Wednesday, November 12, 2008

UNCG Safe Zone Training 2008

On Friday, November 7, 2008, Carolyn Shankle and Stacey Krim attended UNCG Safe Zone Training 2008 offered through the Wellness Center by Jeanne Irwin-Olson. The goal of Safe Zone training is to create a network of allies for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, or Questioning persons.

After a couple of “ice breakers” – an exercise playing on stereotypes as well as one of connecting a word to the correct definition – the program got underway. The first presentation was Issues Facing GLBT Youth given by Karen Favereau and Amanda Gerson. Both presenters are graduate students in the Department of Counseling and Educational Development. One of the mind-opening exercises they had the attendees complete is the Heterosexual Questionnaire. For those who are in the heterosexual, or dominant culture, this questionnaire works as a way to make one more sensitive to the obstacles faced on a daily basis by those in the GLBTQ community.

Jeanne Irwin-Olson led the next presentation, What It Means To Be An Ally. She offered examples of policy activism at UNCG, such as the inclusion of sexual orientation in our Policy on Discriminatory Conduct. As of this writing, sexual orientation is not protected under state or federal guidelines.

During lunch – yes there was a lunch presentation! – Rebecca Mann of Equality NC led a discussion on Equality NC’s legislative efforts on behalf of the GLBTQ community in NC and how federal legislation as well as legislation in other states affects their progress. [Proposition 8 in California, anyone?] She encouraged us to contact our legislators either by telephone, self-composed emails, hand-written correspondence, or in person to support pertinent legislation. You know those email petitions that get forwarded? Turns out they do little good since the legislator receiving such a petition does not know if the names are legitimate or even of actual constituents.

UNCG’s Dean of Students, Dr. Jen Day Shaw, gave a presentation titled Hate Crimes – UNCG’s Response. What is difficult is to distinguish between a “hate incident” and a “hate crime”. She provided many examples – some drawn from events at UNCG and others from educational institutions around the nation.

The last presentation of the day was Transgender 101 given by Stephen Wiseman and Rachel Wertheimer of UNC’s School of Social Work. This presentation marks the first time transgender was a presentation topic for Safe Zone at UNCG. Wertheimer provided a background on transgender issues and stages to put Wiseman’s story in a larger context. Wiseman shared his story of transgender discovery and the process. His courage was evident in his opening his life story to an unknown audience for questions.

All participants received their UNCG Safe Zone Training 2008 certificates, a Safe Zone UNCG pin, as well as permission to use the Safe Zone UNCG logo to identify themselves. The Safe Zone Information Manual is now published on CD to allow for hyperlinked documents.

I found this program to be well-planned and valuable to those who wish to be publicly demonstrative in their ally status. Having also participated in the UNCG Cares presentation, given by the Dean of Students, on an earlier occasion, Safe Zone was a continuation of becoming more sensitive and aware to issues facing not only our student population but the population at large.

You will find more information about the Safe Zone program on this website.

No comments: