Missouri Western began its annual Safe Zone training Wednesday Oct. 26 with an open forum discussion on critical issues within the LGBTQA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Asexual/Aromantic, Allies and Advocates) community.
The Center for Multicultural Education welcomed LGBTQA director Johnathan Pryor from the University of Missouri, Kansas City to speak on issues facing the LGBTQA community at the collegiate level.
“Colleges and universities have a history of demonstrative progress, and a lot of that is based on the work students are doing. The presence of LGBT students and communities on college campuses now goes back to the work of the LGBT students back in the 60s and 70s. That has resulted in the positive impact we’ve seen today, but there is always room for improvement. I think Title IX [training] is helping that conversation, especially when it comes to policy and how our practices are being perceived by all students.”
A Safe Zone is described as any location an individual that identifies as LGBTQA can openly reflect and discuss personal challenges they are facing in a nonjudgmental, non-threatening environment. Often universities will have designated faculty, staff or counselors that are Safe Zone certified to accommodate the needs of the individual in distress.
Center for Multicultural Education director Latoya Fitzpatrick feels the training is beneficial for all students to promote a more open and inclusive university environment.
“It is Safe Zone training; the training is designed to educate people that want to be better advocates or allies for the LGBT community here on campus and in St. Joe. It is also a time for people that are already allies to stay up to date on new terminology and new issues that have presented themselves to the LGBT community,” Fitzpatrick said.
The open forum touched on a variety of subjects, including the proper use of preferred pronouns when referring to a transgender individual.
Pride Alliance President Maranny Svay feels that Safe Zone training is a way to implement an inclusive campus for an improved collegiate experience for all students.
“Safe Zone training and other kinds of LGBT environment requirements are very important for not only LGBT students but the overall environment of the school. One of the reasons I say that is because you want a school that is welcoming of everyone. You want a school that you are going to feel safe at and that you don’t feel like you will be discriminated against,” Svay said.
Svay went on to explain the complexity of the “coming out” experience LGBTQA members might be facing during their college years and how the reactions of their peers will affect the emotional, mental and physical health of that individual and their personal development. Svay believes in the need for improved LGBTQA education.
For more information on Safe Zone training and LGBTQA advocacy, contact the Center for Multicultural Education at 816-271-4150 or stop by Blum 207.