A Willing Ear and an Active Protector

Last night I wrote a diary about Hatred.  I mentioned a couple of concepts in that diary that I wish to explore today:  Safe Spaces/Zones and Hate Free Zones.

When I came out, it was inevitable that everyone would know about me.  That had its downside, which is what I’ve largely written about.  But it had an upside as well, an incredibly heartwarming one  I was able to become a resource for students who desperately needed one.  It took awhile for gay and lesbian students to become comfortable with me, but I immediately was contacted by several students who were gender-variant themselves or had relatives who were.  Apparently I was the first person any of them had to talk with about it.

Reposted in part from Teacher’s Lounge

It was an enormous responsibility, especially given the fact that I was myself trying to learn about what it meant to be me.  It continued for the rest of my years at the University of Central Arkansas and extended to getting phone calls and emails from people all over the country.

I made my home and office into Safe Spaces (well, as safe as they could be considering they were constantly under observation and prone to vandalism).  Whenever they needed to, people were free to come and let me listen to their stories.  To me, that’s what a Safe Space is:  the location of a willing ear.  It is especially helpful if that listener has information to provide to help the speakers validate their existence.

I eventually buckled under that responsibility.  Why should anyone listen to me about who they would become?  But I continued to think of myself at a Hate Free Zone.  I am and will always be an active protector of those who need protection from hatred.

When we moved to New Jersey, I became the luckiest tranny alive.  I was invited to apply for a tenure-track position at the most openly supportive atmosphere I could imagine.  I mean, where is one going to find a college where valuing diversity is part of the mission statement, which provided domestic partnership benefits and where 15 to 20 percent of the faculty were GLBT, and that was willing to take a chance on a math professor’s ability to become a professor of computer languages.  (I’ll not make any links to there today.  We’ve had an infestation of hackers recently.)

Since my arrival I’ve been one of the coordinators of the Gay/Non-Gay Alliance.  I do not have the time to devote to that to do a good job of it, but I try.  This year, we’ll be doing another Safe Zone training in the spring semester.  The other coordinators are pretty much in a similar state as mine, so we’re having Debbie Bazarsky come from Princeton’s GLBT Center this year (she’s the director).  She’s younger than us fogey-types and has a lot more handouts than we could produce. 🙂

While she is here, we hope she’s going to not only speak to our fellow faculty and staff members, but also to our student residence assistants, students in the multicultural diversity certificate program and students majoring in Human Resources.

The objective is to produce a lot more willing ears and earnest protectors.

Does your school have a similar program?  Your place of work?

Shouldn’t it?

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    • Robyn on November 24, 2007 at 7:50 pm
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    …that the lack of activity over at the Orange is not because the diary suggests ways of turning ideas into actions, but rather that it is the Saturday after Turkey Day and people are out and about.

  1. My home is just about my only place that I can work to make into a safe zone, but I do everything I can to make it just that.  Children and young adults are in and out of here all the time.  It’s my job to create this hate free zone and if I don’t I’m failing my children because when you can’t respect another you can’t respect yourself.  My daughter says that I’m preceived as very strange around here and she says it in a delighted way and I suppose I cherish her delight and as for the rest of who and why they feel I’m so peculiar I could really give a Good God Damned 😉  Colorado Springs is very open to “differences”.  Wyoming, where I spent my late teen years and my twenties, I know all the community nooks and crannies for hate and because I felt like they were my “people” I loving and positively challenged those I knew to ask themselves why we would even consider the hate.  Wyoming has a Libertarian twist so I wasn’t overly labeled or harrassed for sharing my beliefs and I did so because I was bonded to that community.  I’m getting old now.  I’m not bonded to the Deep South and I don’t feel the energy in my life right now to want to do it let alone to be able to do it so here I am, this is how I is and how it is, and if you don’t like it….well….tough shit baby 😉

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