What is Safe Zone?

The Safe Zone Project, through education, advocacy, visibility, and skill development, supports faculty and staff to become allies for glbtqtqi (Q) students and colleagues. The Project is designed to radically reduce prejudice and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression at the University of Washington campus and create a safe and affirming campus.

The Safe Zone symbol provides a message to Q students and colleagues that the person displaying the symbol is a person who has completed the Safe Zone training, has decided to be an active and visible ally, can be trusted to maintain confidentiality, and will respond to the individual with understanding, support, and empathy. If a Q student seeks help, advice, or just someone with whom s/he/ze can talk, s/he/ze can expect to be met with openness and respect.

All Safe Zone workshops are 3 hours in length and participants must attend the entire workshop to receive the Safe Zone placard.

If you would like to schedule a Safe Zone Training for your workgroup email qcenter@u.washington.edu or call us at 897-1430.

Vocabulary Overview

The Purpose and History of Safe Zone

Often non-glbtqtqi (straight) people are called on to be advocates for Q people on campus. Some will have few skills or resources available to them to guide their own development and/or help others become advocates for our Q communities. Yet, non-Q staff, students, and faculty can significantly impact the campus culture by becoming allies around the issues of sexual and gender orientation/expression.

Heterosexual allies are people who are supportive of Q folks, aware of the issues impacting our communities, and are people who actively create Q-friendly spaces. Washington and Evans (1991, p. 195) define an ally as "a person who is a member of the dominant or majority group who works to end oppression in his or her personal and professional life through support of, and as an advocate with and for, the oppressed population.” Allies of different groups of people (race, ethnicity, class, gender, religion, etc.), have been instrumental in affecting positive change in the dominant culture.

A number of college and universities have implemented educational interventions with names such as SAFE on Campus, Safe Zone, Safe Space, Safe Harbor, and Safe Zone Campus. The hallmark of these "Safe" programs is the public identification of allies by placing a "Safe" symbol, usually incorporating a pink triangle or rainbow, on office doors or within living spaces.


Basic information on human sexuality, sexual and gender orientation, sexual and gender identity, and sexual and gender expression. Many of the "I-should-have-known-that" kinds of questions are discussed in a learner-friendly welcoming atmosphere. You will confront your internalized homophobia/heterosexism (we all have it, we are trained to have it!). You will become familiar with the "tools" of an ally, which will help you to create safer, more affirming spaces for all your students and colleagues.

Safe Zone Guidelines

Respect each individual’s privacy. We are asking you to keep contacts confidential.

Avoid labeling. Use the vocabulary the individual uses: If the individual says “queer, gay, Two-Spirit, lesbian, bisexual,” or “trans” use the term they use. Use language that reflects where the student is in their development. (Example: A student may be exploring his/her sexuality/gender identity and may not identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or trans even though she/he is engaging in same-sex relationships or exploring gender roles, expression, and identity.

Be an advocate, advisor, teacher, or mentor to students who seek your support. And, maintain clear and professional boundaries. Feel free to have coffee or lunch with students who seek you out. However, we do not condone the formation of romantic or sexual relationships between UW employees and students. If you have any concerns about this please contact the Q Center Coordinator.

Please feel free to consult with the Q Center Coordinator and Safe Zone Instructors when you have questions or would like feedback on how to support or advise a student. Use the Safe Zone listserve as well.

Refer students for counseling when appropriate. If a student is experiencing psychological distress and is having difficulty coping, suggest that counseling may be helpful to him/her. A good guideline for you to use: If you are feeling overwhelmed or worried about a student, then they are likely feeling much the same and it is a good idea to refer them to the Student Counseling Center or to Hall Health.

If your Safe Zone Symbol is defaced or torn down, contact the Q Center Coordinator for a new one.

Please inform the Q Center Coordinator if you are leaving the University, changing offices or address, or want to withdraw from the program.

Do not share or provide your Safe Zone Symbol or sticker with friends or colleagues that are not part of the Project.

As a participant in Safe Zone you are agreeing to be an ally to gbltqi students on campus. The symbol represents your agreement to create in your classroom, office, residence hall, or other space on campus; a safe, supportive environment in which all students belong and are treated with respect.

Act with compassion, respect, and dignity.

Other campuses offering Safe Zone Projects.