They came when they heard the news – clients, staff members, and tenants from nearby offices – to sweep up glass shards after cement rocks shattered the Pride Center’s doors on Tuesday, April 26. They gathered in the wake of hatred to affirm resilience and community.
This has become a kind of ritual, as violence and vandalism have been a consistent reality for Vermonters who identify as LGBTQ+. In three separate incidents in 2007, RU12? Community Center windows were shattered and “Burn in Hell” scrawled on its walls. In the winter of 2019, the very same doors to the Pride Center were plastered with alt-right propaganda and Outright office signs were defaced by an emblem of white supremacy, transphobia, and homophobia. This month alone: anti-trans stickers have been posted throughout Burlington’s Old North End; state legislators that have supported the rights of transgender youth were targeted via social media posts and dubbed “groomers” by GOP leaders; and Fern Feather, a young trans woman, was murdered in what is now being discussed as a case of the ‘LGBTQ Panic Defense’.
We are a state that has proudly pioneered and championed legislation to protect and affirm the rights of LGBTQ+ Vermonters. And yet we are also a state in which many of our community members continue to feel unsafe – at home, at school, at work, and in public and private spaces throughout Vermont. For good reason.
State statistics on violence against LGBTQ+ are limited, but national numbers are alarming.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that:
• LGBTQ+ people are still four times more likely to experience violence in their life than their straight counterparts.
• FBI data from 2019 illustrate a rise in anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes.
• A record-breaking number of murders against trans people occurred in 2021 — the majority of whom were women of color. The risk of sexual violence is also increased for trans people; 50 percent of transgender people have been sexually assaulted at least once in their lives.
• Seventy percent of LGBTQ+ members of the community have been sexually harassed at work, and 66 percent were afraid to tell their employer for fear of being outed.
Members of the Burlington and Winooski legislative delegations as well as members of the General Assembly’s Rainbow Caucus condemn the violence and hatred that continue to threaten LGBTQ+ Vermonters. We stand in solidarity with the organizations that persist in spite of it. We stand with the community members they serve and defend. Yet that is not enough.
We must actively acknowledge the gap between the ideals that launched legislative breakthroughs like civil unions and marriage equality and the lived experiences of our fellow LGBTQ+ Vermonters.
What we allow is what will continue. All of us – political and community leaders, teachers, parents, and advocates – must call out hate speech wherever it crops up. We must create more intentional, safe, and welcoming spaces in our communities. And we must fight for policies that protect our most vulnerable Vermonters.
Sen. Becca Balint, Windham County
Sen. Phil Baruth, Chittenden County
Rep. Tiffany Bluemle, Burlington
Sen. Brain Campion, Bennington County
Sen. Thomas I. Chittenden, Chittenden County
Rep. Brian Cina, Burlington
Rep. Selene Colburn, Burlington
Rep. Hal Colston, Winooski
Rep. Mari Cordes, Lincoln
Rep. Kate Donnally, Hyde Park
Rep. Robert Hooper, Burlington
Rep. Kathleen James, Manchester Center
Rep. Emilie Kornheiser, Brattleboro
Rep. Jill Krowinski, Burlington
Rep. William Lippert, Hinesburg
Sen. Ginny Lyons, Chittenden County
Rep. Curt McCormack, Burlington
Rep. Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, Burlington
Rep. Carol Ode, Burlington
Sen. Chris Pearson, Chittenden County
Rep. Barbara Rachelson, Burlington
Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale, Chittenden County
Rep. Taylor Small, Winooski
Rep. Gabrielle Stebbins, Burlington
Rep. Heather Surprenant, Barnard
Rep. Becca White, Hartford