Safe Zone Training
Training Dates for 2017-2018 Coming Soon!
To sign up for Safe Zone, please fill out our interest form here.
Purpose of GMU’s Safe Zone Program
The primary mission of George Mason’s Safe Zone Program, like our LGBTQ Resources Office, is to create a safer, more welcoming & inclusive campus environment, to strengthen community and encourage networking among faculty, staff, and students toward the goal of supporting the well-being of LGBTQ people.
Mason’s Safe Zone Program seeks to:
- Provide visible support and resources for LGBTQ students, faculty, and staff.
- Provide a way for allies – supportive students, faculty, and staff – to visibly indicate that they are safe contacts for LGBTQ people at Mason.
- Promote increased awareness and understanding about sexual orientation and gender identity across the Mason campus.
- Promote an open-minded, safe, and welcoming campus environment in which students of all sexual orientations and gender identities can live and learn fully.
Watch a 5 minute presentation on Safe Zone:
Challenges to a Safe Environment for LGBTQ Folks at Mason
The Safe Zone Program exists to counter the challenges facing LGBTQ members of the Mason community, such as:
- Homophobic remarks and jokes
- Defacing of property with anti-LGBTQ remarks and references
- Invisibility of LGBTQ students amidst an often heterosexist environment
- Lack of visibly-out LGBT faculty and staff, due to fear of reprisal and a legal/political climate which does not guarantee them safety or security
- Potential isolation and loneliness of LGBTQ students because of inability to identify supportive allies and resources
- Anxiety, stress, and depression often felt among LGBTQ students
- Threat of physical injury and/or death of LGBTQ students from incidents of hate
LGBTQ young adults today face a wide variety of experiences and circumstances that can profoundly impact their physical, emotional, academic, and social well-being. Studies have found that a vast majority of LGBTQ youth have experienced verbal abuse targeting their sexual orientation and/or gender expression. Many also report being threatened with bodily harm, having been followed or chased, having had objects thrown at them, having been physically assaulted, or having been assaulted with a weapon.
When asked about their mental health concerns, many LGBTQ college students report feeling sad or depressed, and/or anxious. Coming out to family and friends, being ridiculed for being LGBTQ-identified, and having one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity discovered by others without their consent are often identified as major stressors by these students.
In one example of such research, every two years the Massachusetts Department of Education conducts a version (MYRBS) of the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, exploring the health-related attitudes and behaviors of high school students. The 2003 survey found that LGBTQ students, when compared with their heterosexual peers, were:
- over 5 times more likely to have attempted suicide in the past year;
- over 3 times more likely to have skipped school in the past month because they felt unsafe at or en route to school; and
- over 3 times more likely to have been threatened or injured with a weapon at school in the past year.
Similar findings have come from recent reports issues by the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and the National Gay Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF). Thus, it’s well documented that many LGBTQ students face significant stressors and hostile environments with the potential to place their mental and physical health (and therefore, success in college) in jeopardy.
However, when LGBTQ students can identify and access safe and competent peers and authority figures they can turn to as allies for support, advice, information, and advocacy, the effects of these stressors are countered. The Safe Zone Program is one significant way in which LGBTQ students learn where they can turn for support and information.
Many universities (as of 2005, approximately 200 U.S. institutions) have implemented similar programs, including American University, College of William & Mary, Georgetown, James Madison University, University of Maryland, University of Virginia, and Virginia Commonwealth University.