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The 2017 Shepherd Express LGBTQ Progress Award Winners

Jun. 6, 2017
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Profiles of the annual Shepherd Express LGBT Progress Awards winners.

Click on a Category below to see the winners.

Progress in Services for Traumatized LGBTQ Youth and Adults
LGBTQ Progress in Activism
LGBTQ Progress in Health and HIV Awareness
LGBTQ Progress in Arts and Culture
LGBTQ Struggle for Equality
Progress in Philanthropy
LGBTQ Progress in Business

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Progress in Services for Traumatized LGBTQ Youth and Adults
Cathy Arney

Cathy Arney was one of the first psychotherapists in Milwaukee to focus on serving lesbian women, a service she provided on a sliding fee scale during two decades of private practice. During that time, she became director of counseling for the Counseling Center of Milwaukee, the parent organization of today’s Pathfinders, where she is currently vice president of community services.

“Where I feel really useful at Pathfinders,” she said, “is in the program I developed, wrote grants for and got funded that works with youth 25 and under who’ve experienced sexual exploitation. We say ‘sexual exploitation’ instead of ‘human trafficking’ because it takes in a lot more than your typical pimp and prostitute. We work with runaway homeless youths—one of the most vulnerable populations being sexual exploited. The other vulnerable populations are youth who’ve been sexually abused prior to being trafficked and our LGBTQ population. They’re vulnerable because they’re often kicked out of their houses when they come out to their families and because, especially for trans women, there’s so much difficulty getting a job. Having to do sex work in order to survive is also part of sexual exploitation.”

A licensed clinician, Arney also provides evaluations for homeless youth, the majority LGBTQ, to qualify for public housing. “Being homeless alone becomes a mental illness, because,” she said, “how do you live out there without coming unraveled?” She’s also proud of a leadership development group for lesbian and bisexual women she co-facilitated at Diverse & Resilient for four years in which women set goals for themselves and work for greater involvement as leaders in the LGBTQ community.”

—John Schneider

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LGBTQ Progress in Activism
Lloyd Barbee

In 1967, two years before Stonewall, Milwaukee State Rep. Lloyd Barbee, an African American, introduced legislation to decriminalize homosexuality. His next act for LGBTQ equality was in 1971 when he introduced a bill to protect gays and lesbians from job discrimination—in the midst of the national civil rights battle. Then, as now, Milwaukee was a bastion of segregation. Barbee, an NAACP activist, is well known for his challenges to institutionalized racism and, particularly, his confrontations with the Milwaukee Public School system over integration. Still, this did not distract Barbee from the cause for LGBTQ rights. Although unsuccessful, Barbee’s revolutionary resolve cracked the system and would inspire LGBTQ lawmakers and their allies who, three years later, would pursue Barbee’s cause and eventually succeed in changing the laws.

But why did Lloyd Barbee fight for LGBTQ rights? It was, after all, 1967—the year of Milwaukee’s racial tensions that culminated in civil unrest. There was much to do on that front alone. Besides, even Martin Luther King Jr. distanced himself from the issue of LGBTQ rights. But Barbee wasn’t impaired by the myopia of identity politics or intimidated by the homophobia of his peers. As a true progressive, he understood the power of coalitions. It’s no coincidence that today’s adversaries of social justice subscribe to a divide-and-conquer strategy. For Barbee, equality for all wasn’t merely a political expedient but a moral imperative, and he knew only inclusion and unity for a common cause could affect change.

—Paul Masterson

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LGBTQ Progress in Health and HIV Awareness
BESTD

Five years after Stonewall, Milwaukee’s burgeoning gay bar scene—and the liberated men it attracted—produced an unforeseen side effect: the sudden increase of sexually transmitted diseases. However, the necessary health care resources to address the situation were lacking.

Then, in 1974, certain individuals responded to that need and, in collaboration with the Milwaukee Health Department and the Wisconsin Division of Health, created the Gay People’s Union Venereal Disease Examination Center. Staffed entirely by volunteers, it was the city’s first health care facility to specifically serve Milwaukee’s LGBTQ community. Initially located in proximity to the Third Ward bar scene, its mission was to test and educate as well as offer no-fee treatment of STDs to the gay population.

In 1982, the clinic relocated to Brady Street, changing its name to Brady Street STD Clinic—popularly known as BESTD. But soon, the facility would face an even more formidable challenge as a new and deadly disease began infecting gay men. Facing reluctant official response, the LGBTQ community confronted the AIDS outbreak of the mid-’80s with its own specific and immediate action: BESTD formed MAP—Milwaukee AIDS Project.

In turn, MAP evolved into AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin (ARCW). Today, ARCW is recognized as being among the nation’s leading institutions in the continuing HIV/AIDS struggle. Meanwhile, more than four decades later, BESTD continues its original mission—its core of dedicated volunteers providing sensitive, accessible and free health services, as well as on- and off-site STD and HIV testing, in Milwaukee and throughout Wisconsin.

—Paul Masterson

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LGBTQ Progress in Arts and Culture
Mark Bucher, Artistic Director of the Boulevard Theatre

When asked about the future at the end of his 31st season with Boulevard Theatre, Mark Bucher said, “How about surviving? With a half-dozen theater companies closing in the last few years, just lasting is quite an accomplishment!”

