Albion held its first official Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Questioning (LGBTQ) Safe Zone training on Nov. 11 and 12 in the Albion Room in Baldwin Hall.
Organized by the division of student affairs, the event offered students, faculty and staff the opportunity to be trained as potential ‘allies’ in Safe Zone training according to the flyer distributed regarding the event.
According to lgbtqcampus.org, allies are heterosexual people who are supportive of gay, lesbian and bisexual people.
“I’ve been committed to do this training for many years but this is the first year we could get it,” said Tracey Howard, assistant dean of program development. “The events on the national level (that happened this year) make this even more poignant.”
In the college’s Nov 10 response to the Oct. 18 gay pride flag burning incident, Sally Walker, vice president of student affairs, emphasized that the Safe Zone training had been planned prior to the flag burning.
James Toy facilitated the program. Toy, who holds a master’s degree in social work, co-founded the University of Michigan’s Spectrum Center, the first university staff office for LGBTQ students in the United States.
The program aimed to help attendees increase self-awareness and understanding about values and beliefs about the concerns of gender identity and expression, Toy said.
Attendees also learned how to become empathetic listeners and give good responses to a LGBTQ community member in need, Toy said.
Salania Catalano, Rochester first-year, said she attended the event because she wanted to be a public ally of the LGBTQ community and in response the gay pride flag-burning event at Albion.
“We mostly did self-exploration exercises, like remembering when we were in our own closets about something that we didn’t want to talk about,” Catalano said. “We thought about how we felt at the beginning, middle and end of that process so that we could better relate to the LGBTQ community.”
There was an immense amount of cooperation and risk taking among the participants at the Nov. 11 session, Toy said.
“There was muted enthusiasm and I’m grateful for that,” Toy said.
Lauren Roberts, Saline junior, said she noticed people from numerous different areas of college life.
“This session was cool because there was a wide range of participants, faculty, first-years, fraternity members (and) counselors,” Roberts said.