Supporting Our LGBTQ Students: It Takes a Village

At The University of Arizona, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) students comprise an estimated 5% of the student population which is roughly 2,000 students. To better serve students who identify as LGBTQ, the UA established the Office of LGBTQ Affairs in 2007. This momentous decision was brought about after nearly twenty years of advocacy by students, faculty and staff. 

All college students need a sense of belonging and community, and this need is particularly important for LGBTQ students who, as a group, are at a higher risk of isolation and even suicide. In this way, it is especially significant for LGBTQ students to be able to find other LGBTQ and allied students, develop friendships, and foster a sense of community and belonging. This is what we are here to do.

The Office of LGBTQ Affairs is tasked with creating and sustaining a safe, and inclusive environment for everyone — students, faculty, staff, appointed professionals, alumni, parents, and guests—of all gender identities and sexual orientations.  This momentous task is accomplished through running an LGBTQ Resource Center, serving as a campus resource, providing direction to LGBTQ student groups, providing training on LGBTQ issues, actively engaging in outreach and advocacy, conducting research, and providing support for current LGBTQ students, staff, and faculty.  Our office has three signature programming areas to highlight:

Signature Programs for the Office of LGBTQ Affairs

Safe Zone Training Program
Safe Zone is a campus-wide program that provides information and resources to allies seeking to be effective supporters of LGBTQ students through a 4-hour training.  Since Spring 2010 over 2.600 participants have attended training. The need for this training is exemplified by the fact that LGBTQ students at the UA report experiencing significantly more violence than their heterosexual counterparts, including three times more bullying, five times more hate crimes/discrimination, two times more physical assaults, and three times more sexual assaults. The level of violence and harassment facing the LGBTQ community demonstrates both the need for training programs that prepare campus members to be Safe Zones for all members of the campus community, as well as the need to visibly mark allies. This is the explicit purpose of the Safe Zone Training Program. Simply put, a “safe zone” is a person who is “safe” for LGBTQ students: by displaying a Safe Zone sign you are affirming LGBTQ people and identifying yourself as a safe person to approach for support or guidance. If you have not already attended this training, please consider doing so. This is a great way to make yourself visible to LGBTQ and allied students.

Internship Program & Campus Events
Our internship is a collaborative program with LGBTQ Affairs and Pride Alliance, the UA’s largest LGBTQ student organization. Interns are responsible for running our LGBTQ Resource Center and for developing events for the LGBTQ and allied community at the UA. Interns put on about 60 events per year, which thousands of people attend. Our signature events include Rainbow Graduation, Coming Out Week, Transgender Awareness Week, Second Chance Prom and the Day of Silence. Events help students both find and create community. Please check out our calendar of events and share them with students.

LGBTQ Support Group
This collaborative program with Counseling and Psychological Services through Campus Health is a safe place for UA students, faculty and staff to talk in an open and supportive environment about issues impacting their lives and the LGBTQ and allied community. The group meets every Tuesday from 4-5:30pm in the Student Union, Room 412 and is a great place to refer LGBTQ students who are in need of additional support. LGBTQ college students often need support around the “coming-out” process and this space allows students to question their sexual orientation and gender identity, begin coming out to themselves, navigate the terrain of unsupportive families, or be completely out in their lives both on and off campus. Students who have amazing and supportive coming out experiences and students who have been disowned by their families are able to find strength in one another and share their lived experience without fear of rejection or judgment. Coming out is a lifelong process and will continue to be an issue for which LGBTQ college students need support. If you encounter a student who needs support around these or related issues, please send them to this group. It is free and confidential.

While this is an outline of our programming, every day we are reminded that there is still a lot of work to do. Making our campus an inclusive environment for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities takes commitment from everyone on campus. You can help by getting involved, becoming a Safe Zone, and by knowing the resources available to the LGBTQ and allied students that you serve. Thank you for your help.