, 01 Aug 2014 20:21:49 +0000 If you're looking for a few ways to up your facilitation game, look no further.

11 Invaluable Lessons on the Path to Becoming an All-Star Social Justice Educator, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Meg and I couldn’t be more thrilled to share with you the announcement that our All-Star Facilitator Series is officially open to the public. Couldn’t. Be. More. Thrilled.

To get you started, here are 11 things we believe to be integral to all-star facilitation. We’d love for you to share your own lessons in the comments down below!

1. Realizing that the “perfect” facilitator isn’t someone who knows everything, but someone who is comfortable admitting they don’t.


2. Understanding the difference between facilitation, teaching, and lecturing — and knowing when to use each.


3. Tapping into your personality, the things about you that are uniquely you, will benefit the group more than trying to be someone you’re not.


4. Social justice education is as much about listening as it is about talking. Knowing how to read a group tells you when to do what.


5. You cannot speak on behalf of a group identity. But you need to know how to respond when someone [inevitably] asks you to.


6. Knowing beforehand what might emotionally trigger you will allow you to better temper your response when it happens.


7. Embracing that you didn’t always know what you know, and were once just learning about social justice concepts yourself, will help you connect and empathize with others.


8. Telling someone “No” or that they are “Wrong” will shut them down. Instead, it’s important to know how to say “Yes, and…”


9. Reflecting on your facilitation and experience, and giving yourself critical feedback, is necessary if you’re going to continue to improve.


10. Be cognizant of identity, remembering that while there are times when aspects of a person’s identity become more or less apparent, that identity is always present.


AND #11. Remember that social justice is an interconnected, global movement that requires all hands on deck to be realized. Oh, and so is The Safe Zone Project.

So, maybe, you know, if you have the time and everything, you might want to get involved? 🙂

11 Invaluable Lessons on the Path to Becoming an All-Star Social Justice Educator, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Mastering the “Yes, And…” Rule Fri, 01 Aug 2014 19:00:41 +0000 How to redirect a someone in a social justice conversation without shutting them down

Mastering the “Yes, And…” Rule, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

I was a pretty big fan of improv comedy when I was in high school, but I didn’t truly fall in love until I started to learn and perform it when I was in college. I’ve stopped performing and moved back into the ever-more-comfy role of fan, but there are a ton of indispensable things I learned in improv that I use on a regular basis today.

One of the universal rules of improv also happens to be a rule that leads to welcoming, inclusive, and interactive social justice trainings: the “Yes, And…” rule.

I would like to give credit of my introduction to the “Yes, and…” rule to Ms. Tina Fey’s book Bossy Pants. Now your experience reading (or listening in my case) Bossy Pants may not have been to say, “OMgosh that is totally like what I do with social justice stuff,” buttt that’s how my brain works. So cheers to you, Tina Fey!

It’s a Simple Rule

If someone presents a reality to you, however ridiculous it may seem, you accept it and build upon it, sometimes redirecting toward something you’re more comfortable with, and sometimes continuing down the rabbit hole they’ve created. More simply, you don’t tell someone no. You respond “Yes, and…”

The way it plays out in improv is the scenes are more fluid, fun, and you end up in places that no individual in the troupe would have ever gotten to.  It’s a shared experience, and everyone has agency and some responsibility in creating it. It also cuts down on arguing, authoring other people’s experiences/choices, and judgment.

To return to the Bossy Pants reference, Tina Fey says if you were in a scene and someone said, “I have a gun!” and you responded, “No you don’t! You’re just holding out your finger!” well.. that wouldn’t go very far would it?

The way it plays out in a social justice training is about the same. Your group members will feel safer chiming in, sharing their thoughts and ideas, and the discussions will flow more naturally. You won’t be seen as the Sole Authority Who Has All Answers, and the entire group will have a shared sense of responsibility and say in how the training pans out.

While, like every rule, there are exceptions, more often than not “Yes, And…” will lead to more positive learning experiences than “No, Because…” Even though the latter will likely be your instinct until you get some practice.

But it’s Sometimes Simpler Said than Done

Like a lot of things I’ve written about, this rule might be the exact opposite of what your gut tells you to do. If someone in a training says, “All the gay people I know are stylish,” your reflex will likely be “No” with a side of “Um. Really. No.”

But don’t trust your instincts, Luke. By now, you know them to not be true.

Instead, give “Yes, And…” a shot, and see where it can get you. Here are a few different ways you could “Yes, And…”

Them: “All the gay men I know are stylish.”

You: “Yes, and there are many gay men who are stylish. But there are also many gay people who aren’t, who don’t care about style at all.”

You: “Yes, and all the gay people I know are stylish, too. It could be because they happen to have that trait, or it could be a byproduct of a pressure they may feel to conform to that expectation of gay men. We call that internalized oppression. Anyone know how that works?”

You: “Yes, and you’re probably a judgmental person who only hangs out with stylish people have you ever thought MAYBE YOU’RE THE PROBL — sorry. I… I don’t know what came over me there. Not a good example, but you get the point. I think. Maybe? Just in case…

Becoming A “Yes, And…” Master

Let’s break this down. If you’re unconvinced, or unsure of your “Yes, And…” prowess, these next few bullets are just for you.

Don’t be a [knee] jerk. You are more than a reflex, and when facilitating a discussion you need to do more than react. You need to listen, hear, process, and respond in the way that will be the biggest benefit to the group. It’s easy to shoot someone down. It’s harder to take them where they are and walk together to somewhere new.

Take a big breath. Breathing is good, in general, but it’s also a great time to collect your thoughts. During that breath think about who the person is who said the thing you want to “NO,” why they may have said it, how they’re a part of a system just like everyone else, and — oh, there it is, right? You get where they’re coming from, maybe. You’ve got a “Yes, And…” and it only took one breath.

Think about where you want the scene to go. They’ve created the scene, but you have a say in how it develops. What do you want the story arc to be? What will the moral be at the end? Decide on these things, but also remember you’re not the only person writing this play. “What binds the fabric together when the raging, shifting winds of change keep ripping away?” You. You do.

Practice it at home folks.  This isn’t something you only have to get good at in workshops, it can be used in all areas of your life, purdy much whenever you disagree with someone who is saying something.  Practice in class or with your little brother, it gets easier to do it in those pressure situations when you’ve already got a couple good, yes-and-I-totally-disagree-with-you-but-I’m-going-to-leave-your-reality-intact-while-I-disagree moments.

Now say “Yes.” It’s just one syllable. You know how it works. It might be tough to get out. Say it. Sayyyyy it.

Now, quickly, say “And…” Don’t say the dots. That’d be weird. Instead of them, say something else. Add to the scene. Direct it where you think it should go. But, again, remember that you aren’t the only person responsible for that direction. This is like one of those super post-modern plays where everyone is the director, and everyone is an actor, and it’s also a social justice training. Mostly that last one.

Become comfortable with the unplanned. The “Yes, And…” rule is one of the most important in improv because it leads the scene down paths that no individual actor could have planned — hence, a scene that is totally and completely improvised. That’s what makes improv so great. The same goes for facilitation. If you listen to the group, allow them to have agency and bring themselves into the experience, you’ll end up somewhere you might not have ever been, but everyone will have had a say in getting there.

It’s easy to shut someone down if they misspeak. It’s easy to say no. It’s easy to tell someone why they were wrong for thinking something, and to curb “bad” thinking with quick corrections. But we’re not here for easy. We’re not here for “no.”

It’s not easy to create a space where everyone truly feels safe, able to be themselves and share their experiences, and know that they won’t be made to feel shame for what they’re bringing to the table. But isn’t that really the point of all of this?

Yes, and that’s exactly what you’re going to do.

Mastering the “Yes, And…” Rule, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

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How to Read a Group Fri, 01 Aug 2014 18:56:20 +0000 The importance of responding to the group's needs, checking in with individual members, and how to pick up what they're putting down

How to Read a Group, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

When I first started performing stand-up comedy, someone gave me a piece of advice: good comedians aren’t the ones who know how to talk the best, but the ones who know how to listen. Admittedly, I didn’t understand the advice (even a little bit) until I started facilitating group discussions a year or so later. The best comedians and the best facilitators, in this case, have a lot in common: they know how to read and respond to a group. And to do that, you have to know how to listen.

