Barre to open LGBTQ center

Published: May. 17, 2022 at 4:06 PM EDT
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BARRE, Vt. (WCAX) - A new LGBTQ center is scheduled to open in Barre and organizers say it will be a safe space for anyone.

The window displays at the Rainbow Bridge Community Center on South Main Street hint at a fun interior, but it’s the programming that officials hope will draw people in from across central Vermont.

“Just a place to come and feel like whatever you do here, it’s safe. and you can enjoy yourself here without judgment,” said Gregg Forbis, the center’s executive director.

During the pandemic, Forbis says he realized there was no place around for people in the LGBTQ community to hang out. So, in February he took over this space. and has spent countless hours and a lot of money turning it into a place people will want to go. Aside from being a meeting spot, the nonprofit intends to offer a number of services, including hosting support groups, offering counseling, educational opportunities, and fun events for kids and adults alike.

“And together we’re just kind of setting up a place where anybody can just come in. Whether you’re gay, straight, or transgender -- it doesn’t matter. This is a place where anyone can just come in and be themselves,” Forbis said.

Similar spaces are operating around the state, including the Pride Center of Vermont in Burlington and “safe spaces” in Montpelier. Forbis says Barre has some work to do. “I think they’re getting there. I think they’re moving in a positive direction, and I think this is just another way to say, ‘Hey central Vermont, you can come here, too,’” he said.

With recent violence directed at the LGBTQ community in Vermont, including a homicide investigation into the death of a transgender woman and vandalism to Burlington’s pride center, Forbis maintains they’ll be moving full steam ahead, but with caution.

“I know there are people out there with different opinions and different views. I’ve gotten a little bit of push back,” he said. Despite the resistance, the center is planning a June 4th opening. “I’m almost there. It’s just a matter now of getting the sign up, getting the sign on the door, taking the screen away from the wall, and saying, ‘Here we are, let’s do this.’”

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