Saint Louis University

The Need for a Safe Zone

College StudentsThe challenges many GLBT youth face are daunting. Not surprisingly, statistics on gay students indicate everything from higher levels of absenteeism to higher levels of suicide. Statistics also show that educators and peers often fail to intervene in combating things like hate language which contribute to an unbearable environment for GLBT students.

The move to college for most students not only begins their higher education but also represents an opportunity to move to an environment with higher chances for acceptance and understanding. Going away to college is profound for GLBT students as they jettison any unwanted baggage from high school, open a new chapter of life with renewed sense of optimism and preparation for success and enter a time and place in which they can better come to terms with their sexual orientation and find acceptance.

It is important to accept the fact that it would be extremely unlikely for there not to be gay students in your school, in your classroom, on your floor, in your student groups and so on, no matter the schools location, population or culture.

Safe Zone is meant not only to educate heterosexual allies, but to also provide that environment of acceptance and understanding to GLBT students. Many GLBT students have questions or concerns or need a place to go to feel free from social pressures. Being a Safe Zone member tells people that you are someone that they can trust - someone committed to creating an environment in which GLBT people will be treated with dignity and respect.

Creating a Safe Zone is more then a one-day commitment. Each year another freshman class arrives on campus, each year upperclassmen come to understand their sexuality and each year students seek out support in this place they call home. GLBT students are a group that suffers from invisibility, both of its members and its supporters. By being an ally you may never know the true effect you are having on a student by addressing homophobic remarks, discussing GLBT issues in class or even just having that Safe Zone sign up saying that it's ok to be gay at SLU and there is support.

College will certainly bring fresh challenges, but for GLBT students there is one that should be most welcomed: the challenge of being true to themselves.

Adapted from: Searching for Gay Friendly Colleges by Jeffrey D Cook.

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