Posted on: October 23, 2022 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

By Emma Gomez, News Editor

Nearly half of LGBTQ youth feel “under attack” because of their sexual orientation, and less than a third feel “very comfortable” expressing their identity at school, according to a recent poll by the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics. 

To provide places on campus where members of the LGBTQIA+ community can go to talk without fear of judgment, Moraine Valley is offering training to faculty and staff members who want to become allies.

Safe Zone allies display a sign near their workspaces so those in need of help can find it.

More than 50 people have registered for the trainings this fall, with more than 30 people completing the course so far.

Those who complete the training can continue the discussion with the program’s coordinators, Amanda Mesirow and Rory Smith. If they meet the requirements, they can display a sign to indicate that they are committed to being a LGBTQIA+ ally for all everyone on campus.

“We have been so humbled by the interactions with our colleagues in the trainings,” said Mesirow, who is Code of Conduct coordinator for Moraine. “We work with some spectacular professionals who want to help our students feel safe.”

An example of when a Safe Zone can be needed is when a person part of the LGBTQIA+ community is facing discrimination such as being called the wrong pronouns or experiencing harassment by others. Then, if that person wants to talk about what happened, they can go to any Safe Zone and talk without being judged or mistreated. The Safe Zone ally can then set the person up with resources if needed.

A training session was held on Staff Development Day on Oct. 4, and additional sessions are being held all throughout this fall semester for interested faculty and staff. The training is intended to teach the participants more about LGBTQIA+ identities and experiences. It also challenges any misconceptions or misinformation they previously held.

“I think it’s important to note that in accordance with Moraine Valley Community College’s Core Values, all members of the MVCC community are expected to create an environment that is respectful, fair, inclusive and equitable,” said Natalie Hall, coordinator of technical services for the library. “But Safe Zone training provides an opportunity to specifically show support for the LGBTQIA+ community on campus.”

Safe zone trainings are two hours long and consist of small and large group discussions, time for personal reflection, and even practicing ally behavior in a variety of scenarios. The training allows faculty and staff to get real experience with what to do in these situations.

“I don’t work directly with that many students, but I have the opportunity to supervise and mentor a lot of new library employees and I wanted to make sure that from the minute they come to work in my area that they know they are welcomed, valued, and supported, and that I am available as a resource if they need it,” Hall said.

The Safe Zones are a part of Moraine’s effort to provide a safe space not only for students, but for everyone in the community. While doing research, the program found that LGBTQIA+ students face bias on campus and in society. The program also went through existing research and literature, along with conducting surveys with groups of faculty, staff, and students.

Even those in the LGBTQIA+ community are invited to attend training to help understand Moraine’s expectations, address any stereotypes and incorporate updated terminology and practices into their work.

“Trainings have been going very well, and we are already discussing changes for next spring,” Mesirow said.

Faculty and staff wanting to know more about upcoming training sessions can contact the program’s coordinators for more information. Students wanting to know more about these safe zones and LGBTQIA+ resources on campus can contact GASP Club advisors Jeffery McCully or Dan Matthews.