Safe Zone Ally

By Caity Hansen

Members of the Pride Center educated students, faculty and staff
on everything from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
terminology to the process of coming out in a special three-hour
training session at the BSC on Thursday.

The goal of the Safe Zone Ally program is not only to create
awareness about the LGBT community on campus, but to encourage
people outside of that community to be a safe space for those who
do identify as LGBT or any other gender identity or orientation,
even heterosexuals.

The program was held from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and was split into
three parts: a description of LGBT terminology and the differences
between sexual orientation and gender identity; a panel of speakers
including Pride Center Coordinator Jami Grosser and three students;
and tips for being a good ally.

With about 30 people in attendance, Grosser said the turnout was
what she had expected for the last Safe Zone training of the
quarter.

Grosser said previous Pride Center coordinators held fewer
workshops each year in order to encourage more people to attend,
but she prefers smaller groups with more interaction.

Irma Rivera, a graduate student from Cal State Fullerton who
volunteered to speak on the panel, was impressed with how engaged
and involved the crowd was during the program.

Rivera attended the program as part of required fieldwork in her
training to become a student affairs practitioner. Her goal is to
work in multicultural affairs and particularly with the LGBT
community.

“It feels like an actual conversation versus four people trying
to lecture,” said Rivera, who was impressed that even the
university police officers in attendance were asking questions of
the panel.

Rivera, who has spoken on LGBT panels in the past, said Cal Poly
Pomona students asked interesting questions that reflected well on
the environment on campus.

“Usually, you get the same type of questions, but these were a
lot better,” said Rivera, who didn’t see the same type of community
involvement at Cal State Fullerton.

Students who attended received pamphlets from the Pride Center
and packets of information on topics such as the process of coming
out, homophobia, bisexuality and gender identities like intersex
and transgender.

Cookies from Subway and drinks were available as well, and those
who chose to sign an ally contract at the end of the program
received either a pin or a placard reading, “Cal Poly Pomona Safe
Zone Ally.”

The ally contract asked those who signed to be visibly
supportive of the LGBT community and of anyone dealing with sexual
orientation or gender identity issues. By being supportive, allies
help to create more safe spaces on campus for those dealing with
extra anxiety.

The final hour of the program was devoted to listing all the
important qualities an ally should have, such as being respectful,
trustworthy, available, genuine and supportive of anyone who needs
a safe space.

Second-year Sociology student Steve Tran’s biggest concern going
into the training session was learning to be an ally without coming
on too strong.

“I’m always trying to find out how I can serve without
overstepping,” said Tran after the program.

In order to be a better ally, Tran said being aware of the
prejudices one harbors is an important step.

“I try to get rid of certain words I shouldn’t be using or
certain behaviors,” said Tran.

He is also a member of Men Against Violence, a student group
associated with the Violence Prevention and Women’s Resource
Center.

Other items discussed by the panel included the topic of
single-stall bathrooms and gender-neutral housing on campus, which
became an option for students living in the residential suites in
March of this year.

Grosser, who has worked at Cal Poly Pomona’s Pride Center for
three years, said that while plumbing and construction for
bathrooms and living quarters will be harder issues to tackle, her
first priority is something simpler.

“I would just like to see more visibility and more community,”
said Grosser after Safe Zone Ally Training.

Grosser said Cal Poly Pomona’s status as a “commuter school”
makes raising awareness and getting students engaged more
difficult.

Before coming to CPP, Grosser worked at UC Riverside’s LGBT
Resource Center, where having two full-time coordinators made
planning and organizing events much easier.

Her main goal for the Pride Center is to find new and different
ways for people inside and outside of the LGBT community to connect
with each other.

“As a one-person show, I just know I can’t do it all,” said
Grosser.

While Thursday’s training was the last Safe Zone program of the
year, the Pride Center presents one or two training programs each
quarter.

For more information and upcoming events, visit
www.dsa.csupomona.edu/pride/default.asp.

Safe Zone Ally

Jose Gonzalez / The Poly Post

Safe Zone Ally

Safe Zone Ally

Jose Gonzalez / The Poly Post

Safe Zone Ally

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