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For the youth crisis support organization, see National Safe Place. For the South Park television episode, see Safe Space (South Park).
An inverted pink triangle surrounded by a green circle, as used to symbolize alliance with gay rights and space free from homophobia.[1]

In educational institutions, safe-space (or safe space), safer-space, and positive space originally were terms used to indicate that a teacher, educational institution or student body does not tolerate anti-LGBT violence, harassment or hate speech, thereby creating a safe place for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students. The term safe space has been extended to refer to a space for individuals who are marginalized to come together to communicate regarding their experiences with marginalization, typically on a university campus.[2] It is criticised by many[who?] for being contrary to freedom of speech.


Positive Space initiatives are prevalent in post-secondary institutions across Canada including McGill University, the University of Toronto, the University of British Columbia, and Queen's University.[3][4][5]

United Kingdom[edit]

In early 2015 the increasing adoption of safe spaces in UK universities aroused controversy due to accusations that they were used to stifle free speech and differing political views.[6]

In April 2016, a member of the Edinburgh University Students' Union was subject to a vote on whether to be expelled from a meeting within a safe-space for violating rules about making gestures of disagreement; the vote went in her favour. She had raised her hand to disagree with a claim made against her by another speaker.[7]

Stephen Fry, a British liberal who is also gay, has condemned safe spaces and trigger warnings as suppressing free speech and emotional maturity.[8]

United States[edit]

In the United States the concept originated in the women's movement, where it "implies a certain license to speak and act freely, form collective strength, and generate strategies for resistance...a means rather than an end and not only a physical space but also a space created by the coming together of women searching for community."[9] The first safe spaces were gay bars and consciousness raising groups.[9]

In 1989 Gay & Lesbian Urban Explorers (GLUE) developed a safe spaces program. During their events including diversity-training sessions and antihomophobia workshops, they passed out magnets with an inverted pink triangle, "ACT UP's...symbol", surrounded by a green circle to, "symbolize universal acceptance," and asked, "allies to display the magnets to show support for gay rights and to designate their work spaces free from homophobia."[10]

Advocates for Youth states on their website that a safe-space is "A place where anyone can relax and be fully self-expressed, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome or challenged on account of biological sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, cultural background, age, or physical or mental ability; a place where the rules guard each person's self-respect, dignity and feelings and strongly encourage everyone to respect others.[11]

In general these may be individuals or institutions which support a safe space for LGBT students and employees. They may offer or mandate staff training on diversity, include being a safe space in the organization's mission statement, develop and post a value statement in the organization's office, online, or on printed documents, or, if part of a coalition, encourage the coalition to include being a safe space in its mission and values.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nicole Christine Raeburn (2004). Changing Corporate America from Inside Out: Lesbian and Gay Workplace Rights. University of Minnesota Press. p. 209. ISBN 978-0-8166-3998-4. 
  2. ^ Amenabar, Teddy (May 19 2016). "The New Vocabulary of Protest". The Washington Post. Retrieved 15 July 2016.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ Office of Student Life. "Positive Space Campaign". University of Toronto. Retrieved 18 June 2011. 
  4. ^ Queen's Positive Space Program. "The Queen's Positive Space Program". Queen's University. Retrieved 18 June 2011. 
  5. ^ Positive Space. "The Positive Space Campaign". University of British Columbia. Retrieved 18 June 2011. 
  6. ^ Dunt, Ian (6 February 2015). "Safe space or free speech? The crisis around debate at UK universities". The Guardian. 
  7. ^ Mann, Sebastian (5 April 2016). "Student 'violated university safe space rule... by raising her arm at a meeting'". Evening Standard. Retrieved 9 May 2016. 
  8. ^ "Stephen Fry blasted for "dangerous" views as he discusses child abuse victims and "safe spaces"". Daily Mirror. 11 April 2016. Retrieved 9 May 2016. 
  9. ^ a b Kenney, Moira Rachel (2001). Mapping Gay L.A.: The Intersection of Place and Politics. p. 24. ISBN 1-56639-884-3. 
  10. ^ Raeburn, Nicole C. (2004). Changing Corporate America from Inside Out: Lesbian and Gay Workplace Rights. p. 209. ISBN 0-8166-3999-X. 
  11. ^ "Glossary". Advocates for Youth. Retrieved 24 March 2012. 
  12. ^ "Tips and Strategies for Creating a Safe Space for GLBTQ Youth". Advocates for Youth. Retrieved 24 March 2012. 

External links[edit]