LGBT Safe Zones Encourages Safety
Texas Tech is making strides to become a friendlier environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered, or LGBT, students.
The Student Government Association instated the LGBT safe zone act earlier this semester. The act encourages Tech faculty members to designate their office as a safe area for students struggling with their sexuality or gender to come and talk about what they’re going through.
Rob Peaslee, chairmen of the department of journalism and electronic media, said the University of Colorado had a similar program while he was studying there. Peaslee thinks it is important for every student to know that someone is on their side.
“My thinking is that I want it to be clear to those students that this office is a place that they can come and ask questions, or unload, or cry, or share victories and triumphs, or whatever,” Peaslee said, “and just not feel as though they have to worry about being judged.”
Conner Marshall, a junior advertising major, said he came out to his friends and family as gay when he was 21-years-old.
“In the beginning, I came out to my parents first,” Marshall said. “They were pretty accepting of it. I always got the question of, ‘Are you sure? Are you sure? How do you know?’”
Marshall said he always knew he was gay, but coming out was hard. He said he had a great support system, which made the experience easier.
“It got to the point where I had to stop really caring what everyone else thought,” Marshall said. “And, I had a good group of supporters behind me, so it was good.”
Marshall said he has been with his boyfriend, Evan Hartsfield, for nearly two years. Although they are very open about their relationship, Marshall said it is hard to be any kind of different in West Texas. He said the couple has never experienced direct discrimination, but they still keep public displays of affection to a minimum.
“But it’s always in the back of your mind,” Marshall said. “I mean, it is always there. Especially, I mean, even to the point of holding hands. I don’t want to do it on campus. I always feel like people are staring at us. Because you know, I mean, this is the South.”
Although Marshall hasn’t taken advantage of the LGBT safe zones, he thinks it is a great idea. He said having someone to talk to is crucial to getting through the coming out process.
“You’re in the South, everybody knows especially with Texas, a lot of people are against it,” Marshall said. “And that really hinders people accepting who they are, being able to tell other people, just the possibility of having someone to go talk to. Especially when you’re in college. You’re away from your family, your away from your friends, you don’t have your parents to talk to. It would be really nice to have a face-to-face conversation with someone that understands your situation.”
Peaslee said although not very many students have used the safe zones, he thinks it’s just a comfort to know they are there.
“I almost think that the impact is much less direct, in that walking around, seeing these on doors, is probably as empowering, if not more empowering than any particular interaction that I or any other faculty member may have with a student,” Peaslee said, “because they see that and then come in and talk to us.”
To find out more about the LGBT Safe Zones, visit the Texas Tech Student Counseling Center website.