The University of Idaho’s LGBTQA Office continued its long-running Safe Zone program Jan. 18, welcoming students, staff and community members to a seminar on how to create a welcoming environment for all.
Mars Cantrell, a second-year student at UI, said he has been a member of the LGBTQA Office’s speaker’s bureau since he came to the university and has spoken at more than 10 panels on and off the campus.
“Often people who are very kind and good to queer folks are often lacking in education on different things that trans students may need to be supported,” Cantrell said.
Cantrell said he defines himself as queer for a few reasons. For one, it is intentionally less concrete than using labels. He said other terms do not encapsulate his entire identity, and that he prefers being intentionally vague.
Cantrell said one training session is not going turn people into experts on being allies, but he and other LGBTQA students are not looking for perfect. Cantrell said knowing staff members have some training and are putting forth effort goes a long way in making students feel safe.
Cantrell said he feels more secure approaching faculty and staff who have had Safe Zone training.
Julia Keleher, director of the LGBTQA Office, said this training provides community members with information and practices to help them create an inclusive environment.
Safe Zone training is the LGBTQA Office’s longest running event, dating back to 2009. The program has trained around 630 students, faculty, staff and community members said Keleher.
The training is two hours long, split into two separate parts, with the first hour being a lecture and the second hour dedicated to a student panel where participants can ask questions Keleher said.
The student panel is a new addition to the training and brings students a chance to share their experiences on campus with the participants said Cantrell.
“Although she does a wonderful job, Julia is just one person, and different groups of people within the LGBTQA community have different experiences, perspectives and needs, and the more people who can come talk about their experiences from different identity groups, the more opportunity people have to understand the LGBTQA community as the big, diverse group of people that we are,” Cantrell said.
Kali Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kalinelson6