GSAFE serves LGBT community

Tara Olivia Martens, Staff Writer

GSAFE, a local non-profit organization, presented a three-hour discourse entitled, “Best Practices for Serving the LGBT,” at Madison College on Oct. 3.

Madison has been a city with a number of safe spaces for the LGBT community since mid-1990s. GSAFE formed from a few different local organizations that were initially started to support teachers and gay families.

Co-presenters Ali Muldrow and Brian Juchems said their gender identity training is aimed at creating spaces of acceptance, especially in K12 schools when children begin learning about their own sexuality. “We want to get people reflecting on their own experiences with gender or identity,” said Juchems.

Juchems explained that we all have “a gender story.” Providing a safe space to discuss perceived gender is what GSAFE specializes in. “It’s not just the what are we are doing, but the why of what we are doing,” Juchems said.

When people come to a workshop to explore how they can have better communication with members of the LGBT community, the best way to grow from the workshop is to know why you are there. “I think if people connect to their ‘why,’ they’re usually a lot more enthusiastic,” Juchems said.

The workshop that was at the beginning of October at Madison College Truax location addressed how the college can adapt and be more responsive to the LGBT community. One way is to consistently use a person’s chosen name or pronoun. According to an article from 2018 in the “Journal of Adolescent Health,” using a person’s chosen name or pronoun improves mental health among youth.

According to the article, researchers from the University of Texas Austin interviewed transgender youths ages 15 to 21 and asked whether young people could use their chosen name at school, home, work and with friends. “When compared with peers who could not use their chosen name in any context, young people who could use their name in all four areas experienced 71% fewer symptoms of severe depression, a 34% decrease in reported thoughts of suicide and a 65% decrease in suicidal attempts,” the article stated.

Juchems hopes everyone who attends a GSAFE workshop leaves having experienced an “aha moment.” “Learning that you can actually do something (to support the LGBT community) and that you can do it right now … that’s one of the best outcomes,” Juchems said.

Learn more about GSAFE from the official website: