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Office of LGBTQ Resources hosts SafeZone workshop to educate campus community on allyship

Matthew Mueller
RJ Stone passes out Pride flags at Kentucky Black Pride fest on Saturday, Sep. 17, 2023, at Woodland park, Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Matthew Mueller | Staff

The University of Kentucky Office of LGBTQ Resources hosted a 90-minute SafeZone workshop open to any student or faculty member wanting more education on ways individuals can be better allies for the LGBTQ community.

On Thursday, March 28, Glen Means, director of the Office of LGBTQ Resources, started the workshop with an icebreaker. Words such as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender appeared on a board, and Means asked the audience the stereotypes they have heard surrounding those words. This led into a conversation of destigmatizing those stereotypes.

“Words mean everything. We have to be purposeful and intentional,” Means said.

This workshop further explored topics such as the education of definitions of sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, the usage of pronouns and how to be a support system when a friend “comes out.”

Ava Hess, a sophomore studying public health, presented the workshop alongside Means. Hess is currently a student ambassador for the Office of LGBTQ Resources.

Hess took the time to explain how important it is that UK hosts free workshops dedicated to educating the campus on important LGBTQ+ topics that affect the community.

“One of the pillars in our office is education,” Hess said. “We make sure to educate the faculty, staff and healthcare employees here for awareness for students. These workshops help humanize these people in face of these issues is vital.”

As a student ambassador at the Office of LGBTQ resources, Hess holds a number of roles. She helps monitor the center, run workshops and is at the center for any student that needs someone to listen to them and have those important conversations.

Hess said she uses her public health major to her advantage by integrating UK Healthcare into some events that focus on STI screenings. She also puts on gender-affirming closet events. These events are dedicated to providing free clothing for the community to be able to find clothing that fits their style and gives them a way to express themselves through clothing. 

Jay Stringer-Vaught, a UK graduate student and graduate assistant at the Office of LGBTQ Resources, attended the event. He said he believes that the SafeZone workshop is important to the community because of what the LGBTQ+ community is facing in legislation.

“Being queer people tend to look at it as being more accepted now, but really we see that it’s really not, so it’s important that people are educated on our experiences,” he said.

Stringer-Vaught said he dreamt this job up, and he is currently the resident librarian of the center and expands resources to help the community.

“Getting to tell our stories at these workshops and getting to add to the narrative of queer experiences aren’t always directed by queer people. So, in workshops like this we get to explain our lived experiences and what we go through,” Stringer-Vaught said.

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