Texas Library Association Annual Conference

Friday, April 20, 2012

Safe Space Kit 101: A Guide to Being an Ally to LGBT Youth

Presented by Kim Case of GLSEN-Houston and the University of Houston at Clear Lake Psychology and Women’s Studies department and Tonya Renee Hammer of the University of Houston at Clear Lake Counseling Department and School of Education

GLSEN Website

Safe Space Kit

GLSEN-Houston works within the university to provide a safe and welcoming environment for gay and lesbian students. The national organization has created a Safe Space Kit for organizations who wish to make their institutions a safe space as well. Each kit is $20 and comes with the guide, as well as posters and stickers. The kit is also available to download for free in black and white.

While homosexuality is becoming more and more acceptable in society, there are still areas where gay teens are treated with hostility. With the rising rate of teen suicides due to bullying, it’s important that we promote ourselves as adults who will support them through their struggle and make the surrounding environment a place where they can be without feeling threatened.

It’s also important to know the issues that teens are facing every day, and where we as individuals stand on those issues. Institutionally, we need to make sure we are doing everything in our power to show students that we will not stand for intolerance by curbing the use of all slurs and by standing up to physical and mental abuse. Use of slurs or other forms of abuse must be dealt with immediately.

Other notes:

Tips on interacting with transgender/transexual patrons: When referring to a patron, use the plural form for the short term. Don’t assume! If you’ll be interacting with the patron frequently, ask them how they would like to be addressed. Display a sign indicating to all patrons that we would like to know how to address them.

Make sure filters allow access to GLBT support websites. Questioning teens will need these sites when they’re unsure of their orientation.

Collect books about prominent historical gay and lesbian figures. Collect titles from ALA’s Rainbow Book List for teens and the Over the Rainbow List for adults.