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Safe Zone Training, conducted by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s LGBTQ+ Center, promotes LGBTQ+ equity and inclusion. Anyone in the UH Mānoa community looking to address oppression and be part of a university-wide campaign to build a safe and welcoming campus community for LGBTQ+ people, is welcome to the monthly sessions. These sessions are a campaign of visibility and allyship for LGBTQ+ people. Past attendees of the training said it has allowed them to become more effective advocates for integrating diversity, equity and inclusion in the classroom and in curriculum.

K. Uilani Chow-Rule, assistant professor in the Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing, said it was important for LGBTQ+ students to know they have an ally in the nursing school.

“It is important for instructors to create a safe environment. Students haven’t always had a safe place to ask questions or be at risk for feeling stupid for speaking up. Then add the historic way the LGBTQ+ community has been treated and this adds to the anxiety of students,” said Chow-Rule, who attended a training session in July 2021. “Being an ally and creating an inclusive environment is not the same as agreeing with or adopting their beliefs; it’s about recognizing that we are all human, we all have the agency to choose for ourselves and to respect the choices of others.”

School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology Associate Specialist Aaron Pietruszka attended a training session in October 2021. He said the experience helped him to better understand the challenges that LGBTQ+ students still encounter today, and plans to help promote diversity and inclusion within the Department of Earth Sciences, where Pietruszka is a faculty member.

“I enjoyed the ability to interact with the other participants during the training as we discussed challenging scenarios that LGBTQ+ students, staff and faculty might face during their time on the UH Mānoa campus,” Pietruszka said. “We all learned from each other during the training, which is a good approach to make a lasting positive impact on behaviors. I think the Safe Zone Training would be useful to experience annually, so I plan to sign up again next year.”

Specialist Thanh Truc Nguyen of the Curriculum Research & Development Group in the College of Education said she has always been an ally for LGBTQ+ inclusion and equity, but this workshop helped with actionable strategies and techniques.

“I would say that it is an enlightening workshop,” Nguyen said. “I learned more about our campus-wide policies, our state’s gender designations, the number of gender-neutral restrooms on campus, and met some wonderful people who were brave in sharing their stories.”

Upcoming training sessions

The LGBTQ+ Center has scheduled virtual monthly training sessions through July 2022. Topics covered will include, the difference between “assigned sex,” “gender” and “sexual orientation,” the rights of the LGBTQ+ UH Mānoa community, how to maximize gender and LGBTQ+ inclusion in your daily life, and how to be an effective ally or advocate for LGBTQ+ people. For a list of upcoming sessions and to register, visit this website.

“Everyone in our UH Mānoa community is welcome to attend an upcoming Safe Zone training. While many of the examples are specific to LGBTQ+ communities, many of the strategies for allyship can be used to stand in solidarity with many marginalized groups,” LGBTQ+ Center Director Camaron Miyamoto said.

This program is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Enhancing Student Success (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.

—By Marc Arakaki

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