I would get onstage and if I had 15 minutes to perform, I would spend roughly 14 minutes of that time talking. As I got more comfortable and funnier, I managed to get that talking time down to something like 13.75 minutes (because I was killing it with the extra .25 minutes of laughs, obviously). It was bad. I didn’t give the crowd any time to think, digest, let alone laugh.

I did the same thing with group discussions. I would go from one facilitation question to the next, asking follow-ups in rapid succession, get an answer from the group then move on. Or, if nobody answered, I would provide the answer myself. From the group standpoint, it was probably intense (sorry, y’all). I didn’t give them any time to think, digest, let alone to learn.

Fortunately, thanks so some good training I went through as an orientation leader, I was introduced to the importance of silence. We used an acronym WHALE, where the first two letters (if I’m remembering correctly) stood for “Wait” and “Hesitate.” That’s right: two parts of the five part solution were don’t do anything. For the first time ever, I took the risk that is being silent in front of a group. It was intimidating, felt wrong, and uncomfortable, but it allowed me to learn a skill that I now rely on for many aspects of my life: the ability to read a group.

I’m telling you all this for two reasons: (1) I want you to realize that this is something that didn’t come naturally to me, but took a lot of discomfort and time to get to where I’m at; and (2) because before you can learn to read a group, you need to know how to listen.

Learning How To Listen

This isn’t one of those “the difference between listening and hearing is…” points, though those are also important. In fact, it’s not even a smidge that philosophical or nuanced. It’s a wonderful coincidence that listen and silent are spelled with the same letters. What I’m getting at here is quite literal, simple, and one of those things that seems easy until you try it: listening instead of talking.

Develop a system that works for you. And by that I mean something that keeps you from filling the empty air with words. For me, the acronym WHALE helped a ton in the beginning. I would ask a question, then in my head recite “Wait… Hesitate…” and usually by then someone else would have broken the silence. Maybe counting works for you. Maybe you know all the words to “The Raven.” Whatever. Just something to fill the timespace in your head.

Trust the system. This is probably the only time you’ll ever see my type those words, but in this case it’s important. When you’re in a situation where you feel like it’s your responsibility to talk, a second of listening feels like an hour. It’s easy to throw it all away and just ramble. Hell, I still do it. Try not to. Trust the system, Neo.

Allow others to crumble first. There aren’t many laws when it comes to groups of human beings, but there is one that has never failed me: if you don’t talk, someone else will. Sometimes you have to wait a seemingly excruciatingly long time (like 2, maybe even 3 whole seconds), but someone else will crumble if you allow them to. The more you experience this happening, the more fun it becomes. Biting my tongue through awkward silences has actually become one of my favorite things, like a Fear Factor challenge (only in that case, it would probably involve biting some other thing’s tongue).

Just stop talking for a bit. Like I said before, there isn’t anything philosophical or fancy about this version of “learning how to listen.” Just use your ears and other people will be more likely to use their mouths.

I have almost never regretted being silent or giving participants space to think.  On the other hand there have been a boat load of times that I’ve walked away from an activity or workshop thinking, “mhmm, I did too much talking there,” and that keeps me motivated to keep quiet next time.  Share the air.

Reading a Group

Think of a group of people like a pop-up book being read to you by someone else. There is so much more to it than just the words on the page — there are movements, visuals, tone, and variety. And there are also the words on the page. Now imagine that pop-up book is also a choose-your-own-adventure style of pop-up book (which I don’t think exists, but now I really wish did exist).

The Words On the Page

While there is much more to a pop-up book than the words, the words are still important. Similarly important are the actual words you get from your group. This is square one: asking people how they feel about something, then having them tell you.

In comedy, it’s typical to ask a crowd to applaud if they’ve heard of something/done something/chewed on something. This is the words on the page. In social justice workshops, we can do the same thing “Show of hands if…” or “Nod if…” or (my personal fav) “Snaps if…” (because I was a bad snapper as a kid, but am now awesome at it).

There are a lot of ways to read the words on the page. Here are three:

1. Entry surveys. If possible, have the group fill out a little survey before your training to get a sense of their wants, experiences, dispositions, and identities. Demographic data of the group are words on the page. Questions they have for you before the training starts are words on the page.

2. Ask the group check-in questions throughout the workshop. Ask them what they think about things. Ask them how they feel. Ask them to reflect back on the first half of a workshop aloud. Process the processing. Ask the whatever, just, you know, shut up once you do (see section “Learning How to Listen”).

I love index card check ins.  You can pass out index cards and use them to check in with the group whenever you need to know what they’re thinking but you’re not sure that they’ll say it aloud.  I use them during vocabulary to allow people to write the words they don’t know, I use them after an intense activity to help people write down how they are feeling.  They are a way to do anonymous check ins to get the sense of the group.

3. Use responses to questions and activities as launching points for discussions. Nothing will tell you more about where someone is at on a subject than their responses to your discussion questions. A great prompt to see if someone understands something is “Recap what we just talked about in your own words.”

The Moving Parts: Examining Body Language

The way people are sitting, where they’re looking, and what they’re doing with their hands are all important parts of the story. Body language is nuanced and I’m not going to get into it here, but google “Body Language TED Talks” or books if you want to learn more. For our purposes, here are a few non-verbal cues I look out for:

1. Crossed arms and legs might mean someone is feeling threatened, or needs to put up their guard. In a training, this might be because they are feeling targeted, or just uncomfortable with the subject.

2. Physically turning away from someone, whether it’s another member of the group or you as the facilitator, might indicate someone is attempting to disengage from that person.

3. No eye contact, or staring off into the distance might mean that someone is bored, but it also could mean someone is processing. The best way to figure out which is to check in. Processing is good. Bored is less good.

These are all super important things to look out for and if you need to check in with the person about (1 on 1).  If they say nothings wrong it is also important to take them at their word because it is totally possible to read into something that isn’t there (but generally it tends to be.)

Tone and Quality of Voice: The Message Behind the Words

How someone says something can be as important as what they’re saying. One of my favorite examples of this is the famous “I never said she stole my money.” This sentence can be emphasized to mean seven different things, by changing which word is emphasized:

never said she stole my money. [someone else may have]

I never said she stole my money. [I didn’t say it and how dare you accuse me of doing so]

I never saidshe stole my money. [but she tots did]

I never said she stole my money. [but someone else did, and that person is a jerk]

I never said she stole my money. [I gave it to her, just, not, entirely willingly]

I never said she stole my money. [but she stole someone’s, and for that she’s a jerk]

I never said she stole my money. [she stole my heart. I gave her the money. I <3 jerks.]

Try to pay as much attention to the how as the what. And, as always, if you’re unsure of what someone is trying to convey with their tone, check-in.

Choose Your Own Adventure

If you’ve never read a choose your own adventure book, the premise is simple. At different points in the story, the author gives the reader the ability to decide where it’ll go next (“turn to page 113 if you get this reference; turn to page 89 if you want to see Sam stop using this analogy”). In reading a group during a workshop, it’s great if you can create opportunities where they have the ability to choose where the story goes next.

The simplest way to achieve this is by asking. You could do a vote (“Raise your hand if you want to spend 5 more minutes on this.”) or ask for submissions (“We should we talk about for these last 5 minutes).

Another way is to simply listen when the group is trying to tell you they’ve already chosen their own adventure. If folks keep asking questions about a certain subject, they’re choosing their own adventure. Cover that subject. If nobody seems engaged by whatever you’re talking about, ditto. If someone seems triggered, angry, or confused, that likely warrants switching to a different page.

Remember, facilitation isn’t about plotting out a course and etching it in stone, but about letting the winds and currents nudge you around on your way toward a common goal.

Cliff’s Notes of Group Reading

Unfortunately, there isn’t such a thing (blame Cliff!). I wrote a lot on this topic above because of just how difficult I know it is, and how much I didn’t want to just throw you out there with “the more you practice, the better you’ll be.” Because that’s almost cheating. But it’s also real life.

Alas, that’s where we’re at. Learn to listen. Spend a lot of time intentionally practicing this. It’s not a step you can skip. Then, once you’re listening, you’ll find that whatever group you’re with wants to be read — and they’ll do a ton of little, sometimes-invisible things to help you. You’ve just got to know where to look.


