Twenty years ago, PrideFest started renting the Summerfest grounds for the three-day LGBT+ festival. Since the beginning, the unwritten and unpublicized bathroom policy has been the same: guests were free to use whichever bathroom they preferred, regardless of biology.
Last summer, however, some trans guests said they were disrespected in bathrooms at PrideFest and no longer felt safe at the event, which this year runs June 5-7.
Communications director Michail Takach addresses these concerns.
"Whether Milwaukee realizes it or not, our national landscape is changing. Our transgender community will no longer quietly accept obstacles and inequities that prevent them from living truthful, authentic lives," says Takach. "At the same time, some states are proposing laws that prohibit and penalize transgender people’s use of public facilities. This is not a matter of who’s right, but what’s right."
Despite rumors, PrideFest bathrooms are not "policed" by security guards nor does a person need to show ID to access a particular bathroom. However, to further ensure the comfort of all guests, this year PrideFest will feature three bathrooms labeled "gender-neutral."
"There is some confusion in the general public as to what a gender-neutral restroom is," says Jessica Baker, Milwaukee Pride Inc. board member. "A patron has always had the right to use the bathroom they are most comfortable using. Designated gender-neutral restrooms provide for those not comfortable having to choose between a ‘women’s’ or ‘men’s’ as well as those not comfortable in a large public bathroom."
The gender-neutral bathrooms are smaller than the other public restrooms – with one to four stalls – and will be marked with visible, non-gendered signage. A visitor map of all gender-neutral restroom locations will be available for download in advance of opening day at the PrideFest website as well as available at the festival information desk.
PrideFest’s inclusive restroom policy and Code of Conduct will be posted at the festival entrance as a reminder for all guests.
"The larger restrooms are still open for anyone who feels comfortable using them, and will also have policy signage out front. The goal is to provide safe and comfortable spaces, as well as to bring awareness to the entire community that gender policing is unacceptable," says Pride co-producer, Kate Sherry.
Part of the reason why PrideFest did not have extensive gender-neutral restrooms prior to 2015 is because the organization rents the permanent Summerfest grounds which include full-service restrooms that are not typically provided at a pride event.
"As a three-day tenant, we are accountable to our rental agreement, local zoning regulation and public health codes," reads the website.
Performers include Ani Difranco, Alex Newell, En Vogue and Ty Herndon. Local performers include Roxie Beane, BJ Daniels and Lauryl Sulfate and her Ladies of Leisure.
"Pride is doing all it can to make PrideFest a comfortable, open and inclusive space for everyone," says Baker.
Takach says the transgender community is an essential part of the Pride celebration.
"With the partnership of transgender community allies, Milwaukee Pride Inc., has taken steps to listen, learn and lead positive change for 2015," he says.
Sherry says it’s extremely important everyone feels that PrideFest is a festival that exists to celebrate the entire community.
"When one part of our community is hurting, it is the duty of all of us to step up and support one another. We're all in this journey together, quite simply, and PrideFest is doing it's best to make sure we can provide at least three days out of the year when those in attendance can not only celebrate the vast diversity of the community, but to be safe, respected, and above all, celebrated themselves," says Sherry.
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.