Pride Month: Local LGBTQ+ leaders looking ahead

MADISON – June is Pride Month: a time for recognizing, supporting, and accepting the LGBTQ+ community. But acceptance is still difficult to find in many places.

This month, local LGBTQ+ leaders are extending an extra hand to those struggling to be accepted by their neighbors. Outreach is a community center for the LGBTQ+ community in Madison and its surrounding areas. However, it also works with other parts of the state. Outreach’s executive director said in big cities like Milwaukee and Madison, there’s been a lot of improvement toward acceptance and community for people that identify as LGBTQ+. However, he noted that’s not the case in all parts of the Badger State.

“We serve a big part of the state of Wisconsin, so in those smaller towns and rural areas, there are a lot more LGBTQ people facing more difficulties in those smaller communities,” said Steve Starkey.

Starkey noted that over the past few decades of Pride Month, a lot has changed for the better. That includes more legal protection, available health services, and a broader community for people that identify as LGBTQ+. However, many things still haven’t changed over the years, which is why June is an important time to recognize what still needs to be done.

“There’s still a lot of discrimination, there’s still a lot of misunderstanding of our community,” Starkey said. “Lack of knowledge, you know, bigotry.”

To help create a space for people struggling to be accepted by their neighbors or those looking for ways to expand their LGBTQ+ community, Outreach recently launched its program called “The Road Forward.” Part of the program consists of a series of free, virtual workshops that focus on education, development, and health. Some recent sessions discussed job loss, access to healthcare, and mental health.

More workshops are expected to be announced later this year…You can keep an eye out for them on the road forward’s website.