How to Read a Group, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Compassionate Curiosity Fri, 01 Aug 2014 03:17:40 +0000 How a style of question asking and digging in for more information can bring your workshop to new heights

Compassionate Curiosity, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Compassionate curiosity is a style thing.  Like wearing your hat sideways or matching your shoes with the rest of your clothes (which this kid told me was fresh).  Ok perhaps its not exactly like those styles of style things but it is a way you approach a situation, kind of frame of reference that informs your interaction.

What you ask is compassionate curiosity!

Its a combo of compassion and curiosity.

Compassion is about identifying with what a person is saying (or going through) on a level that says not just “I get you” but “I’ve totally been there/had that thought/know what you’re thinking.”


Curiosity is about probing for more information without judgement about maintaining an interest without deciding before you find out more.   Little kiddos are super good at this.  When they start picking at the dirt or attempting to eat that flower they aren’t like, “I’m going to do this because I think its a good idea” or a bad one for that matter, they are just curious and they wanna find out more.

= Compassionate Curiosity the ability to dig for more information without judgement while simultaneously identifying with how that person is feeling/thinking.  Sounds complicated, but stick with me here.

If someone in a workshop were to say, “I don’t see the difference between gender and sex.”  Cool.  That makes sense to me a lot of people don’t understand the difference between gender and sex right? (Seriously almost everyone doesn’t which is totally normal). I used to be one of those people like not super long ago.  Those words are used so interchangably it is a wonder they haven’t just become one.  Like gex or sender. Anyways.

Let’s say a participant just said that, here is how I would approach that with a compassionately curious style.  “That totally makes sense, I totally have struggled with that too. tell me more about how that works for you/how you see them as similar/what sparked that thought in you.”

I haven’t jumped to conclusions about why they think that.  I haven’t come up with a story about how they are never going to get it. I am simply looking for more information, digging in to find more information.  I am also saying, “Hey there, you are not alone in this feeling,” and that’s mad important.  That person might have felt self conscious about saying that thing (or maybe they didn’t.) Regardless, they know you’re not going to rag on them for saying it, because hey you’ve felt that way too.  That’s what compassion does, ensures they don’t feel threatened or alone.

Asking more questions without judgement allows the conversation to go farther than it would if you simply replied with a statement.  This can be kinda counter intuitive to ask more questions, particularly if they led with a question, but the beauty of facilitation, its not a normal conversation, its a facilitated one.

People are often trepidatious about entering into social justice conversations, cuz a lot of times they may have had a previously negative experience.  I find that experience is often from a feeling of being judged.  People are going to think I’m not the brightest crayon in the box if I say this thing that I’m thinking or wondering.  The best way to combat that is to be curious not judgemental about what they are saying.  Treat them like the little kid treats the flower they wanna eat.  Wait no. Don’t do that.  But do be curious.

This is some advanced level stuff

You’re being asked to consider how you do, not just what you do with this one.  Being compassionate and curious can be things we are really out of practice doing, and when you’re rusty you often feel… rusty.  Compassion for someone who is in a place or struggling with a thing that you no longer struggle with can be challenging, and also totally connecting.  Being curious about something you could totally go judgemental on can take some time, and will typically reveal new things you would have never previously thought of.

Best case scenario, if this technique, this style permeates the workshop, you’re more likely to have waaay more of those uber productive conversations throughout.  When you dig deeper, give people space to make mistakes, the conversations get better, and thus the workshop is better.  And that’s what being an all-star facilitator is all about, making those little changes that can make all the difference.

Compassionate Curiosity, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

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Letters to Self: The Importance of Reflective Feedback Thu, 31 Jul 2014 23:30:30 +0000 The HOWs and WHYs of something that is simply a MUST if you want to continuously improve as a facilitator

Letters to Self: The Importance of Reflective Feedback, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

One day before a Safe Zone workshop during my undergrad days I sat in my currently empty classroom (feeling awkwardly dressed up to be sitting alone in a classroom) racking my brain thinking, “What the helllllll did I tell myself I wouldn’t do this time and what actually went well in the last workshop?”

During those years (and… pretty much still every time now) I worry right before a workshop starts that I am no good at this, people are going to hate it and not learn anything, how did I get myself into this mess.  Luckily after a few dozen or so of those experiences I figured out some tools that help me put those thoughts down and allow me to remember the ones that are more important.

Learnin’ From My Mistakes

After that Safe Zone I pulled out one of the feedback forms that I handed to my participants and began to grade myself.  “How’d I do today, self?”  What went right? What would I not do again?  What did someone say that surprised me?  What did I learn from these experiences?

It wasn’t until years later (actual years) that I realized a few things about that experience:

  1. If I’d have given myself feedback all along I’d be 100% better facilitator both then and now.  Participant feedback is important, sometimes it is really hard to tell what resonated for some and not others without that direct ask, but self-feedback is something we often do not talk about (or do).
  2. I gotta write it down.  I might have walked out of that workshop previous with a boat load of feedback or thoughts on how I’d do things differently but nothing sticks (for me anyway) without that writing it down piece.
  3. If I did those two things I would have repeated fewer mistakes.

Now… I will be the first to assure you that sitting in an empty classroom, presentation hall, pavillion (bucket list: do a workshop in a pavillion!) writing a letter to yourself about how you did that day feels super goofy.  But it is so important. You know in interview shows when they talk to famous people and ask, “What would you tell your younger self?” and the famous person always answers back something super simple (and typically a word you don’t associate with them at all) like, “Patience.”  This is the thing that I would tell my younger self (and that I am now sharing with you) – don’t underestimate the importance (or power) of feedback.

Moving Forward With Self-Feedback

To cut down on that goofy feeling you have doing all this I wanted to make the steps that I follow acquiring feedback real clear so mostly because following these is the way I trick myself into believing I have to do it.

Step 1: Get the feedback.

Couple of options here.  Best case scenario: you’ve thought about the type of feedback that you want before the workshop, and you’ve drafted a specific feedback form for yourself for that workshop. If you’ve not done any of that but you still realize feedback is important, write down a couple of quick questions during an activity participants are doing by themselves and answer those questions later.  It helps me to have this written down (like this) because again I trick myself into thinking its a requirement of some sort.

Step 2: Seriously did you give yourself feedback?

It sounds simple now, but I assure you after a workshop goes awry or you’re totally exhausted from being challenged by participants for 2 hours the least likely thing you’ll want to do is give yourself feedback on what you could have done better.  But it will make you stronger, your future self with thank your past self at your next workshop, I promise.

Step 3: Why don’t ya do something?

Read the feedback within 24-72 hours so the workshop is still fresh in your mind.  Ideally, do this when you really have time to absorb (take notes perhaps).

Step 3.5: Read it again, but way longer than 72 hours later. I’ll save feedback notes that I wrote myself for a year, sometimes longer. When I reflect back on them after that long a time, I get a completely different (and sometimes really helpful) nudge. Plus, they’re fun to read.

Step 4: Be amongst the self-disciplined elite.

Write yourself a new action plan, curriculum, gameplan for next time.  If you take that feedback you have from yourself and from others and actually change your curriculum or goals for next time before the next workshop when everything is still fresh.  You will separate yourself from the herd and be amongst the will-powerfully strong self-disciplined elite.  I can tell you that I do not do this every time… or even most, but it is something I always strive for (and that my future self always thanks me for.)

Typically there isn’t a sure-thing in life.  If you want one sure-fire, bonafide way to make yourself better: get feedback, give feedback, receive feedback, act on the feedback.  And you’ll be better. Guaranteed.

Letters to Self: The Importance of Reflective Feedback, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

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Speaking for a Group Identity: A How-Not-To Thu, 31 Jul 2014 23:16:09 +0000 Responding to the request to speak on behalf of all [blank] people

Speaking for a Group Identity: A How-Not-To, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

It’s inevitable. You’ll be sitting there at the head of the group, everyone’s eyes intensely looking your way. In a thick cloud of silence, you’ll hear the second hand on the clock announce itself proudly. Nobody’s talking. A second second. Still no talking. An eternity of three seconds have passed in silence. You can’t help but wonder who decided to buy such a loud clock in 2014.

