Safe Zone Training

Coordinator of Diversity and Inclusion Adam Gonzales speaks to students and faculty at the Oct. 5 Safe Zone workshop in the J.W. Jones Student Union with hopes of increasing awareness of and support for LGBTQ+ individuals. These workshops allow people to learn and ask questions about sexuality and gender in a nonjudgemental and educational environment. 

As a part of the LGBTQ+ history month series, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion hosted a safe-zone training discussion and presentation.

Adam Gonzales, coordinator of diversity and inclusion, led a presentation with the assistance of sophomore Levi Bradley, who shared information on what Safe Zones are, a brief history of the LGBTQ+ community and answered any questions attendees had throughout the three-hour training. Six faculty members and three Northwest students attended the event Oct. 5.

The presentation included an open-discussion style approach to five different topics: first impressions of LGBTQ+, inclusive language, gender and sex, core vocabulary and the four levels of ally development.

Bradley said the discussion aimed at bringing people with many differences together to share an understanding of how to deal with current issues and be an inclusive ally.

“Even I have a different privilege as a white trans person,” Bradley said. “It’s all a balancing act where we listen to each other and learn to accommodate one another.”

Bradley, a transgender man living in the historically conservative midwest, faces challenges daily.

However, he said he chose Northwest because of the DEI, which he said represents the University's efforts to unify students while celebrating differences.

Gonzales said he has hosted many Safe Zone training events throughout his time at Northwest, and the turnout is usually about the same every time. A group of around 10 to 15 is typical and often more faculty than students show.

Attendees came equipped with numerous questions for Gonzales, who encouraged them to ask as many as they had. He said it is normal for people who want to be more aware about the information being presented to come with more questions and concerns.

In an attempt to resolve any confusion, Gonzales and Bradley provided a paper packet of 27 vocabulary terms and answers to some of the questions people had at the event along with methods of approach to situations individuals are typically unfamiliar with.

One discussion topic the group lingered on is the use of the word “queer.”

Historically, it was used as a derogatory term to demean and belittle individuals. It is now used as an umbrella term to describe those who don’t identify as straight or cisgender. According to the packet, the term “queer” can often be used interchangebly with LGBTQ+, using the rhetoric “queer people” the same as “LGBTQ people.”

Freshman Jonna McDermed, a biomedical science major, attended the event and said it was important to be informed in order to be more unified as a community.

“I learned vocabulary that was really important, how to be an ally for somebody and how to approach someone and respect their pronouns,” McDermed said. “I just feel like it’s really important for others to come. There wasn’t as many people here as I thought there would be today, but I think it's really important for people, on campus especially, to do this.

Gonzales hosts Safe Zone training events for specific faculty departments upon request. He said organizing meetings with faculty is usually better for everyone’s schedules and is likely the reason other presentations see low numbers.

Even with lower numbers, the event saw a diverse group of individuals, some being faculty from a campus outside of Maryville.

Two members of faculty from Northwest-Kansas City drove to observe the presentation.

Northwest-Kansas City Student Services Specialist Gina Mumpower-Turner said she was motivated to attend the event to broaden her awareness of issues, and she said she wants to help students fill any needs that are not met.

“It just reaffirmed that we are all human and we just want to be treated with respect– respect and dignity,” Mumpower-Turner said. “How we can help support our students, I think, was the biggest takeaway for me.”

Mumpower-Turner said she would like to see a similar presentation take place on the Northwest-Kansas City campus.

“I think we would like to implement a training for the staff that couldn't make it today from an advisor perspective or student services perspective,” Mumpower-Turner said. “I would like to have a version of this for our new students in the fall.”

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