What Does “Safe-Space” Mean?

With acceptance and tolerance eroding in today’s culture, people of different backgrounds often feel isolated, if not frightened to express their individuality in public. This has been particularly true in youths and young adults. Due to this growing problem, a social concept was born.

What is The Concept Of A Safe-Space?

Also referred to as positive areas, this concept is a grassroots effort initially started in schools, colleges and universities across the United States by concerned educators and administrators, who wanted to show their support to and solidarity with lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) students by offering them a safe and comfortable environment.

Sympathetic teachers and school administrators designated their classrooms or offices as “safe-spaces” by hanging up a symbol depicting an inverted pink triangle contained inside a green circle. In turn, impacted youths would know a safe environment existed should they feel uncomfortable or threatened.

Related resource: Top 10 Best Online Master of Arts in Teaching Degree Programs

The History Which Inspired The Concept

Though the phenomenon is relatively recent, social movements which inspired it are not. Some social scientists believe the concept spawned from the women’s movement, which inspired the philosophy of a specific group of people joining forces to promote certain ideals and agendas. Yet others believe the first safe spaces were gay bars.

How Has The Movement Expanded?

Safe Harbors are now much more than merely a handful of places for LGBT youths to hide away from hatemongers and bigots. Today, most colleges and universities have designated safer spaces. In addition, these environments have morphed into what can be considered clubs and organizations. No longer do like minded people or those experiencing similar hardships simply meet to gather, but do so in much larger groups than before where they participate in activities like expressing their feelings, sharing ideas, organizing activities and formulating strategies on how to make the groups they represent more visible and able to interact with the public.

Safe Spaces are not just individual rooms or gathering halls anymore either. The social concept has spread onto the internet and social media. For example, a website has taken the name SafeSpace, offering youths and young adults the chance to connect with a vast network of individuals across the country and world. SafeSpace has also expanded its scope of assistance beyond the LGBT community. The organization provides services to those experiencing mental disorders like depression and anxiety, as well as other issues.

Opponents Of The Concept

While safe harbors have done youths a significant amount of good, the concept does have its fair share of detractors. The issue has turned into a hotbed political topic with many people weighing in. There are those who believe the creation of safe environments makes youths too “soft” and not equipped to handle real world situations where they will not always be able to “run and hide” from difficult people or circumstances  Yet others think providing safe harbor to youths fosters an attitude of reverse bigotry where members of such groups will grow intolerant of anyone not a part of their social circle.

A concept that began with the good intentioned notion of helping disenfranchised youths has turned into a major social and political movement. What is certain is the concept of safe environments continues to grow and will likely continue to divide.