No! Focus. Someone just asked, “Why do [blank group of people] [verb] [some overgeneralized descriptor]?”

You’ve been gifted that gem in a variety of cuts and hues. “Why do gay men have so much promiscuous sex?” “Why do trans people get depressed?” “Why do all lesbians dress like men?”

Welp. There’s no way out of this one. The group is awaiting an answer you can’t possibly have. They’re aching for it. We’re all taught to stereotype, and in situations like this we secretly crave justification for it. “I knew it!” someone is waiting to say. They’re thinking it so loudly you can hear it. You can’t help but wonder when you developed the ability to read minds.

No! Focus. You need to address this question. So what do you do?

You Can[not] Speak on Behalf of an Entire Group of People

Whenever people ask that “Why do [blank] people [do blank]?” question, I want to yell, “That’s just not true!” and debunk the stereotype once and for all, but in many cases it is true, for at least some people. Acknowledging that it is sometimes true, and realizing I can’t speak for any group (even in speaking against a stereotype), is a forever struggle that has always had the gut-check response for me as being counterintuitive. But sometimes it’s important to question your gut.

Or sometimes I want to ask the asker a series of similar questions about their identity in return. Go all Socratic on a fool. But that’s inappropriate for a number of reasons. Primarily (at least for the sake of this article) because I’m asking them to speak on behalf of a group to highlight how bad it is to speak on behalf of a group.

For the sake of honesty, you technically can speak on behalf of an entire group of people. A lot of people do it, a lot of the time…

But you cannot accurately speak for a group identity. It’s impossible. Nobody can do it — whether they are a member of that group or not. Gay men don’t have an annual meeting where they come to Gay Man decisions, then provide that information in a Gay Man Report for you to share with your group in a training. Sorry, not a thing.

But there is one exception — one way you can accurately speak on behalf of a group identity: you can simply state, on behalf of the group, that overgeneralizing any group identity, or amounting any group of people to a singular trait, disposition, or behavior, is a problematic.

Things You Can Do In Addition to Non-Answering

It’s tough to give someone a non-answer, even if a question is un-answerable (like the “Why do [blank group of people] [verb] [some overgeneralized descriptor]?” question). Sometimes a group isn’t yet okay with that level of cognitive complexity and needs a bit more concreteto settle into. Here are some different ways to avoid speaking on behalf of a group, but also to not leave a question asker feeling miffed.

“Validate what they are saying.  This can be a tough one but often really helps diffuse the person feeling awkward about what they are asking.  “I totally get why you might ask why do all lesbians dress like men, because those are likely the people you identify as gay women right?  Like if a woman is dressed in a masculine way then we assume that they are gay.”  That gets the ball rolling and from there the options below become all the better!

Tell a personal anecdote. If you identify with the identity in question, share a story from your lived experience in that identity. Explain how you do or don’t relate to or experience whatever the person was asking. But end it, and make this incredibly clear, by reminding the group that is just your individual experience. One of many.

Relate something someone who identifies that way has shared with you. If you’re speaking about an identity you don’t embody, but someone who does has shared something helpful with you, recall it. Someone once told me that a good ally is like an expensive sound system, they amplify the marginalized voices without distorting them. That second part is incredibly important. But more important is ending whatever you say by making it incredibly clear that you’re translating another individual’s individual experience. As you understood it. One of many.

Refer to the research. I’ll be the first person to say that the majority of research we have about humans should be questioned, but it’s still a helpful starting point. If you have data, share it. Statistics are helpful in getting folks to understand the demographics of a group at large. But end it by emphasizing that whatever data you’re discussing doesn’t necessarily describe every individual who identifies with that group.

Start a mini-discussion about the question with the group. Ask if there are any folks in the group who are comfortable sharing personal anecdotes about their experience with that identity, or pose the question, “What do you think led to [the question asker] wondering that?” Redirect folks if they go on a tangent, and be sure to throw in the disclaimer that a person is only speaking on behalf of themselves, not the group if they don’t say so themselves.

Regardless of what you do, do your best to make it emphatically [annoyingly] clear that whatever you talk about, share, say, read, report, regurgitate… is not a license for anyone in that group to think they know or get any individual of any group identity. Individuals are composed of many identities, and have a number of group memberships that affect their individuality in countless and unknowable ways.

The more you learn about identity, the more you’ll realize you’ll be comfortable understanding how little you know about someone who happens to identify in that way. That’s the real answer to this question. The way you get the group there is up to you.


Speaking for a Group Identity: A How-Not-To, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Finding Your Style: You Gotta Werk at Your Work Thu, 31 Jul 2014 23:06:47 +0000 The importance of putting your personal spin on any curriculum you facilitate

Finding Your Style: You Gotta Werk at Your Work, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

When I first started facilitating social justice workshops, I did it the way I was supposed to — or at least, the way I thought I was supposed to. I facilitated activities in the ways that the facilitators who facilitated them for me facilitated them (facilitate!).

It felt unnatural, a bit like I was acting, forced, and uncomfortable. And of course it did: I was putting as much effort into emulating another person’s behavior as I was into leading an activity. That’s energy misspent.

The goal of the workshop wasn’t to convince them I could act like someone else, that I could talk and explain things like a parrot repeating how they were explained to me. The goals were to teach someone a new concept, open their eyes to an injustice, cultivate empathy, or, ideally, activate something inside of them that inspires them to act in socially conscious ways.

Achieving the goals of a social justice training is climbing a mountain. Bringing anything with you that you don’t need will only weigh you down. This includes the baggage of “shoulds” and “supposed tos” and “trying to be anything but the snowflake that you are.”

The Best Facilitator You Can Be Is the Youest Facilitator You Can Be

You bring something to the conversation that literally no other person in the world brings: the unique set of experiences, dispositions, ideas, knowledge, attitudes, and insight that you’ve collected in your life. Own that, embrace it, it is going to help immensely.

To try to act like anyone else, or to be anything but your authentic self when facilitating, will not only encumber you, it’d be a shame to keep all that truly unique you a secret from the group — heck, it’s almost rude. They’re in a lucky position that they may never be in again. Not only do they get to learn about this topic (maybe it’s gender, maybe it’s sexuality, maybe social justice at large), but they get to learn about it from you (your approach to understanding gender, your perspective on why sexuality is important).

Your style may not be everyone’s favorite. Some participants may prefer a livelier/quieter/funnier/seriouser/dynamicer/staticer/etceteraer facilitator. Some will prefer you. It’s not something you should worry about, but instead free up some mind space to focus on being the best facilitator you can be. You… can be.

Getting Rid of Some Baggage

The first step to getting comfortable being the youest you you can be, and really putting your spin on a workshop or training, is to shed everything weighing you down. Let’s unpack some important baggage that might keep you from reaching the top of your mountain:

Know there is no right way. There are no “shoulds.” There are “no supposed tos.” As you start to understand core social justice concepts, things like identity, sexuality, and gender, you inherently start to realize there is a lot more grey than there is black or white. Ditto for the ways to approach these topics. There is no one correct way to facilitate.

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

You’re going to screw up. And that’s okay. One of the reasons I found myself trying to emulate the facilitators who taught me things was to avoid screwing up. I saw them do it, it worked, so I should do it like that. If you’re learning what your natural facilitation style is, it means taking the risk that a training or two (or ten) might not go as well as you’d like. Take notes give yourself some feedback (and some space to grow), think about what worked for you and what didn’t, make tweaks, and you’ll get more comfortable every time.

“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.” – John Dewey

Do as I say, not as I do. When you go through an activity as a participant, be a sponge for the information, the core concepts, and the learning objectives. But do your best to keep in mind that there are a thousand different paths to any objective, and the way that worked for that facilitator (with their skills, preferences, experience, and personality) may not work for you (with your… all that stuff).

“Truth can be stated in a thousand different ways, yet each one can be true.” – Swami Vivekananda

“Sam and I don’t teach Safe Zone workshops the same way even though we agree on almost everything. We’re different folks and we’re gonna have different jokes, approaches, styles and possibly even entirely different goals for a workshop. And that’s OK. We’re different people! We approach the work from different identities, different spaces, and use really different techniques sometimes to get to where we are headed. But that’s what makes safe zones so fun, you go to more than one and its never the same experience, so don’t try to make it the same!”