Mark Bucher’s goal back in 1986 was, as he described it, “to work on a level of literary quality.” The Boulevard Theatre may have been the first Milwaukee company to perform William Shakespeare’s obscure Pericles, Prince of Tyre and the last to stage anything by Jean-Baptiste Molière. He was also an early pioneer in Bay View’s renewal when he opened a theater space on Kinnickinnic Avenue. “The Bay View of 1987 was not the Bay View of today,” he recalled. “It was prostitutes, drug houses, urban blight.”

After Bucher closed the Bay View venue in 2013, Boulevard became a nomad, albeit one with a special oasis at the East Side’s Plymouth Church. “It’s challenging, because it’s not a traditional theater space, but our creativity has vanquished all problems,” he said. “Plymouth Church is very friendly to the LGBTQ sector of Milwaukee. It’s a true community and a social resource.”

LGBTQ programming has long been part of Boulevard’s mission. Bucher cited his production of Lillian Hellman’s indictment of homophobia, The Children’s Hour, performed by a mixture of puppeteers and live actors, and Richard Kramer’s Theatre District, “a fabulous show that dealt with gay marriage before gay marriage was gay marriage,” as Bucher put it.

Bucher is also proud of the actors and directors who worked at Boulevard early in their careers, including David Flores, Suzan Fete, Pamela Brown and Jonathan West.

—David Luhrssen

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LGBTQ Struggle for Equality
Plymouth Church

Located on the city’s Upper East Side since 1841 and part of the United Church of Christ, Plymouth Church has long been a bulwark of Milwaukee’s faith community. Then, in 1991, it decided to become an Open and Affirming Congregation (ONA), publically welcoming lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people into “the full life and leadership of the congregation.” And, while seemingly a natural progress for a Christian church, the challenge was to commit to an LGBTQ-friendly interpretation of fellowship that was then still widely rejected by other mainstream churches. For many, it remains so today.

So, by recognizing the faith needs of Milwaukee’s LGBTQ community, Plymouth Church insisted on pursuing the notion of a “Still Speaking” church—one which evolves, guided by the goal of social justice and the realization that the highest Christian value is love, and its expression can only be fulfilled through equality.

To that end, Plymouth Church Pastor Andrew Warner continues to reach out to the LGBTQ community and include it in all aspects of his congregation. Over the years, Plymouth Church has partnered with various LGBTQ organizations, including SAGE, Equality Wisconsin and the City of Festivals Men’s Chorus. It has also hosted a community Thanksgiving dinner and other events. In the ecumenical spirit, Plymouth Church also hosts an affirming and LGBTQ-friendly Jewish congregation.

These simple acts of Christian virtue serve not only to embrace LGBTQs, but also to engage the non-LGBTQ community in the lives of others to promote a common bond of love.

—Paul Masterson

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Progress in Philanthropy
Jack H. Smith

For years one of the top sales leaders of Shorewest Realty, Jack H. Smith has been a major donor to Milwaukee LGBTQ programs and organizations since, as he put it, “before the Community Center was initially established. I believed in Neil Albrecht’s vision for the center, so I helped with that.” Smith is a founding donor of Men’s Voices Milwaukee, a long-time angel to the Milwaukee LGBT Film Festival, ARCW and a great many organizations and causes that have served the community.

He credits his dad, the late Wayne Smith. “He used to volunteer a lot. That was his way of giving back. He was always very generous with his time. He was nothing but kind. My time is limited, but I’m blessed with the ability to write a check.”

When asked if it has taken courage, he told a story. “I was the first real estate agent to put my picture in an ad for my profession in a gay newspaper. That was not well received by the company I worked for back then. They called me into the office and handed me the newspaper and had me read the personals to them and explain what they meant, just to shame me.

“The whole thing is, I value the LGBTQ community; I’m part of the LGBT community, and I’m happy to support the community at large as much as possible. I think it is incumbent upon everyone in the community to give back in some way, shape or form. I’m happy I can donate. If it means something, if it makes sense, I do it.”

—John Schneider

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LGBTQ Progress in Business
Carl M. Szatmary

When Carl M. Szatmary worked for Webster’s Books in the early ’90s, the East Side store’s popular LGBTQ section expanded under his care. Hoping Milwaukee might welcome a specifically LGBTQ bookstore, he took the risk in 1993 to open one at 2710 N. Murray Ave. A month later, he added a café. Today, Outwords Books, Gifts and Coffee offers an impressive selection of good current books, magazines, cards and rainbow gifts and a counter serving coffee drinks and bakery.

“I never had trouble,” he says. “We had a stray bullet hole in one of the windows once, but other than that, no. We get a lot of college kids, still today, who come and look around to see what kind of store it is. Sometimes that’s OK, and sometimes they’d giggle and run off, but sometimes that group of giggling kids included somebody who came back subsequently on their own. We used to stay open quite late. We’d have people who came to hang out and have coffee, but the community has changed from 1993 to now.”

He’s proud that Outwords Book Group, founded in January 1994, continues to meet, and that a newer women’s book group is active. “The things I find most rewarding? First, I’m dependent now upon a roster of regular customers—people who’ve been shopping here since the early days—who have gone, in most cases, from being merely customers to being friends. And the other is how many people will come up to me and say that this is the first gay place they ever went.”

—John Schneider

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