Your Role

Visibility is the most important role you have as a member of Safe Zones. As you are aware, it is an expectation that you maintain the Safe Zones sticker in a location visible to others. Once identified as a Safe Zones member, your part will be to provide support, information, and referrals to individuals who approach you. As a Safe Zones member you will be expected to respect people's need for privacy and confidentiality.

Safe Zones is not intended to create a psychological support group. Members are not expected to provide counseling or engage in a"therapeutic" role with a participant. In some cases, persons seeking assistance may present themselves as emotionally vulnerable. It is a member's role to inform the participant of the resources available and assist in making the necessary contacts. It is important that Safe Zone's members always maintain boundaries appropriate to their role as a helper.

In the event that a person provides you with information that leads you to believe that either the person or someone else may be in danger, it is important that you encourage the individual to seek additional support. Refer to the "Resources and Referrals" page for contacts.

What is NOT expected:

It is important that Safe Zone members know their own limits when responding to a situation. You are a resource person with very general information. If you feel comfortable engaging in additional conversation based on your own personal experiences and/or background, feel free to do so. This is not, however, and expectation.

There may be times when people seek you out to challenge the purpose of Safe Zones. There may also be people who want to challenge you on general issues related to GLBT people. You do NOT need to engage in dialogue with persons whose purpose is to challenge. You are there to provide resource information, not to defend issues.

Being Visible: What more can you do?

For the GLBT community, invisibility is a crucial issue. This population of people is often ignored and not recognized. Often times one's sexual orientation is kept hidden for fear of harassment and discrimination. Combating this invisibility is one of the primary functions of Safe Zones. An individual need not be GLBT to take a stand against heterosexism and homophobia. However, taking an actively anti-heterosexest stance means more than just not being homophobic.

Heterosexism affects all of us in many ways. In some cases, we assume that the people around us who have not publicly"come out" are heterosexual. We give the "the benefit of the doubt" and continue to assume something that we do not necessarily know to be true. In a similar manner, in the absence of anti-heterosexist views, we often assume the presence of beliefs that are heterosexist. For example, in the case of an unchallenged heterosexist or homophobic comment, passive spectators are assumed to be agreement with that remark, whether or not that is truly the case.

As a Safe Zones member, you have already taken a stand in accepting the responsibility to "display the Safe Zones symbol." Although it is not required, we realize that many people might want to go above and beyond the Safe Zones expectations and take a more active stance in combating the homophobia and heterosexism that surrounds us. The following list describes additional ways that we can be more proactive. This list applies to all people regardless of their sexual orientation. Whether a person is GLBT or heterosexual, we can all make a difference by challenging intolerance and bigotry.

  • Understand that heterosexism and homophobia affect all of us and that one must work on ridding oneself of them - even if one is GLBT

  • Assume that in any group, GLBT people are present. Use language that is inclusive and avoid using language that is exclusive and avoid using language that speaks exclusively to heterosexuals.

  • In interactions with peers, students, and others, take an actively anti-heterosexist stance. Make it known that you support the rights of equality for GLBT people.

  • Be willing to challenge and interrupt homophobic and heterosexist remarks and behaviors. Take an educational approach. Question without judging.

  • Continue to educate yourself about sexual diversity, homophobia, heterosexism, and their cultural, social, and political implications. Be willing to attend campus programs, see films and TV shows, read articles, and interact with GLBT individuals.

  • When discussing diversity, actively include all groups including GLBT people. Accept that GLBT people are part of the multicultural mosaic.

  • Resist privileging heterosexuality and heterosexual relationships and institutions in programs, services, classrooms, leisure time, and social activities.

  • Understand that heterosexuality is rewarded in our society.

  • Be supportive when a GLBT friend, student, colleague, etc. is upset or angry about discriminatory treatment.