» By RAVEN JACKSON – rjackson41@my.apsu.edu

Fall semester at APSU will not only bring new students and dorm rooms to campus, but also a new program aimed to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex individuals. The Safe Zone program is sponsored by the student-led Gay Straight Alliance and strives to extend the physical safe space for LGBTQI students and allies on campus.

“Being a gay student of APSU myself, I know that this Safe Zone project will be a tremendous success in obtaining camaraderie in the LGBT community and allies while also promoting ‘safe places’ for those questioning or having trouble accepting their sexual orientation,” said Ryan Whipkey, sophomore APSU 1000 mentor.

On Aug. 2, 50 students, faculty and staff, participated in a free Safe Zone training that was facilitated by the Office of LGBTQI Life, a part of the office of the Dean of Students at Vanderbilt University. The program hopes to hold at least one more training session before the end of the fall semester and two more during the spring.

“Because [the program] is so much in its infancy stage right now the training is done by Vanderbilt. With this year we’re looking at just more or less educating the campus about what Safe Zone is, [and] what LGBTQI issues and concerns may be,” said African American Cultural Center Director Henderson Hill.

“When I did [the seminar] it was more of teaching people about sexuality, and kind of helping people speak the language so that if a student does come out to them, they say the right thing and won’t make it worse — sort of teaching students how to talk to students who may need someone to talk to,” said Dwonna Goldstone, associate professor of English.

Safe Zone’s symbol is a pink inverted triangle. An inverted pink triangle was used by the Nazis to identify homosexuals during the Holocaust and has now been reclaimed and adopted by LGBTQI activists to remember those who were tortured and killed in Nazi concentration camps. The Safe Zone program uses the same strategy to mark LGBT-friendly areas.

“There is certainly no barometer to measure how successful this program will be on APSU’s campus, however, with the faculty, staff and students of APSU creating a sense of comfort and safety for struggling LGBTQI students whose intent is to be successful in their academic career and beyond, I believe we can claim the program as being on a successful path,” Whipkey said. TAS