The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Last semester, a professor asked us to describe what our favorite place was. While some people described natural settings, such as a river or the beach, I chose to describe my room. Why? Because my room is the space I created to be the perfect environment for me to feel as comfortable and at ease as possible. It’s where I cry, laugh, sleep, and only invite the people I want to. It’s the one place I can be my truest self without being judged by anyone. It’s my safe space because I made it so. This is the very same reason which led me to write an article that emphasizes the importance of having safe spaces in our schools, libraries, and even cafes.
But, what exactly is a safe space and why is it so important? According to our trusty Merriam-Webster dictionary, a safe space is a place intended to be free of bias, conflict, criticism, or potentially threatening actions, ideas, or conversations. It’s a place where everyone can be whoever they want to be without fearing for their safety or even their lives. I learned what a safe space was in an LGTBQ+ Instagram post a couple of years ago. In fact, the term originated from LGTBQ+ culture, but it can also be traced back to the women’s movement in the 60s where women were looking for change and safe spaces against violence. Both groups were looking for, not necessarily physical, spaces where they could feel protected against society and even government. These movements eventually advanced into protecting people of color against racism as well.
A safe space can be an actual place, an organization, or even a person. In schools, it’s important to not only provide a refuge, but a support system so that students can develop the skills necessary to deal with injustices and conflicts. This includes campaigns against bullying, racism, and homophobia. Schools can have clubs or even classrooms where marginalized students can feel safe from the outside world. Resources such as these will provide the students with a sense of belonging and opportunities to be themselves.
You may be wondering, how can you make a space safe for you or your loved ones? Marginalized groups live a life just like the rest of the world. Even if you don’t work in a nonprofit organization, being accepting of the people you know and of strangers can turn you into a safe space for them. Another way is to have a safe space sign or stickers to let those around you know that everyone is welcome and supported. Stickers are trendy right now, and even the subtlest sticker can make a big difference. If the sticker is somewhere visible, the right people will know and will feel safe to be around you, your place, or work!
For me, it was so important to create a safe space for me and my friends, after a very close friend of mine approached me and told me that they felt safe enough with me to come out and be themselves, something they’ve never done with anyone else. After that moment, I felt like a completely different perspective was unlocked; and suddenly, it was extremely important for me to be that person for all of my friends; someone they can count on for whatever they need. And it worked out, because, ever since then, I surround myself with people who are accepting and caring, who don’t hesitate to call out potentially threatening comments, with people that want to learn to do and be better. It’s just like a character from Eclipse (2022), a Thai series I was watching last week, said “You are what you eat. What you take builds who you are.”
I may not have a building or a place for people to call a safe space, but I try to make myself a safe space for those around me. If you are reading this article, know that you are heard, you are loved, you are enough. You are always welcome to be whoever you want to be with me because I will accept you as you are.