Learn more about Mason’s Safe Zone and other resources available to students
BY BROOKE LEWITAS, STAFF WRITER
Actress and trans rights activist Laverne Cox once said, “I’ve never been interested in being invisible and erased.” However, incidents of invisibility, erasure and discrimination are intertwined with the history of LGBTQ+ populations. This raises the question—what resources are available on campus to these students at Mason? This past month, the website, Affordable Colleges Online, ranked Mason as a top college for LGBTQ+ students based on a rubric of inclusive policies, support in housing, counseling and health and other factors.
Campus support for LGBTQ+ students can be found in LGBTQ Resources, which is part of Mason’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Multicultural Education (ODIME). You can contact LGBTQ Resources by calling 703-993-2702, or by visiting the Student Union Building (SUB 1).
Another resource is the Safe Zone program, developed to foster the most supportive environment possible for these students. According to a survey on LGBTQ+ Resources’ website, conducted by the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, LGBTQ+ students were five times more likely to have attempted suicide. To combat this, Mason has established the Safe Zone program so a more inclusive and positive environment could be created within Mason’s community.
The program is an effort to lessen the effects of the various stressors these students are facing, with training focusing on awareness of their identities, genders within the community and ally skills. Training consists of attending two three-hour courses that educate participants on issues within the community. After it, participants receive a button or sticker which designates them as visible, active supporters of the community, showing that they support the LGBTQ+ community and understand more of the issues the community endures.
In addition to this program, there are several student organizations for the LGBTQ+ community. One of them is the Pride Alliance. “[Life] can feel very isolating if you don’t know any [LGBTQ+] people,” Evelyn Bright, president of Pride Alliance, said. “If you’re gay and everyone you know is straight, it can be isolating.”
It has been difficult for her to find any professionals and psychologists that have been trained in LGBTQ+ issues, especially within Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). “They seemed intimidated to have me there,” Bright said. “Some people have had good experiences, but it’s very luck of the draw. [One problem students have is that] they often tried to push people out and try to find a provider outside of CAPS, but when they do it they don’t usually consider how difficult and intimidating it can be to [know] whether [that outside provider will] be accepting of you.”
If you are an LGBTQ+ student and looking for campus support, the good news is that there are so many campus offices that are actively supportive of LGBTQ+ students, including the Student Support and Advocacy Center (SSAC), Office of Equity and Diversity Services, and Women and Gender Studies. Mason also employs a CAPS liaison for LGBTQ+ related topics.
With all of these resources, the LGBTQ+ community can feel safer and better represented on campus—a high achievement for Mason’s community.