For LGBTQ students and staff, school environments present frequent pressures and difficulties. Ignorance, hateful and inexcusable language, mental and emotional harassment, threats of physical violence and suicides are unfortunately a devastating reality for many LGBTQ youth. 

According to the 2015 Transgender Survey Report, the majority of students who were transgender while in school (K–12) experienced mistreatment. The abuse and oppression being endured by youth includes: verbal harassment (54%), physical attacks (24%), sexual assault (13%) and (17%) experienced such severe mistreatment that they left a school as a result. 

In our society today, roughly 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ and about 40% of transgender people attempted suicide compared to 4.6% of the general population. These are staggering statistics that need changing. Unfortunately many teens don’t know where to go for guidance and most schools don’t have a LGBTQ Center with an active student support group.

The fear of unintentionally displaying homophobic or discriminatory behavior has shown to be an obstacle for effective communication with LGBTQ teens and adults. Evidence shows that training programs make a difference in how heterosexuals understand and interact. Assessment results show improved environment, increased conversations and improved the comfort level of the participants in the program.

We implement a Safe Space training program designed to help teach our staff the proper knowledge of creating and fostering environments that are supportive and safe for LGBTQ teens. Being someone who is questioning his or her sexual orientation or gender identity, can be daunting and isolating. Youth need to feel supported in order for them to let go of stresses, come out and tap into creativity.

The training program is dynamic and interactive. It incorporates activities and discussions containing education in: understanding sexual orientation and gender identity, respectful language, the process of coming out, taking action in schools, organizations and workplaces, where to seek help and more. This will give each participant the skills needed to provide support and create environments that are equal, welcoming and safe.

The straightforwardness and visibility of the Safe Space logo around the grounds grants acceptance, support and a sense of safety that lets youth know they aren’t alone. It creates a sacred space where adolescents can bring their authentic selves and feel welcome. This is a vital, proactive step that schools and organizations can take so that all people within are empowered to thrive.