UAA Safe Zone Kickoff

Last week UAA’s Safe Zone celebrated its third annual celebration week with a barbecue in the Student Union. Keynote speaker Drew Phoenix, executive director of Identity, kicked off the celebration by speaking about issues regarding the LGBTQ community, focusing on LGBTQ history, advances and issues that still need to be addressed.

At UAA, Safe Zone is an ally training program to help inform the university community about what it’s like to identify as LGBTQ. Safe Zone offers support and advocacy through two-hour and eight-hour training sessions that aim to help participants gain a deeper understanding of issues within the LGBTQ community. The goal is to foster understanding and build allies on campus.

Identity is a statewide LGBTQ group in Alaska, whose mission is to advance the LGBTQ community through education, advocacy and connectivity. Phoenix said that it is still legal for Alaskans to discriminate against someone who identifies as LGBTQ. Housing is often denied, and there have been cases in Alaska where employers have fired people they assumed to be gay.

Ryan Hill, resident coordinator for Residence Life, said it’s important for universities to have programs such as Safe Zone because studies have shown that in order for students to be successful in college they must feel supported holistically, which includes issues of identity.

One way Safe Zone is currently working to help bridge the gap for LGBTQ students is to locate restrooms on campus for students who identify as transgender. Hill said it is often uncomfortable for transgender students to use traditional bathrooms, because what they are feeling regarding their gender identities is different to what they portray to society. Safe Zone is working closely with facilities to identify where these restrooms are located and will be putting them on a website for easy access to locations.

The celebration week will continue through April 18, with events including the Rainbow Run, ally training, LGBT and the Media, Drag Queen Bingo, family movie night with a viewing of “Frozen” and question of the day in the Student Union.

Safe Zone ally training will be offered April 14 and 15.

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For more information about Safe Zone, please visit

http://www.uaa.alaska.edu/deanofstudents/SafeZone/index.cfm

Identity can be reached at 907-929-glbt or

http://identityinc.org/