3A. Safe Space Training Introduction

By now, you probably wondered what all the hype is about in terms of our website being a "Safe Space". Now is the time that you'll learn about our Safe Space policies and what you need to know to make our website a Safe Space. All staff members are expected to follow these guidelines very faithfully in our community. We want everyone to feel like they're welcomed and a part of a safe environment. We also want to encourage users to be able to discuss sensitive issues in our community with the knowledge they can do so safely without judgment.

What is a Safe Space?

The term "Safe Space" is frequently used in businesses, schools and universities, and on social media. The term "safe space" is an identification to tell other people that the business, school/university, website, or entity promotes and encourages an environment free from discrimination and harassment. Safe Spaces are meant to encourage freedom of thought, expression, and dialogue, with the knowing that if any intentional discrimination or bullying takes place, something will be done about it to protect the safety of everyone. This is regardless of how one identifies; everyone is welcome. In addition, should a problem arise, safe spaces aim to promote an environment of safety, support, non-bias, dialogue, listening, and collaboration to resolve the conflict at hand. Some Safe spaces, including ours on LoveyCube, also work to protect confidentiality and privacy. Anything shared within a safe space is to stay within the confines of that safe space.

For an easy-to-remember acronym of what Safe Spaces aim to do, just remember RESPECT:
Recognize and communicate
Expect mistakes and unfinished business
Speak up when you see something
Participate in constructive dialogue
Engage in promoting a safe space and being an Ally
Protect Confidentiality
Take care and responsibility of yourself

What is an Ally?

In the RESPECT acronym above, you probably caught sight of the term "Ally". An Ally is an individual or group who speaks and stands up for an individual or group who is being oppressed or discriminated against. For example, an ally for the LGBT community is someone who stands up for LGBT rights and stands against LGBT hatred and discrimination. We ask all staff to be allies of every community that could potentially face oppression or discrimination. Should discrimination or conflict occur, staff need to be able to respectfully and efficiently intervene to resolve the conflict and educate those who may need some knowledge on related issues. Should you have difficulty being an ally of any group you are asked to be, please have a talk with Lovinity and other allies. We will help you understand the oppression and how to be an ally for that group.

Why should you be an Ally?

Anyone is subject to bullying and harassment… and anyone is also subject to discrimination. People of a minority are especially at risk of bullying and discrimination, for no more than because of who they are. Support of allies is a key element to helping combat against bullying, harassment, and discrimination.

For example, discriminating and non-inclusive language can spread like wild fire in society. Though seemingly harmless, especially if used as a joke, they perpetuate oppression and hatred of those who do not identify with social standards. They also make those who do identify as a minority feel unsafe and unwelcomed. It can therefore affect their performance, esteem, and overall outlook on life and relationships. That is why it is very important as an ally to speak up when non-inclusive or discriminating language is used, or bullying or harassment occurs. Speaking up not only helps make it clear that it is not okay to use that kind of language or behavior, but it also educates others on the dangers of using that language or behavior. Further, it helps create understanding and acceptance of others, no matter how they identify.

Being a good Ally

There are several things you should take into consideration as a safe space ally.
  • First off, you'll need to exercise good listening skills. Don't speak over others when they are talking. Be open-minded and empathetic of what others need, especially if they were involved in a conflict.
  • Understand what privilege is… being privileged means to be a part of a group of people who will not experience oppression solely because of who they are. For example, if the social expectation is white heterosexuality, then someone who identifies as a white heterosexual is privileged. They're not oppressed because that's what society expects.
  • Do your research and homework. Learn about other identities, cultures, and ways of identifying. Know when to "shut up".
  • Speak up, but not over. In other words, know when to stand up against discrimination, oppression, harassment, and bullying. But do not drown out the words of others, especially those directly involved, with your own. You are an ally with them, not for them.
  • Apologize for your mistakes. Understand that intent does not matter; impact does. Do not make excuses to try and justify your mistake. It does not matter why you did what you did. What matters is how you impacted others from your mistake.
  • Understand that ally is a verb. You cannot be an ally without doing the ally. Do not claim yourself as an ally and not speak up or stand for what is right when wrong is taking place. Silence is the same as taking the side of the oppressor.

Exercise 1

Messages of Different Groups

Send a message to the staff member responsible for your training. In your message, discuss different discriminatory, oppressing, or harassing messages that you have heard about the following categories:
  • Gay / lesbian community
  • Race
  • People who identify as bisexual
  • Socio-economic status
  • Transgender community
  • Religion / faith
The purpose of this exercise is to learn to identify messages that may be hurtful and oppressing to different groups of individuals. Knowing what is hurtful is important to understanding what not to say or do, and to understanding how to promote an inclusive society.

Exercise 2

Understanding your Own Beliefs

Send a message to the staff member responsible for your training. In your message, answer the following questions honestly; you will not be disciplined for your responses because honesty is the first step to being a safe space ally:
  • What would your first thought be if a close friend were to identify themselves to you as LGBT for the first time?
  • How would you feel if a family member identified as LGBT to you? What about children?
  • Would you attend a doctor who identified as LGBT but was of a different gender from you? What about if they were the same gender as you? Would you attend a doctor who identified as a different race from you? How about a different religion?
  • Have you attended a pride event for the LGBT community or other community of a minority? Why or why not?
  • Can you think of three historical figures who identified as LGBT? How about three who are of a different race? Different religion?
  • Have you ever made or laughed at a joke intended to make fun of someone for identifying in a minority group, such as the LGBT community? How did that make you feel later on? How did it make others feel?
  • Have you ever stood up for someone who was being harassed or bullied? Or did you keep silent and try to avoid conflict? Why did you choose to do what you did?
  • How would you feel if people thought you identified sexually, racially, or religiously as someone other than what you actually do?
The purpose of this exercise is to recognize your own bias and discrimination towards people who do not identify the same as you do. Recognizing your own bias is necessary to becoming an ally and ensuring your biases do not interfere with ally work.