12 on Tuesday: Patrick Farabaugh

12 on Tuesday: Patrick Farabaugh
Patrick Farabaugh

Patrick Farabaugh was an up-and-coming magazine designer in New York City before he came to Madison and founded Our Lives, the city’s first magazine by and for the LGTBQ community. The bimonthly glossy celebrates local LGBTQ people and addresses important issues. Farabaugh is also a founder of the Madison Gay Hockey Association.

Rank your Top 5 MCs.

I’m dating myself with this, but music hasn’t been as big a part of my Wisconsin life as it was when I lived in New York City. I used to walk everywhere when I lived there, and had Jill Scott, Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliott, Puff Daddy, and Lil’ Kim in pretty heavy rotation on my iPod.

Which motivates you more: Doubters or Supporters?

Supporters have always come first. When I started the magazine 10 years ago, I remember a comment a straight mentor made to me. In an attempt to acknowledge a place in the local market for this kind of media, they pointed out the influence Our Lives could have when it comes to changing the hearts and minds of straight people in the area. What struck me about that statement was how without a pause, they had centered our mission around straight people. This magazine was created by and for the local LGBTQ community, to give them a way to connect and lift each other up. The needs of our community are always our top priority, and they are who we are accountable to. If doing our work authentically helps to change straight hearts and minds along the way, I count that as a wonderful byproduct.

Why do you live in Madison?

I ran away from home as a teenager so that I could feel safe coming out. I’m originally from a suburb of Gary, Indiana, but took off to live in New York, Boston, and Seattle. As grateful as I am to how those places helped me grow, as a gay runaway who has experienced homelessness I never overcame feeling transient or invisible in them. The better I got to know myself, the more value I placed in having a close community. For me, Madison combines the big ideas that city life fosters with the strong sense of community that you get from living in a small town. I arrived here feeling like I had something to offer, and through doing so found a sense of belonging.

What three leaders in Madison under 50 have impressed you the most?

Honorable Everett Mitchell – Madison is unbelievably lucky that he’s chosen us as his home.
Ald. Shiva Bidar – Can’t we draft her to run for Mayor?
Brian Juchems – Brian prefers to work behind the curtain, but his leadership through his role at GSAFE sets the pace across the state, if not for our entire region. He’s a true unsung hero in my opinion.

What’s the biggest stumbling block in Madison to turning the corner on our racial disparities?

White fragility is a serious problem here. Until White Madison is ready to value equity as much as they do their comfort, we’re going to have a serious problem getting people to dive deeper into how they contribute to–and benefit from–institutional racism. Everyone wants to believe they are a good person, but until you are willing to stop and lean further into discomfort, you’re not going to begin to see where you might be part of the problem. One of my favorite Einstein quotes touches on this: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

What are your top three priorities at this point in your life?

Health – Without this, it’s hard to have anything else.
Happiness – Balancing my activism with my self-care will always be a work-in-progress.
Purpose – Simply put: Where can I do the most good? A few years back, one of the therapists who writes for us sited something that I’ve often gone back to. She wrote, “Seligman has found that the most satisfied people are those whose focus is to build a life that is engaged and meaningful, with only secondary focus on fostering positive emotion and pleasure.”

What does the term QPOC mean and why is it needed?

QPOC stands for Queer People of Color. It’s a unifying term for all LGBTQ people of color. It is essential to help create a space within the community for connecting and lifting up voices that have historically been marginalized within the LGBTQ alphabet soup. Having a way to identify yourself as belonging to a group with others who can relate to your unique lived experience can be a vital source of community and support.

What are some of the obstacles you face having a magazine focused on the LGBTQ community?

There are two big boxes I can group obstacles into: Internal & External. Internally it can be a challenge uniting the LGBTQ alphabet because the lived experience of each of those alphabet letters is incredibly unique and intersects with race, class, and ability. Our diversity is one of our biggest assets, but it can also be a barrier at times. Each identity experiences minority stress differently. It’s important to us to do this work with extreme care, as to not risk any harm to an often-wounded community. Externally it’s still a challenge to be on the front lines of all the anti-LGBTQ sentiment that there is out there. Our Lives is too easy to anonymously target. A few years ago I had a death threat mailed to me. I’ve received a fairly steady amount of hate mail from around the state. Our sidewalk boxes downtown are targeted and vandalized regularly, or our dropped copies are altered to make the magazine more difficult to find and pick up. Just a few weeks ago I arrived at our office to find a photocopy of a pro-Trump magazine article stuck to our office door. As progressive as Madison likes to think of itself, you only have to travel a few miles out of the city before finding anything ranging from discomfort to aggressive discrimination.

Where is your favorite place to vacation in Wisconsin?

I love the outdoors, and the arts. Those two things seem to live in harmony around Spring Green, so I often want to escape to that area for outdoor day trips. I also love the Apostle Islands, but haven’t had to chance to spend as much time as I’d like up there.

In my past life in politics, I was always shocked on when I ran into someone from the LGBTQ community who was Republican. I am not taking shots at the GOP. It just surprised me because the Democrats were the party advocating for same-sex marriage. Do you run into a lot of Republicans in the LGBTQ community and do there seem to be common themes why?

This is a great question. You’re just as likely, if not more likely to find an LGBTQ person who votes third party for the most progressive candidate as you are to find someone who identifies as Republican. Doing this work, I’ve gotten to know quite a few gay Republicans both in Madison and around the state. I specifically said gay here because the overwhelming majority of Republican LGBTQ people I’ve come across are cisgender white men. Back in 2012, I think somewhere around 70% of LGBTQ Americans supported Obama, and only 20% supported Romney (around 10% went third party). I’ve read a few times, that somewhere around 80% of those LGBTQ Romney supporters were cisgender gay white men. It’s hard to find solid data on that though. More often than not, in my opinion, there are serious issues around unaddressed privilege. The LGBTQ community isn’t immune to society’s social ills. In fact, being marginalized also means they are often magnified.

If you could go back in time and spend 1 hour each with 3 different people (alive or dead) who would they be?

My Grandmother – She was like a mother to me, and I miss her terribly. We had only begun to mend the wounds from my coming out before she passed. I wish I could show her that I did find love and introduce her to my husband.

Marsha P. Johnson – To hear her talk about trans activism before and at Stonewall would be the gift of a lifetime

Bayard Rustin – Few have made an impact the size of MLK’s gay right-hand man. To learn from him about how he navigated his identity and activism would be a tremendous honor.

Name the top two movies that best explain the LGBTQ experience.

This is near impossible to do because of how diverse the community is, so I’m naming two that I’ve related to the most during my early years out of the closet.

Brokeback Mountain: This movie captured the pain of the loneliness, isolation, and loss that I’d felt unlike anything I’d seen before. I was grateful that my mother was willing to go see it with me, and I had to pull over on the drive home because I was crying too hard to drive safely.
Boys Don’t Cry: This film was the essence of the hope, fear, and the courage it takes to be yourself in a time and place where role models weren’t visible.