Luis Madrigal, a licensed mental health counselor living and working in Richland says, “I love the Tri-Cities. Out of all the places in the world I could have lived, I chose this place.” Aside from being an enthusiastic resident, Madrigal is also the founder of the Uptown Rainbow Connection, a new nonprofit. “It’s a group of people who want to make the Uptown Shopping Center a safer place for the queer community,” he explains.

Uptown Rainbow Connection
Official Uptown Rainbow Connection logo, created by Tommy Lofgren. Photo credit: Tommy Lofgren

Madrigal was running a Monday-night LGBTQ+ support group at the Uptown when he first realized something. “I heard all the stories from all these people that don’t feel safe in the Tri-Cities,” he recalls. “I chose this place, but I know not everybody gets to have that. I’ve met a lot of people that feel stuck here.”

This realization dovetailed with other big ideas in Madrigal’s life. “I wanted to get a doctorate,” he says, “and thought that my thesis could be, ‘how do you create a blue bubble in a red zone?’ So, I started reading queer history books to see how activists did it in different kinds of cities.” He was reading Lillian Faderman’s book “The Gay Revolution” when he began to notice a pattern.

“What tends to happen with the queer community is that there will be a [discriminatory] law or a hate crime, and then the community comes together,” he explains. “They overcome, or they don’t, and then they disband. Then there’s another law or a hate crime, and then they come together, they overcome, or they don’t, and then they disband. That just seemed to be the cycle.” What Madrigal noticed was that connection determined the community’s resilience. “The more we’re connected, the better we can show up for one another,” he says.

Uptown Rainbow Connection
Chalk Art from the Uptown Rainbow Connection Yard Sale Fundraiser in Spring 2022. Photo credit: Tommy Lofgren

Ultimately, Madrigal decided to forego the doctorate and focus instead on building such resilience in his own community. The Uptown Rainbow Connection is still a young organization and filed for official nonprofit status in February. Even so, they have already hosted several events in partnership with Uptown businesses. “The very first one was Transgender Day of Remembrance,” recounts Madrigal. This event was held at the Uptown Theatre. Other partner locations include the Dovetail Joint, a restaurant and bar, The Space, an art gallery and event center; and The Fitting Room, a studio rental space that also hosts group exercise classes.

The organization works hard to build relationships with businesses in the Uptown. Overall, the experience has been very positive for the group. “I think that’s just the whole idea — helping people put ‘a face to gay,'” Madrigal says. “Because we do live in a community that isn’t necessarily the most queer-friendly place in the world. But I think that whenever you put a face to it, all of a sudden, it’s not, ‘Oh, the gays are wanting gay marriage,’ it’s ‘Luis wants gay marriage, and I know who he is. He lives down the street.’ We make it more human that way.”

As for why they chose the Uptown, Madrigal emphasizes that it had nothing to do with the shopping center itself. “I picked the Uptown because I recognize my resources and my limits as a person,” he says. “The Uptown is just down the street from my house. My office is down the street from the Uptown, and the support group was already meeting at the Uptown.” Aside from convenience, this choice also lets Madrigal interact with his community more. “I want to meet my neighbors that are around here,” he says. “That way, we can be more connected and build a safer world all around. Because ultimately, making the Uptown a safer place for the queer community, it’s really not just for the queer community at that point — everybody’s winning.”

Uptown Rainbow Connection
The first Rainbow Yoga Event was held at “The Space” in the Uptown and hosted by the Uptown Rainbow Connection. Photo credit: Luis Madrigal

Madrigal hopes that the Uptown Rainbow Connection’s hyper-local model will serve as inspiration for others. “Whenever there’s an area that you can call your own, it creates a stability in your mind or at least a sense of, ‘I’m welcome there — at least that’s where I’m safe.’ My hope is that somebody gets inspired in Pasco, and they do it in downtown Pasco near Out and About, and then somebody else does it in downtown Kennewick,” he says.

While other local organizations such as PFLAG focus on families and LGBTQ+ youth, the Uptown Rainbow Connection’s events are more adult-oriented. “Our events are focused on the adult queer people that don’t leave,” Madrigal emphasizes. “You have the right to be gay in the Tri-Cities.”

Those wishing to get involved can visit the group’s Facebook page, follow them on Instagram, or email

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