Putting Yourself Into Your Facilitation

You know that you’ll better serve your group being you than trying to be someone else, you understand how to approach a few of the hurdles that might stand in the way, (and you have some fun quotes to post on Facebook) but how do you put your spin on what you’re teaching? You know, the title of this entire article. Maybe we should talk about that?

You’re getting to be pretty sassy. Good thing I appreciate sass. Go you. Oh, and here’s how:

1. Identify what you’re good at, and what you’re not so good at.

Ask your friends, cofacilitate with people, or just think about how you act at a dinner party or around your friends. Who are you when you’re comfortable, and what skills do you have that you can draw from. Are you a story teller? Use that. Are you the strong, but silent type? Be that. Are you funny? Joke. Are you empathic? Empathize.

2. Experiment with the group (not like that).

Take the things you’re good at and try incorporating them into the activities you’re facilitating. Ideally, go with one or two new things at time, so you’ll know that if things go well/not-so-well, you can isolate what might have been responsible. Take one activity and facilitate it it in different ways, drawing on different aspects of your personality/skills each time.

3. Take risks.

The first time I used humor in a social justice training I was sure it would backfire. I thought it was somehow not allowed, wouldn’t work, and I would regret it. I can’t think of a time I was more wrong about anything. Humor is me. And by taking the risk of putting myself out there, I was rewarded by connecting with the group on a genuine level.

4. Reflect and tweak.

Get feedback from people. Give yourself feedback after each training. Think about when you felt most comfortable, when you were reaching, when you were just plain out of your element. While humor is my go-to, it’s not appropriate or effective for everything. Through reflecting and feedback, I’ve learned when it does and doesn’t work. Do the same, and tweak future activities to better emphasize your strengths.

5. Ask for help.

Cofacilitation is a fantastic way to allow you to be a youey you, while the group still gets a well-rounded experience. Find someone who complements your style, skills, knowledge, and experiences. If there’s an activity you don’t think your well-suited for, but is important for whatever goals you have for that workshop, find someone to help you. Maybe you’re great at mini-lectures, but not so great at answering on-the-spot, loaded questions. Find someone who is triggered by different things than you, who can step in if you’re feeling out of your element.

Be you.

It’s scary, it might feel wrong, seem like the harder option, a twisty road without a map, but that all couldn’t be further from the truth. If you care about whatever subject you’re facilitating, and genuinely want to best serve the group, there’s nothing you can do better than being genuinely you.

It’s your training. Your activity. Your workshop. And you’re the one facilitating it. Werk it.

Finding Your Style: You Gotta Werk at Your Work, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

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Facilitation is the Name of the Game Thu, 31 Jul 2014 23:04:14 +0000 How facilitation and social justice are like peanut butter and educational jelly

Facilitation is the Name of the Game, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

There are a lot of nouns to choose from to describe your position in the front of the room, head of the table, organizer of the google hangout etc.  I think that Safe Zone workshops and social justice workshops in general are best served not by teachers or lecturers, but by facilitators.

A facilitator is a bit like a captain of a ship.  When I facilitate I see my role as attempting to corral a lot of moving parts to keep moving forward.  There isn’t necessarily one right path, there are a lot of different ways to get to where we are headed and I, like the participants, am along for the ride. I’m not in complete control but I’m willing to take the blame if things go badly and I know that if things go well that I am only part of what made that magic happen. This fits the goals of Safe Zone workshops quite nicely and is really a wonderful metaphor for how I strive to be in all my social justice work.

A teacher indicates an exchange of ideas from one person TO the other.  This exchange also has an element of power in it. Teacher knows best and students are only there to receive the information.  While there are undoubtedly moments in Safe Zone workshops and social justice work where you slip into teacher mode, where you give a little speech or talk for a while on a single subject without an exchange between you and the participants, these moments are always limiting to both parties.  The participants don’t feel as involved or as engaged, and you aren’t able to gauge where they are and how they are receiving or processing the information.  Limiting these moments of teaching and working towards moments of facilitation will allow for a more constant exchange of ideas.

A lecturer says all their stuff before they hear yours.  This is handy when you need to get all the information out there prior to having a dialogue back and forth.  I do mini-lectures (5 minutes or less) in my workshops about gender identity vs. sex, about trans* individuals, about biphobia, and often these are new concepts so I want to get everything out there on the table before we start dissecting it.  However, if you go into full on lecturer mode for a 2 hour workshop, I promise you, you’re going to lose some folks to the zzZZZzzz’s.

Safe Zones and social justice workshops really behoove participant interaction because people being actively engaged in their own learning and unlearning process makes it a whole lot more fun.  They can also make up their own mind and explore those new options with others when they’re given a chance to articulate and figure those options out.

A Few Ways to Ensure You’re Staying in Facilitator Mode

It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and let the winds blow your ship off course. Here are a few techniques you can use throughout a workshop to avoid accidentally teaching or lecturing too much:

Guide but be willing to go with the flow.  Some people set an agenda for their workshops, I was introduced to the idea of setting a flow (by becky martinez) and ever since I’ve really embraced that idea.  With thinking of it as a flow I think of my list of activities etc as almost a rhythm that the workshop could follow but that if we veer off and go somewhere else that’s ok too and I build that expectation in right up front.

Ask questions (with curiosity).  As a facilitator is it important to challenge (and support) people’s learning.  When someone shares a thought, ask them to go deeper, explain where that idea came from or what they’re getting out of it now that they’ve shared it with the group.  Be curious about what people are saying, get those conversations going.

Check in with the group.  It is super important to read your group, to be able to respond appropriately to the energy, knowledge, and emotions in the room.  Checking in, asking where people are at on this concept, does anyone need more time, does anyone not get that definition is important.  (And asking questions in the negative like does anyone not get that def allows you really hear the people who don’t.)

State your intentions when you shift gears.If you’re going to do a mini-lecture about a topic for a few minutes, tell the group. “I’m going to take a couple minutes to run you through the difference between gender identity, expression, and sex. After, we’ll have a discussion where I’ll ask you to examine your own gender.” After the mini-lecture, let the group know you’re reverting back to facilitation mode, “That’s it for the lecture. Now let’s discuss. What’re your thoughts?”

Don’t just leave time for processing. GIVE time for processing.  As you become more and more confident as a facilitator and feel comfortable leading discussions and going back and forth in that dialogue give more and more time for processing the activities.  The learning is in the reflection and it is important to not leave processing as an after thought but to prioritize it from the start.  (I myself aim to give processing 50% of the time or more in the workshop.

Hopefully these tips will keep you safely sailing the facilitation seas in your next workshop. Remember, there is nothing inherently wrong about lecturing or teaching, and both have their place in a safe zone workshop, but facilitation puts more control in the hands of your crew to get as much out of your time together as possible.

Facilitation is the Name of the Game, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

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You Don’t Have to Know it All: Getting Started and Diving In Thu, 31 Jul 2014 22:57:43 +0000 Some things you do (not) need to know before you start your journey as an all-star social justice facilitator

You Don’t Have to Know it All: Getting Started and Diving In, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

There is this thing about standing in the front of the room.  It can feel terrifying, like you don’t know what you’re doing, and why did you volunteer to do this in the first place when you don’t know any of this stuff!  People are looking at you as the expert, the big cheese, the pro-at-all-things-LGBTQ.

The thing that we don’t say or admit enough is that we’re not the expert.  I’m not now.  I know I sure as shiitake mushrooms wasn’t when I started facilitating Safe Zone workshops my 2nd year at college.  Not by a long shot. Not by a 5K.

What I think is super neat about social justice is that I believe I become more credible as a facilitator by owning what I don’t know.  This isn’t universal, some people respect me less or find me less credible for saying I don’t know something, but I firmly believe it makes me far more effective as a facilitator.  Why?

When You Say You Don’t Know Things…

A few wonderful things happen:

You don’t have to fake that you do know something!  That is a lot of weight off your shoulders, back, chest — your whole self.  You don’t have to spend energy acting or trying to give an answer that you’re not really sure about.

