While "Don't Say Gay" bills are on the cusp of becoming law in numerous states, a group of local activists, educators and historians are taking action to connect Wisconsin with its diverse LGBTQ heritage.
LGBT MilWALKee, a mobile app offering guided, interactive and multimedia walking tours through generations of local LGBTQ history, will launch this June in celebration of National LGBTQ Pride Month.
"Our history has been one of erasure," said Dr. Brice Smith, project director. "It's not taught in schools. It's not passed down between generations. It's not visible in our cityscape. In 2022, there are still no historical markers in Milwaukee about LGBTQ events. There are no memorials to any LGBTQ people."
After downloading the app, created in partnership with FORGE, users will have their choice of multiple, self-guided walking tours. Each location will include a present-day photo of the site, as well as a two-to-three minute narrated video sharing the site's LGBTQ story.
More than 100 potential sites have been identified for the project. The app will launch with the first five tours and 50 locations in June.
"This app will reveal the spaces we claimed, the roles we played, the lives we led, the love we spread throughout the city we call home. It will help us all rethink how we walk through life," says Smith, who has researched local LGBTQ history through the Milwaukee Transgender Oral History Project and done extensive research on trans pioneer Lou Sullivan.
LGBT MilWALKee will be working closely with the Milwaukee County Historical Society, Milwaukee Public Library, UWM Archives and the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project to create the app.
The project launched a GoFundMe to raise $33,000 for operational costs, and continues to seek grants, sponsorships and alternative sources of project funding.
"Throughout history, LGBTQ people were told they were alone in the world. With LGBT MilWALKee, we can celebrate the heroes who have been here all along," says Smith. "With your help, we will make sure that anyone and everyone in Wisconsin can learn from our history."
Go here for more information and/or to donate.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.