GSD House, GSA introduce Sewanee Safe Space program

by Kathryn Willgus

As you go through the academic buildings on your daily class schedule, you might notice that the hallways are just a little brighter. Some faculty members have elected to be trained and participate in the Sewanee Safe Space Program, a movement on campus that allows students, faculty, and staff to signal to the Sewanee student body that they support and respect LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual) rights and issues on campus.

Members of the Sewanee community were given the opportunity to participate in a three-hour training session in the Mary Sue Cushman Room of the Women’s Center on either Saturday, November 9th or Saturday, November 23rd. The Gender and Sexual Diversity (GSD) House and the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) hosted the training sessions. There have been Sewanee safe space efforts in the past, and many different types of rainbow stickers can still be seen on office doors around campus. This new effort worked to re-train anyone who had committed to the program in the past, as well as add new members who had never been trained before.

Participants in this new training program took time at the event both to learn and to personally reflect. They listened to a PowerPoint and participated in personal activities, partner activities, and small group activities, such as listing identities they themselves identified with (“student”, “woman”, “boyfriend”, “athlete”), or pairing LGBTQIA terms with their definitions. People were not meant to walk out of the Sewanee Safe Space Program training feeling as though they were now experts on everything LGBTQIA. Instead, the training was meant to simply give community members some terms, new knowledge, and a network of peers that would allow them to best support and affirm any LGBTQIA student who came to their dorm room or office door.

If you see a rainbow EQB sign as you walk down the halls, take a moment to remember the reason why it is there. Sewanee is a community that cares for all its members, and accepts them just as they are. We are responsible for each other, and must do our best to support each other in any way that we can. As the sign proclaims, there is truly “Strength in Diversity.”

If you are interested in participating in a Sewanee Safe Space Program training session, contact or any member of the GSD House or the GSA. A weekday training session is tentatively scheduled for the Easter semester.