You give others permission to be wrong.  I don’t know a better way to inspire other people to say, “I don’t know,” than to say it myself.  Imperfect role modeling is something you shouldn’t underestimate.

There’s this great koan about knowledge that always comes to mind here: half of a safe zone workshop is helping people learn, but the other half is helping them feel safe unlearning.

You role model this social justice stuff as a process.  Learning about gender, sexuality, and social justice stuff is a journey.  I often picture it like a track where just you feel like you’re coming back to the end, you’re back at the beginning, having to re-learn, re-engage, re-start down a new leg of the track or a new part of your journey.  It is important for participants to see that the journey isn’t over for your either and we still all have a lot to learn!

The Things You Do Need To Know

There are things that I believe that are important to consider and prepare for before facilitating a workshop (which is why we started made this handy dandy list LINK. Additionally, I would add that there are some things that would be best to know before standing up in the front of the room:

Know how it feels to be a participant. It is incredibly important to your ability to connect with participants to have been a participant.  Rather than distancing yourself from that experience, try to draw on your participant experience throughout the workshop.  Identify with what they are saying, mistakes they are possibly making, or trouble they are having grasping the concept (we’ve all been there!).  You cannot fake the knowledge of what is it is like to be on the other side of the table, embrace that inner beginner.

Know your vocab. Vocabulary and terminology can often be the place that most people get stuck.  Some seek out Safe Zones or other sj workshops to ensure they got their terminology down.  I highly recommend you feel like you’ve got a good handle on both the formal definitions of the words as well as the different contexts in which they are used.

Know your answers to your own questions. Sure, it sounds simple, but speaking from experience I know it can sometimes be tempting to ask questions that you’re really not sure how to answer.  Tryyy not to do that for the simple fact that if you are met with crickets, it will look mighty awkward if you are not to be able to answer the question either.

Know your triggers. It’s tough to know if something will trigger you until it happens, so this list will develop over time, but if you know what is likely to get your blood boiling before it happens, you’ll be more likely to keep your cool when/if it does.

Know what you’re going to mini-lecture on. Some people include mini lectures in their workshops (for example, in our curriculum we consider the genderbread person to be a mini lecture).  It is totally okay, as long as you know beforehand what topics you’re going to lecture about, and are able to clearly communicate the concept in that way.  Personally, it took me a full year of facilitation and trainings before I was comfortable and confident doing a mini lecture on trans* issues (which at that time lacked the * – check this out if you wanna know more).  Feel good about what you’re going to present before you take on  expert role moments like mini lectures.

Safe Zone workshops, like many — okay like almost all — other things in life take practice.  You’re going to be better five workshops from now than you are right now. And that’s a good thing! Consider these “gotta know” pieces, get to prepping, and then get on out there. We know you can do it, and we are here to help when you need us!

You Don’t Have to Know it All: Getting Started and Diving In, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

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Marked vs. Unmarked Identities with Deborah Tannen Thu, 31 Jul 2014 22:51:18 +0000 Exploring the concept of identity from an important perspective: when it matters more, and when it goes unnoticed

Marked vs. Unmarked Identities with Deborah Tannen, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

There are a select few essays I would ever say were responsible for individually shifting the way I think about something. Contrary to what Buzzfeed claims, it takes more than a list of animated .gifs to blow my mind. But Deborah Tannen’s ‘93 essay originally titled “Marked Women, Unmarked Men” is one of those essays.

It changed the way that I think about identity in general, as well as the way I think about the composition of a group in a training setting. I’ll talk through a few of those highlights below, but first I want you to read the piece.


Some Questions You Can Reflect On

What I took away from this piece and what you can take away from it are likely not one-in-the-same. Before you read why I like this piece so much, here are some questions you can ask yourself as you read/reread the piece that might lead to you having some big mental shift that in a super cool direction that mine didn’t shift. Just don’t rub it in my face.

  1. Have I ever been in a situation like this, making observations like the ones Tannen made? What did it feel like? Was it comfortable? Uncomfortable? Eye-opening? Redundant?
  2. In which situations are my identities marked? When are they not? How does this make me feel? Is this something I can or do avoid?
  3. When do I find myself marking other people’s identities? How does it affect how I interact with them? The questions I ask them? The ways I approach conversation? The assumptions I make?
  4. Why is the idea of marked vs. unmarked identities important to social justice training? In which ways can this inform how I interact with groups? How I lead trainings? The ways I facilitate conversations amongst group members? How can this change the ways I approach conversations about identity?

A Few of My Big Takeaways

Why do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

  1. The first time I read this essay was the first time I ever thought about identities as being sometimes-invisible, sometimes-salient. Hidden identities affect the ways we interact and understand people as much as the prominent ones, and when an identity is hidden or prominent changes based on who else is around and what’s going on. It forced me to reflect on the many times my [usually dominant] identities go unmarked, and the [usually friction-y] times I’ve experienced being the marked identity.
  2. It made me realize that the only time my identities are marked are when that identity is in the minority. I’m not conscious of being a man unless I’m surrounded by women; not white unless I’m surrounded by people of color; not straight unless I’m surrounded by people who are queer; not poor unless I’m surrounded by middle-to-upper-class people. Most of the time, as a person of many privileged identities, I’m fortunate enough to just be Sam.
  3. It made me realize that I generally notice aspects of other peoples’ identities when they are in the minority. If everyone in my group is a man but one person, that person has a gender. And it matters. Ditto if everyone is White but one person. That person has a race. Ditto a class. Ditto a religion. I realized how good I am at playing the Sesame Street “Which one of these is not like the other” game, and how quickly that factored into how I saw the “other” in the group.
  4. I now understand the importance of marking all identities, if we are going to have a conversation about social justice. Dominant group identities and target group identities are both identities. White is a race. Man is a gender. Straight is a sexuality. It’s a dangerous [and super normal] way of thinking to treat dominant identities as the default, and others as variations of that default. And in social justice trainings, it’s a perfect time to start the conversation of naming (marking, making salient) all identities that affect a person’s lived experience.

Marked vs. Unmarked Identities with Deborah Tannen, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Navigating Triggers with Kathy Obear Thu, 31 Jul 2014 22:10:53 +0000 There are lots of different moments where we get thrown off our metaphoric game. Let's prepare for those moments before they happen. Together.

Navigating Triggers with Kathy Obear, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

“Facilitating dialogues about issues of diversity, inclusion and equity can be challenging and stressful work. It involves exploring areas that are not typically addressed in traditional learning environments. Whether conscious of it or not, facilitators and participants bring most, if not all, of who they are to the learning environment, including their fears, biases, stereotypes, memories of past traumas and current life experiences.”

As a result many facilitators report being “hooked” by the comments and actions of participants and feel “triggered” emotions, including anger, fear, embarrassment, pain and sadness. Many experts in the field use the term “trigger” to describe the “instantaneous response to stimuli without accompanying conscious thought.” ~ Dr. Kathy Obear


Woohooo.  Big, bold powerful words from none other than Dr. Kathy Obear, a wonderful and inspiring individual who does this social justice thing so. dang. well.  One of her cornerstone pieces is on triggers and both Sam and I agree this is something every social justice educator should read.

If you haven’t experienced triggers in a social justice setting here is another way to think about them.  You know how your siblings, family, close friends know a way that almost instantly gets under your skin.  Where its like they pushed a button and though it mighta been small the feeling it creates is HUGE.  That’s a trigger.

I’m going to stop talking about this now, because this piece speaks for itself. Here’s a link, and down below are some things to keep in mind. Go read it!

Questions to consider when reading/reflecting on the piece

  • Does this resonate with me?  Can I think of examples from my own facilitation experience when this has happened?
  • Have I ever been triggered as a participant by a facilitator?  How did that go?
  • What are the things that come to mind as triggers that I can name right now? How would I deal with those?
  • Do I need to be aware of not only what was said that triggered me but who was saying it?  Do different people/identities trigger me differently.

