SafeZone coordinator previews Transgender Awareness Event

Q&A with Michelle Blair on her plans for SafeZone

Tammy Do, Times Staff

SafeZone and the President’s Arts and Lectures series is hosting a panel of four transgender and genderqueer panelists who will speak on their experiences Thursday, Nov. 16, from 12:15-1:30 p.m. in T415, in recognition of Transgender Awareness Month and Transgender Day of Remembrance (Nov. 20). Panelists will also discuss the impact of current politics and ways to support the transgender community, before wrapping up the event with a moment of silence for TDoR.

As Safe Zone coordinator, what do you think your role is on campus?

Blair: As I understand it, Joseph King, who started the program all by himself many years ago – he really wanted to spread awareness for faculty and staff. He certainly wanted to be a resource for LGBTQ students, but I think his focus was very much (on education).

I kind of want to make it bigger. I want everyone to understand, but I also want there to be a robust community here that is being served.


What are your plans?

Blair: Together with some other people on campus, who are part of the LGBT community – which I’m not, per se – we’re trying to think about how we can create this. For students, I want to get off the ground a club.

There have been the few events over the years that were created by Student Activities. There were people who were interested, but nothing ever happened afterwards. I’m trying to make something happen afterwards.

There was a welcome reception (on Sept. 19) where we wanted to say, “Hey, we’re here; come on in.” There was a small but wonderful turnout.

We have LGBT students here. We want there to be some visibility in addition to acceptance. We want them to feel like they have a home here, and a space.

Even if they feel accepted, there isn’t a place for them to gather. So another thing I’m really hoping for is to get a space – a room or a center.

Also, I want to make sure students and faculty are aware of where the all-gender bathrooms are.


What events do you have coming up?

Blair: Last year I had an event in conjunction with the President’s Art and Lecture series. The third week of November is Transgender Awareness week. There were three transgender people who came and spoke: two adults and one younger person who was a student on campus.

We had a big turnout. People just spoke about who they were and what their journeys were, and each of their journeys were different. I think the students found very fascinating. It was very moving. And then, we had a moment of silence for people who have been murdered.

We’re doing it again this year. I’m hoping to do that every year.


What has been your experience with students and staff reaching out to you?

Blair: I think that Joseph King had an open door. Being a gay man of whatever age he was, he had a lot of wisdom. My door is always open. Obviously I don’t have the experience that those people have, but I’m here. I can direct people.

Sometimes I get emails from students (and staff) asking, “What can you tell me about Safe Zone?”

And I tell them: “Tell me what you’re looking for, because the Safe Zone is whatever we want it to be.”

And they may want more information. They may want to know where they can talk to a transgender person. So I find something that can guide them. Even if it’s just someone on campus, I might say, “This person would be really good to speak to –,” someone I’ve already talked to and (asked) if I could refer people to (them).


Anything else you’d like to add?

Blair: I wanted to have a movie series that maybe meets once a month. I called it (the) Every Body film series. I thought I’d show … excerpts from films or half-hour TV shows with LGBT characters. But then I thought, you know what? I want it to be bigger than that.

I want it to be with all kinds of differently abled characters, whatever – people who are outside of the norm. For me, I have really big ideas. I just want there to be acceptance for every kind of person on campus.


Michelle Blair can be reached at [email protected], or 408-298-2181 x3874. Her office is located in the Language Arts faculty offices, GE204J.

Learn about this and other campus events on our current Campus Calendar.