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‘Safe Zone Training’ helps students become better LGBTQ+ advocates

As Baruch College continues to celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month, students, faculty and staff members were all invited learn more about LBGTQ+ sensitivity and awareness. 

On Oct. 22, Baruch G.L.A.S.S. co-sponsored “Safe Zone Training,” with UNICEF and Baruch’s yearbook, Lexicon. LGBTQ+ allies learned new terms and tips on how to better address members of a community that includes many genders and sexual orientations. Event organizers used materials created by Safe Zone Project, an organization that provides free online resources and training for gender, sexuality and LGBTQ+ education sessions.

At “Safe Zone Training,” attending allies received participant packets that covered topics like group norms, first impressions of the LGBTQ+ community and core vocabulary. The event was divided into several parts, starting with a general overview and then breaking into group activities, a discussion of coming out and, lastly, a Q&A session.

The goal of the event was to “provide students, faculty, and staff with an introduction to the LGBTQ+ community, to sort of bring about some more awareness in the hopes that they can make Baruch and their individual lives more inclusive,” explained Supervising Psychologist Gary Dillon. 

After a preliminary overview and training, attendees enjoyed refreshments as they played “Privileges for Sale,” an activity created by SZP that helps participants understand and evaluate the concept of privilege by conceptualizing common privileges as commodities.

For the activity, attendees were broken into several groups and given imaginary budgets. Some budgets were higher than others. The groups then received a list of privileges, which each “costed” $100, and had to decide which privileges were more worth purchasing than others. 

Some privileges included adopting children, sponsoring a partner for citizenship and paid leave from work when grieving the death of a partner.

“There are things that are not even aware that people in the community have to deal with cause it’s something that within their own community they take for granted,” said Traci Espinet, a member of the LGBTQ+ History Month Committee, as she reflected on the privilege activity.

Allies were also able to learn about the prevalence of violence and hate against the transgender community during the event.

“There are still people who seem to be much more accepting of those who are LGB, but when it comes to those who are trans in the community, they have a huge struggle that they’re dealing with,” explained Espinet.

Later on, event organizers discussed the process of “coming out” and defined it as when individuals accept and are able to share their identity and gender identity or sexual orientation willingly.

Attendees learned how to appropriately respond to someone coming out to them and picked up tips like not spreading the information to others if the individual is not comfortable with it and asking the individual how they can best support them.

“Being more aware helps me know what ways I can help,” said Emelie Ali, the program coordinator of the Baruch Honors Program, bringing a different perspective to the importance of the training.

At the close of “Safe Zone Training,” event organizers opened the floor for questions. Allies took the opportunity to gain a fuller understanding of the LGBTQ+ community and asked to clarify terms such as “queer” and “homosexual” and the appropriate uses for each of them.

As LGBTQ+ History Month draws on, the Baruch community hopes to be an inclusive and safe space even after the end of October. “Safe Zone Training” demonstrated that learning how to be a better ally is a great place to start.

“If you have someone who seems like they’re really open to not just tolerating you, but really accepting all of who you are,” explained Dillon, “it can be really healing.”

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