My take-aways

This is one of those pieces of writing that I could barely get through the first time because it inspired so many different thoughts in me I was bouncing all around the place thinking, “Woah, this is the real deal, Kathy is putting it all out there, this is how it is!”  During and after that feeling this is what I was thinking:

  • I really need to get my know triggers better.  I am a generally very calm person, well I don’t’ get angry easily (I do get very excited) and I always assumed that I would be just naturally good at remaining calm. However, the more I think about what triggers me, or those moments where I speak or even simply aggressively roll my eyes on impulse those are when I’m feeling triggered
  • The story I tell myself really is a story.  This is still a really challenging for me to remember.  That person crossing their arms and looking at the floor isn’t necessarily mad or checked out.  Maybe they are sick or maybe that is how they listen best without other distractions.  I am telling myself a story about why they are doing it, it is only my interpretation.
  • Different people trigger me differently.  If a man or someone I perceive to be a male says something that take as sexist it is going to trigger me differently than if someone I identify to be a woman says the same thing.  Someone’s identity may be part of my trigger.  And in that same way my identity may be a trigger for someone.  This is something I need to dig into and be more conscious of.

Have a read! I hope you enjoy.

Navigating Triggers with Kathy Obear, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

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Play with us! Expiring soon! Wed, 05 Feb 2014 21:19:30 +0000 Being a social justice educator - you often only get one shot to make an impact - help us make the most of those opportunities and get published on this site and save the world with us!

Play with us! Expiring soon!, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Oh the weather outside (depending on your neck of the woods) is… outright crazy.  SO what better time to take a little nugget of your day to read our blog.  I would like to take a moment of your day to talk about one of the scariest things about diversity education and then another moment to talk about what you can do to push that monster back under the bed.

Here it is, the fact that keeps me up at night about diversity education.  *Deep breath*

With so much of diversity education, so many of our workshops we only get one shot to make a difference.

Just one.  A single workshop, hour, or moment to make an impact, teach or converse about something awesome, and have that group you’re working or that person you’re chatting with walking away with more questions to be answered and motivation to go find those answers.

That can feel kind of terrifying.  BUT here is the great thing, we can prepare ourselves for those moments by learning about how to teach, facilitate and reflect on these things.

But we can’t do it alone.

Or at least we don’t want to…


And this is why I ask for your help.  Sam and I are looking to create an All Star Facilitation Track i.e. a self-guided tour through the materials and articles we think will help you become a great social justice facilitator or have you rockin’ your Safe Zone workshops like a dream.

Back to that idea of only getting one shot.  This is your one shot.  To jump on the teaching wagon and help us out with this All Star Track.  We are looking for you (yes, you) to help us write these wonderful articles, activities, and thoughts and we want you to do it right now (or at least put us on your to do list).

There is a deadline, because let’s face it… if it doesn’t have a deadline its likely never going to happen.

FEB 14th.  We are looking to have these ideas, articles, activities, and wonderful tid-bits of knowledge rolling through our inboxes by then.

Sam and I got into this work and started this project and created this site to help others (and ourselves) acquire the knowledge, tools, and skills needed to make the best use of all the educational opportunities we encounter in the future. And we want you to help us do it.  To help craft those materials that will make the difference when it matters most.

So take a look on the All-Star Facilitator track page – see what our ideas for articles (that you can write!) are at this moment and get inspired and get to writing, recording, or tweeting to your bestie that they’d be perfect at this!  We know you can!

And if you ever need a pep talk or a metaphoric shoulder massage.

Just let me know.

I’m queer to help you.


Play with us! Expiring soon!, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Responding to Buzzfeed: “Everything You Wanted to Know About Transgender People” Tue, 23 Jul 2013 20:40:57 +0000 A few suggestions for small improvements and additions (but an overall major thumbs up!) to a great Buzzfeed article about trans* people.

Responding to Buzzfeed: “Everything You Wanted to Know About Transgender People”, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

A couple days ago Buzzfeed (a HUGELY popular, mainstream publication) ran a “Trans 101” article Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Transgender People But Were Afraid To Ask. We were stoked! (and, admittedly, a bit nervous)

After reading through it, we realized our nervousness was not justified, because — despite what we’ve been trained to expect from mainstream publications — the article was really well done! Great work, Sarah!  Hooray!

However, even the greatest things can be improved (like adding wayfarers to the Mona Lisa), and this article is no exception. While we really appreciated reading this (and Sam appreciated the link to his site — fun surprise), there are a few edits we would like to suggest.

(Oh, and if you’re curious about further trans* or LGBTQ terminology, check our our Vocab Extravaganza activity, and the massive list of terms it includes)

Trans Man / Trans Woman


While many people might identify as “Transman” or “Transwoman” as a way of recognizing their gender assigned at birth, a lot of trans* people will simply identify as “man” or “woman.”



One of the reasons this term is considered incorrect is because it implies that something *happened* to the person to make them transgender. People don’t “switch genders” due to some traumatic thing, just like they don’t switch sexual orientations — as Queen Gaga would say, we’re all born this way.

Oh, and for the myriad people who we’ve seen snap “BUT WHY IS IT OKAY TO SAY ‘CISGENDERED’ THEN REVERSE DISCRIMINATION BLURGH” … “cisgendered” is also incorrect. “Cisgender” will do just nicely. Also, please stop yelling.



The article totally nails the definition with one aside: someone who identifies as MTF/FTM does not have to be currently transitioning. That is, some people who have completed their transition will still identify as MTF/FTM (also MtF/M2F or FtM/F2M).



Not only is not everyone who does drag trans*, but MOST people (in our extensive anecdotal experiences at drag shows… Meg’s been to close to two dozen but who’s counting) who do drag aren’t trans*. Drag is a performance thing, not an identity thing.

Preferred Pronouns


We’ve most commonly seen this as “Preferred Gender Pronouns” or “PGPs.” For example, one time Sam was performing at a high school and one of the little gems who went to school there asked him, “Sam, what are your PGPs?” Then Sam got so excited/surprised he may have peed a little bit.

Birth Name


Love this one. For serious. Just wanted to say that. Nailed it, Sarah. Ick.



Some other “nopes” we would like to see included include TrannyHermaphrodite, Ladyboy, He/She, and Pretendbian. Ick.

Do you have any suggestions or critiques?

Leave a comment below, or drop us a line on Facebook or Twitter if you do. We’d love to add them to the article, and with any luck we can encourage Buzzfeed to make these small (but important) improvements.

Responding to Buzzfeed: “Everything You Wanted to Know About Transgender People”, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

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We are LIVE! Welcome to the Safe Zone Project! Thu, 18 Jul 2013 15:19:58 +0000 Meg and Sam help you get acquainted with their brand new labor of love, The Safe Zone Project

We are LIVE! Welcome to the Safe Zone Project!, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Hey there!  Meg & Sam here! Welcome to our website! YAY! We’re so glad you could make it! Let’s give you a quick introduction to the site, but rest assured that if you start exploring you’ll find it more than speaks for itself. (you can just start at the home page and explore from there!)

What’s this all about?

Meg and Sam created the Safe Zone Project to help people who want to educate others on LGBTQ, gender, and sexuality issues do that with ease.  We’ve got an awesome curriculum for a two-hour workshop ready to rock (which is why its creatively named our ready-to-rock curriculum — download it here), a whole slew of activities to look through (and more forever being added), as well as some tips, tricks, and handy little tid-bits from us! We’re all about making college campuses (and people in other educational spaces…or people in general) more informed, educated, and excited about sexuality and gender.  It’s is what we both do best!

What to see & where to look!

So you can download our curriculum right here right now. You can also check out a whole host of different activities and sort through um like you’re looking for shoes on Zappos… except instead of shoes is diversity educational tools and instead of Zappos ITS US. Use the “Activity Finder” hidden in the sidebar above (just hover over it to make it less hidden) to get started there.


This is Meg & meet Sam.  Get to know us a little better, what we all about, why we are always so dang excited about Safe Zones. We are the dynamic duo behind this brand new resource and we really hope you enjoy it! Half queer-identified, half active ally extraordinaire, living in the south and the north, one likes peas and the other likes carro — you get the idea.

Tell us how we can better help you!

