According to the information distributed by the LGBT Center of Greater Cleveland, "the Safezone Program is a visible network of allies who are committed to creating a community of respect and dignity for LGBTQ consumers, clients, students, staff, faculty, and others" and on Tuesday, July 15th, we attended a Safe Zone Workshop at the Center conducted by Mr. Ryan Zymler, the Communications Coordinator with the assistance of Ms. Erica Pandrea, an intern. In the two and a half hours between 5:30pm and 8pm, we talked about all kinds of issues of relevance to the LGBT community including definitions of terms like gay, transgender, and ally; gender stereotyping; risk factors for LGBT Youth; Domestic Violence in the LGBT community; and forms of Institutional Discrimination as in parenting laws, healthcare and marriage equality.
What interested the most is what an ally is expected to do which is to challenge homophobia and heterosexism (the attitude that only heterosexuality-relationships between men and women-is permissible) when confronted with it; to support and validate feelings; and within limits promise confidentiality. On the other hand, what an ally should is not to make any assumptions or generalizations about a person's sexual preference or ask an LGBT person questions you would not ask any other individual about their sexuality.
During the course of the training we were given a folder containing all kinds of information related to what we had discussed. Mr. Zymler and Ms. Pandrea did an excellent job and we only wish that the workshop could have been longer.
After completing the workshop, all of the participants (about 10 all told) were given a "visible marker" in the form of a sticker "that denotes cultural competency and a supportive and affirming environment to guests and coworkers." We plan to put the sticker in our car window.