Meet the Spring 2018 SZP Intern: Jess Brundige

The Safe Zone Project Team

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!