This was a huge undertaking between us, and something we’ve spent many sleepless hour on Google+ Hangouts discussing, planning, and putting into action. But this launch is very much a Minimum Viable Product, if you’re into that sort of thing, or you might call it an Open Beta. In any case, what we are trying to say is it is just the beginning, and it is far from done. Help us guide where it goes in the future by letting us know what you need, what resources you are looking for, and how we can best help you fulfill your sexuality and gender education dreams. Here are some things we have baking in the oven to give you an idea of what we think you would like:

  • An All-Star Facilitator track with articles, how-tos, exercises, and reflections to help take your facilitation to the next level.
  • Interactive Safe Zone Workshop Curriculum Creator™– pick one activity, choose another, grab a third or fourth, then download them all as one pre-made curriculum complete with a participant packet and additional resources
  • A survey of all the schools in the country’s Safe Zone offerings, as well as a basic assessment of what their program / department offers. Help us by adding your school.

Leave a comment below with any thoughts, feedback, or requests you have!

We look forward to this adventure!

Meg & Sam

We are LIVE! Welcome to the Safe Zone Project!, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

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This is Meg Bolger, Safe Zone Project Co-Creator Wed, 17 Jul 2013 07:27:10 +0000 Gender/sexuality workshop connoisseur, the queertastic founder of Pride for All talks about one of her dream projects. This one.

This is Meg Bolger, Safe Zone Project Co-Creator, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Why hi there! I’m Meg and it’s already a pleasure.

I wanted to take hot second of your time to tell you a little more about myself (other than what you’ve already scoured through on our bio page) and also why I am stoked to be 1/2 of this Safe Zone dedicated project we’ve got going on here.

Now just to clarify Sam and I are not the same person.  I do not look that good in salmon colored pants, trust.  However, we do share there are parts of our stories that lead us to where we are today both doing what we do (and love) and to this very site here.

The short of it?  Like Sam, I would be who I am or be doing what I do without Safe Zone trainings. The long?  Well let’s begin at…

The Beginning

Freshman year of college, little baby Meg comes out to herself, her family, her friends, and her new friends at college.  Her very first meeting at her college’s (Hamilton!) Rainbow Alliance she hears about these Safe Zone trainings.  They don’t have them at Hamilton yet but a near by university is going to send a professional LGBTQ staffer (because they have one of those… which is cool) to host one at Hamilton. Meg thinks this is neat.

Flash to sophomore year, I start using I statements and I finally attends the long awaited Safe Zone workshop.  While it a tad rushed the experience, I’m totally hooked. Hamilton has no Safe Zone program or LGBTQ office.  My supplies consist of the information I was given in that single Safe Zone I attended and my experience from being a participant in the workshop, but its enough.  I start prepping to faciliate more trainings and well you could say the rest is history… but let’s get into it a little more.

Because Hamilton didn’t have any Safe Zone program I went at it alone.  Reinventing the wheel a little, writing up all my own definitions, curriculum, activities, outlines, feedback forms you name it.  It was both exhilarating and exhausting.  I dreamed then of a website just like this – where activities and curriculum could be laid out for me to browse through, edit, make my own, and use freely.  AND now there is.

The Present

When I say that Safe Zones are what got me to where I am and in many ways to who I am today, that is no exaggeration.  My first experience facilitating a Safe Zone workshop set me on a path towards becoming the diversity and specifically gender/sexuality educator I am today.  It lead me to interact with mentors who encouraged me to found my own business, it helped me grow, develop, and learn so much of what I hold near and dear today.

Because Safe Zone workshops had such a transformative effect on me I take um real seriously.  I don’t mean that I sit down with a stern look and let people know that this is not to be taken lightly.  I think that having fun, enjoying the learning process (and the teaching process), and being able to laugh while learning about these topics is essential both to encouraging more people to participate and helping the information stick.  When I say I take diversity education seriously, what I mean is sometimes you only get one shot.  Sometimes the person sitting across from you may never sit down and chat about LGBTQ/sexuality/gender like this again.  So how can you do your best?  How can you leave that lasting impression so that when that person walks away from the workshop you know that they got it.

That’s where this project comes in.  That’s why I’ve pour myself into this website, these activities, our additional little resources, trying to make it all as “navigateable” and accessible as possible. I want to make sure that everyone who enters a Safe Zone workshops leaves being able to say, I learned something that I didn’t know, I felt safe asking questions, and that was awesome.

So! With that! Go check out our ready-to-rock curriculum, check out the activities we got up, see how you can contribute and what we have already got in the works.

Keep fighting the good fight!

Hugs and rainbows.


This is Meg Bolger, Safe Zone Project Co-Creator, by The Safe Zone Project Team, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Meet Sam Killermann, Safe Zone Project Co-Creator Wed, 17 Jul 2013 00:40:57 +0000 Between It's Pronounced Metrosexual, Gamers Against Bigotry, and A Guide to Gender, Sam has his hand in a lot of pots. Here he explains why he added this one to the stovetop.

Meet Sam Killermann, Safe Zone Project Co-Creator, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Hey friends! Sam here.

I wanted to take a moment to tell you a bit about myself (than what’s on our bio page) and explain why I’m so excited about this project Meg and I put together for you.

First off, a confession: if it weren’t for Safe Zone trainings (or ally trainings, in general), I don’t know where I’d be today, or what I’d be doing, but I can tell you it absolutely would not be what I’m doing now. And I love what I’m doing now.

Let me explain.

There once was a naive & ignorant first-year student at Purdue University called Sam…

He wasn’t aware of his ignorance, mind you, but that’s where the naivety comes in. Ever since Sam was little, people incorrectly assumed him to be gay. This led to a lot of bullying, negativity, confusion, and discomfort for Sam — and he didn’t understand it one bit. Sam had never attended a “diversity training” and would have scoffed at the idea.

Luckily, thanks to the “FreeZONE” portion of orientation at Purdue, Sam participated in his first discussion about diversity without even realizing it happened. And — unsurprisingly, if you know Sam as well as I do — he was hooked. He sought out as many conversations like this as he could find in his first years at Purdue, and found himself spending a lot of time visiting student organization meetings, the Queer Resource Center (where he received his first Safe Zone training) and striking up conversations about identity, sexuality, and gender with strangers in his dorm lobby (usually over a game of pool).

After a couple years of these conversations, he knew that “social justice” was something he was absolutely behind, and he started working in that direction. He joined a diversity theatre troupe, where the group did sketches and monologues for first-year students on issues related to identity, discrimination, and oppression. He did ally trainings and Safe Zone workshops. And he went on to grad school at Bowling Green where he studied College Student Personnel, worked in first-year programs, and focused most of his “free” time developing and facilitating diversity education programs.

And now there’s a less-ignorant, less-naive person called Sam.

You’ll never catch me saying I know everything. In fact, I hold fast to Aristotle’s “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know” and aspire toward Socrate’s “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” But I digress. I have come a long way in this near-decade since this journey began.

I believe in the power of workshops like Safe Zone to have transformative effects on participants — I’m a product of such a transformation. I also believe that the potential for that to happen lies as much in the program’s curriculum as it does in the educator. I’ve spent a good chunk of my spring working with Meg on this project because we want to take out the guesswork and provide social justice educators to have the best tool possible when it comes to gender and sexuality training — and I believe this is it.

Safe Zone is near and dear to me, and so is this project. I’ve thrown all of my knowledge from years and years of social justice training and educating at this, and I’m only one-half of the equation. I hope that means as much to you as it does to me.

Explore the site. Check out our activities, download the curriculum, and let us know how they go. You won’t be disappointed. And you might even inspire a life-changing transformation in a young me on your campus.

But maybe it’s for the best you don’t — I’m not sure we can handle more than one me running around.

Peace, Love, & Safe Zone.


Meet Sam Killermann, Safe Zone Project Co-Creator, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Under Construction – Check back Mid-July Thu, 13 Jun 2013 14:58:29 +0000 We'll be here sooner than you know it. Stay tuned!

<i class="icon-warning-sign"></i> Under Construction – Check back Mid-July, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.

Hi friend! Thanks for stopping by! This site is super under construction, and won’t be in working order for another little bit. When it’s ready, it’ll be a fantastic, free, and effective resource for people who conduct Safe Zone workshops. In the meantime, just keep dancing with Ellen.

How’d you hear about us? You should say “hi!” on Twitter, where we’ll keep folks updated with the progress of the site.

See you soon!

Meg & Sam

<i class="icon-warning-sign"></i> Under Construction – Check back Mid-July, by Sam Killermann, appeared first on The Safe Zone Project.