As the world continues to change, conversations and ideas are, too — not only in an academic setting, but also in the workplace. In order for new ideas to be put into effect, change and conversations need to happen. 

Ohio University’s LGBT Center is hosting SafeZone presentations for students and professors who are interested in making changes and starting conversations. 

SafeZone is a series of presentations that allow for individuals to learn about how to create a safe space for LGBTQ+ people, both students and professionals.

“Our mission has been the same since we started: to educate and support those in the LGBTQ+ community. Even though we are going virtual, that mission does not change,” Jan Huebenthal, assistant director of the LGBT Center, said.

SafeZone training allows for open discussion for basic knowledge and questions, along with more in-depth questions and materials. The trainings are also open for multiple different groups of students, ranging from freshmen to student organizations.

“SafeZone experiences differ from group to group, since each one has an audience with members from diverse backgrounds,” Gabriela Grijalva, a social work intern for the LGBT Center, said.

Typically, representatives from the center will go to different lectures and areas of campus for these presentations. This year, however, these presentations will be virtual.

“We were a little nervous at first, but I feel like they really have been going super well,” Huebenthal said.

So far, only a few professors have requested the program for their classes. Either Huebenthal or Micah McCarey, director of the LGBT Center, presents the programming.

“Micah, myself and many others working with us have been doing as much as we can to be available for these conversations,” Huebenthal said.

Most of the presentations are done via Zoom. Students can email either Huebenthal or McCarey to request access to the presentations. Student organizations can also get in touch with Huebenthal to have the presentations on Zoom.  

While the training is virtual, the center wants it still to be a valuable experience.

“What I love about that training is that they always bring a group together to acknowledge, uplift and validate the LGBTQ+ community,” Grijalva said.

Students who have participated liked the program. 

“SafeZone training is a fantastic way to expose people to issues around LBGTQ+ identities and the nuance involved in each situation,” Luvina Cooley, a sophomore studying anthropology, said in an email.

Not only do the presentations provide students and others with an open forum, but they also help them recognize differences in people in everyday situations. 

“The takeaways and the conversations people have are extremely important and provide LGBTQ+ individuals with a judgment-free safe space,” Huebenthal said.

These presentations also help open people’s eyes to situations and people they have never seen before. It can help people realize what members of the LGBTQ+ community have gone through.

“People do not realize how important it is to highlight identities that have been marginalized and silenced in the past,” Grijalva said. 

For Cooley, SafeZone presentations allow people to see what it means to be a helpful ally to LGBTQ+ people.

“Participating in the SafeZone training helps me increase my own awareness as well as teaches me how to be a better ally,” Cooley said in an email.

Not only are the SafeZone presentations impactful for those who attend, but they’ve also proved to be impactful to those who work in the program, like Grijalva. 

“It means a lot to me to see people come together to engage in these dialogues,” Grijalva said.