‘Safe Zones’ provide LGBTQ community campus ally

Ever noticed a rainbow Horned Frog sticker on a faculty or staff member’s door?

For those who do not know, the sticker signifies a “safe zone.”

A Safe Zone training class for faculty, staff and students took place Wednesday at the Dee J. Kelly Alumni & Visitors Center.

Jason Wallace, program coordinator for Inclusiveness and Intercultural Services and Safe Zone trainer,  said the  program was designed to provide safe places for students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning to go for support.

Antonio Pee, hall director for campus apartments, said the three-hour training helped the participants recognize their own biases.

Senior social work major Jamal King said the university adopted the idea of Safe Zones about two years ago from other universities around the country that have similar programs.

At the end of the Safe Zone training, participants were given an ally certificate and encouraged to further their knowledge of the LGBTQ community, Pee said.

Everyone who completed the program was listed on the TCU Allies website and given a sticker to put in a visible spot, identifying that place as a safe zone for students to go, Wallace said.

“It is another tool to equip students, faculty and staff to help any Horned Frog have a better collegiate experience,” Pee said.

The university does not have a LGBTQ center like many other larger universities have, Wallace said. The program was brought to campus as a way of expanding the resources for the LGBTQ community, he said.

Pee had been through the training at two other institutions but wanted to take the course again here to let the TCU community know he is an ally on campus.

Wendy Macias, assistant professor of advertising,is another  ally who had also previously taken a similar program at the University of Georgia.

Macias  said she even incorporated what she learned from the program into her classes.

“Most of all, Safe Zone, I think, is a preemptive step,” King said. “I believe that as a university, TCU does not take enough preemptive steps. We are always very reactive to things. I think it is great because TCU always takes great reactive steps. However, we don’t really put that many programs or other things in place where we could stop a problem or prevent an issue before it is an issue.”

King said the only issue with Safe Zone was the lack of advertising. Students who might use the program do not know about it.

The Gay Straight Alliance has worked to spread the word about Safe Zones but can only do so much, King said. The program needs to be more widely advertised and explained.

“I would recommend this program like I would recommend any other program on this campus — step outside your comfort zone,” Pee said.

Pee said he did not know if there was an issue on campus regarding the LGBTQ community.

“The main issue is just acceptance,” King said. “We are in the Bible Belt of the U.S.. We are southern. Sometimes we aren’t all ready to make that step. Although that is understandable, sometimes we get a little bit tense with some people. Sometimes it is good to go to a place that you know ahead of time is safe.”