Oral history interview with Robert Robert "Bart" Forbes, 1956--

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Oral history interview with Robert Robert "Bart" Forbes, 1956--


Barry Robert “Bart” Forbes recounts his long career as a public television producer and political activist working on behalf of suburban gays and lesbians in Fairfax County, Virginia. Forbes’ accomplishments include the the founding of the Fairfax Lesbian and Gay Citizen’s Association and the creation of Gay Fairfax, a pioneering gay and lesbian newsmagazine television show.


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Barry Robert “Bart” Forbes was born in Norwalk, Connecticut in 1956 and spent his formative years in the small town of Newark in Upstate New York. After studying media education at Colgate University Forbes began a career in public television, working at WGBH in Boston and WFME in Orlando before being recruited for a job as the Director of Development for WAMU (NPR affiliate) in Washington DC, in 1987.

He was first introduced to the gay and lesbian community of Washington DC in 1987 by his friend Urvashi Vaid, a leader in the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) at the time. Forbes quickly became an active member of the community, serving as the Vice President of the Alexandria Gay Citizens Organization and later as the founding President of the Fairfax Lesbian and Gay Citizen’s Association (FLGCA). Forbes created Virginians for Justice in his living room, an organization which eventually became known as Equality Virginia.

Forbes was also active in local politics, working as the Finance Chair for the Lee District of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee. He was an elected delegate to the Virginia Democratic State Convention for gubernatorial candidates Doug Wilder in 1989 and Mary Sue Terry in 1993.

Forbes strived to use his experience in both the gay community and local politics to act as a bridge between the suburban gays and lesbians of Fairfax County and the conservative community in which they lived. Forbes believed that the best way for gays and lesbians to fight discrimination and win acceptance was to publicly “be themselves” - demonstrating that they were integral parts of the community.

Forbes put this philosophy into action with the creation of the public access television program Gay Fairfax, which premiered in May 1989 and aired weekly until 1993. Gay Fairfax was one of the first all-volunteer gay and lesbian newsmagazine television programs in the country to focus on a non-urban area, covering community forums, organization meetings, news events important to the gay and lesbian community and long-form stories about gay and lesbian issues. As producer Forbes focused on teaching his volunteers the skills to create their own media, which resulted in the creation of several spin-off programs including the soap opera Inside/Outside the Beltway and the newsmagazine One in Ten. Gay Fairfax allowed the gay and lesbian communities to be the media rather be covered by the media - regaining control of the way they were perceived by the larger public.

Forbes remains active in public access television, working as a lobbyist for the Alliance for Community Media and the National Organization for Public Education in Government Access.

Forbes also discusses his long friendship with former Republican congressman John Hinson and his involvement in the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA) in the early 2000s.

Oral History Item Type Metadata


<a href="/items/browse?advanced%5B0%5D%5Belement_id%5D=2&advanced%5B0%5D%5Btype%5D=is+exactly&advanced%5B0%5D%5Bterms%5D=Edward+Benfield">Edward Benfield</a>


<a href="/items/browse?advanced%5B0%5D%5Belement_id%5D=3&advanced%5B0%5D%5Btype%5D=is+exactly&advanced%5B0%5D%5Bterms%5D=Barry+Robert+%22Bart%22+Forbes%2C+1956--">Barry Robert "Bart" Forbes, 1956--</a>


Washington, D.C.




“Oral history interview with Robert Robert "Bart" Forbes, 1956--,” Rainbow History Project Digital Collections, accessed May 27, 2022, https://archives.rainbowhistory.org/items/show/1623.

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