(Mis)understanding Safe Spaces For LGBTQ Students

A safe space is a place where students involved in the LGBTQ community can go to teachers or other staff members for support. It is called a “safe” space because it means that students can talk to someone without judgement. These spaces are usually shown via a sticker or a logo on a staff member’s door, indicating that they are someone  supports the LGBTQ community. I believe that these are extremely important. Because of religious views, social pressure, or fear of being rejected, some students may not be comfortable coming out to their friends and family. But being able to talk to an adult anonymously may help to ease some of the struggles that LGBTQ youth go through. I thought that the idea of safe spaces was pretty well-known. I have seen safe spaces in many different high schools and colleges I have visited or worked at. However, apparently not everyone is aware of this trend.

A New York Times articles entitled “Oh, You Mean That Safe Space” explains how the dean of the University of Chicago, John Ellison, stated that the “university does not condone safe spaces.” At first, this may seem extremely homophobic. Is he saying that LGBTQ students don’t have the right to speak to a professor or faculty member about their sexual orientation? No, this isn’t what he meant. He was not aware of the concept of LGBTQ safe spaces and thought that the term was referring to something else: “where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.” After the misunderstanding, another employee at the University of Chicago claimed that the university is still very accepting, and has many safe spaces.

But what if the dean had been serious or the misunderstanding had never been cleared up? This would have caused a huge problem for LGBTQ students at the University of Chicago because it is invalidating not only a support system, but their divergent orientations as well. Although things were cleared up at UC, this struggle exists at other schools. The charter school I worked at would not approve a Gay-Straight alliance because the administrators were religious. The admins are obviously entitled to their own religious beliefs, but they shouldn’t push them on their students. Luckily, there were teachers with safe spaces that students could talk to, but what if there weren’t any? It is common knowledge that young adults go through identity crisis. How is a young person supposed to feel secure when others don’t acknowledge them?

The dean of the University of Chicago can be forgiven because it was a misunderstanding. Some of the older generation of educators may not be aware of the current trends in the LGBT community. Because of this, it is important that teachers and schools become educated about safe spaces and use them to benefit their students.

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