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January 15, 2019

“Safe Zone” Sign Evolves to Better Support the LGBTQIA+ Community

Boulder County, Colo. - For years in Boulder County and across the country, the Boulder County Public Health “Safe Zone” sign has been posted in offices, classrooms, and on front doors to provide a sense of safety for people identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA+). In 2016, Boulder County Allies for Inclusion (BCAFI) began questioning whether the sign was, in fact, promoting welcoming, respectful places of inclusivity, as it was intended.

New Welcome sign for the LGBTQIA+ community

“The topic of “safe zones” is often debated in the national conversation about individuals who identify as LGBTQIA+,” said Heather Crate, Boulder County Public Health OASOS program coordinator. “The use of ‘safe’ in a sign is problematic since no one in a space with the sign can necessarily guarantee safety.”

After an extensive study conducted by John Snow, Inc., that included a literature review, focus groups, and key informant interviews with local residents of the LGBTQIA+ community and reflecting on their own experiences, BCAFI determined that a change was, indeed, needed.

The findings of the study suggested that the “Safe Zone” sign was useful, but it may not be as meaningful or relevant as it once was. Based on its findings, BCAFI created the “Welcome” sign.

This new sign is intended to replace the former “Safe Zone” signs developed by the OASOS program over a decade ago that featured a pink triangle.

“Increasingly, our LGBTQIA+ community is hearing how they are not welcome or supported,” said Crate. “Welcoming messages and environments are an important step in building a community that supports the social and emotional wellness of all people, including the LGBTQIA+ community.”

BCAFI is a coalition supported by the OASOS (Open and Affirming Sexual Orientation and gender identity Support) Program at Boulder County Public Health. It is made up of professionals and community members who are working to support the LGBTQIA+ community.

The study was funded by Boulder County Public Health and Boulder County Community Services on behalf of BCAFI.

The new “Welcome” sign can be downloaded at