In the swell of celebration following marriage equality in 2015, it seemed like more and more people claimed we had entered a “post-gay” era. Even some folks within the LGBTQ+ community seemed to be resting on their laurels, content that things were fine now, there was no more fight to be had, or what remained wrong would just right itself.
Things were and are definitely getting better by several measures. We have come such a long way in very little time, but the hard truth is that the LGBTQ+ community continues to face violence and harassment, even right here in liberal Madison, and the work is far from over.
In fact, since Trump’s election in 2016, the rates of violence against LGBTQ+ people have increased at an alarming rate. According to a report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 2017 saw 52 recorded cases of hate violence related homicides of LGBTQ people, the highest number ever recorded by the organization in its 20 years. This number represents an 86% increase in single incident reports from 2016. That’s the equivalent of one homicide of an LGBTQ person in the U.S. each week.
Transgender women of color face the most disproportionate levels of violence, followed by gay/bi/queer cisgender men (a high percentage of whom are also people of color).
Right here in Madison, Our Lives’ office was the target of vandalism in May, when an unknown person threw a rock through the glass front door. Since our office is in the basement of a building with several other offices in it, it’s almost certain this was a targeted act of hate. The sidewalk boxes we use to distribute issues of the magazine in downtown Madison are frequently vandlized, too: labels torn off, magazines defaced or removed, issues replaced by garbage, and even the whole box dragged away or stolen.
We’ve heard several reports in the last few months alone, particularly from transgender, non-binary, and/or gender non-conforming people, of verbal and physical harassment while out in public, simply trying to go about their day. One of our own contributors was downtown when a young man leaned out his car window and shouted, “Transgender f*cks get off the street!” at them.
A Republican candidate (now defeated) for state office in California was so confident in her hate that she filmed herself harassing a transgender woman out of a public restroom at a Denny’s. Back in May, a gay couple in Denver was stabbed simply for being outside holding hands.
At the national level, it feels like nearly every week a new attack comes out of the Trump Administration: the proposed transgender military ban, elimination of state or federal funding for transition-related health care, installing solidly anti-LGBTQ officials into prominent cabinet and administration roles, reversing the Obama-era order that applied Title IX’s anti-discrimination rules for schools to sexual orientation and gender identity, and the list goes on.
From the everyday slights to the attacks on our very personhood and rights, LGBTQ+ people know, first-hand, how important it is to show up for one another, to be visible when we can (for those who cannot), and to celebrate our resilience, creativity, and pride.
Our Lives received an outpouring of support and well wishes in the wake of the attack on the office that provided further illustration of just how many good-hearted people there are in our community. You all recognize the importance of the work we, you, and countless others do to lift up and celebrate our diverse LGBTQ+ family.
The first Pride was a riot in reaction to years of oppressive government and social interference in the lives of some of our most marginalized community members. Let us never forget our roots, those who’ve fought and died to get us where we are today, and the work yet remaining to insure that every person is able to live a life of freedom, honesty, and dignity.
A Community Responds to Hate
Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for all the support you’ve shown and continue to show for the magazine, in the wake of the vandalism at our office. We couldn’t do this work without you all. –Patrick & Emily
Rep. Melissa Sargent, Wisconsin State Assembly
“Our Lives is a free, independent organization entirely funded by advertising that has only two full-time staff who do the tremendous, important work of ensuring our LGBTQ friends and neighbors have resources, representation, and a voice in our community. If you can, please take a minute to lend a helping hand, share words of support, encouragement, and gratitude with Our Lives, and to show our LGBTQ friends and neighbors that hate has no home in the 48th Assembly District. #NoHateinthe48”
Diverse & Resilient
“We stand with our friends and partners at Our Lives magazine. They have faced an uptick in property damage of their magazine stands and magazines since November, 2016. They tell us one way you can help is to consider advertising in one of their upcoming publications.”
Shannon Barry, Executive Director, Domestic Abuse Intervention Services
“I plan to continue to go out of my way to support the businesses who support Our Lives magazine. I encourage you to do so, too. Also, DAIS has partnered a lot with Our Lives over the years. They are a stellar publication doing amazing work in our community. I am truly grateful to Patrick and Emily for all they do. Let’s show them the love they deserve.”
“I was really disgusted to learn about what was an apparently intentional, hateful act against Our Lives magazine, an LGBTQ-run and LGBTQ-centered publication based in our Northside. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Our Lives has experienced targeted anti-LGBTQ harassment: they’ve repeatedly had newspaper boxes vandalized, their magazines frequently defaced with anti-LGBTQ vitriol, and various other acts intended to intimidate and cause harm.
Planned Parenthood of WI
“We are sad to see attacks like this on our community partners. We stand with Our Lives and are committed to supporting their important work.”
“Our Lives magazine is our local conduit for stories of love for our LGBTQ community. But last week, a vandal went out of their way to throw a rock through the magazine’s front door. This is not our Madison. Please send your support today and throughout Pride month.”
Amy Johnson, Editor-in Chief, Madison Essentials magazine
“The Our Lives magazine office was vandalized last night/today. This after I had a long conversation with the publisher yesterday about the distress [caused by] vandalism they’ve had at distribution points as well. I’m shocked and disappointed that this happens in our community. Our community is great because of all who are part of it. Let’s agree there should be no place where this occurs, not the least here.”
Tim Quigley, Owner, Quigley Decks & Quigley Cable Rail
“Not only is Our Lives magazine a voice for the LGBT community, it has given me (a cis-straight male) a far greater understanding of the lives of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. The magazine is mailed to me because I advertise my business in it. From reading the articles and stories down through the years, I have come to realize we have more in common than we are different. Not only is Our Lives a magazine to the LGBTQ community, it is a tremendous public service, a service I believe the entire community would be worse off without. Patrick and Emily, you do great work and you have treated me with nothing less than kindness and respect through the years, and I will vow to continue supporting you in every way I can for many years to come. Though I believe no matter how much I try to give back to you, I could never equal what you and the entire LGBTQ community have given me. Keep up the good work, love you all.”
Paul Lorentz , Grateful Reader
“A couple thoughts about Our Lives magazine and lessons learned from ‘coming out’:
1. Coming out is not just about ‘being honest.’ It is asserting the power of living your truth openly and thereby removing the power of others to suppress you. For many years before I came out, I was bullied—at times pretty ruthlessly, to the point of feeling worthless and suicidal when I was in high school. After I came out, the people who might have bullied me shrunk away. They still might have had a problem with me, but it was clear—to them and me—that the problem was theirs and not mine. The shame of the closet is a weapon we give others to beat us with, and which we also use to hurt ourselves and even those we care about. Coming out not only takes that weapon away, but invites understanding, connection, and even compassion.
2. That said, when you take away from someone their power to fundamentally erase you, they often feel threatened and react in anger. And anger is often borne of fear. And fear can come from many places. But fear is often a family value that is taught. At home, in churches, in high school gym classes, and in the evening news. We can’t control the actions of fearful people, but we can react with positive strength and resilience. Coming out gives us the power to draw support from our family, friends, and communities in ways that turn the actions of the fearful and angry into sources of our own strength. Resilience is a muscle and every new setback gives us a chance to give that muscle a good workout.
3. Our Lives is a symbol of strength. It’s a magazine that celebrates the acts of coming out, living out, and loving out. It’s a magazine that has specifically celebrated my own family in its pages, so I’m personally grateful that it exists. The tone of the magazine embraces community, kindness, inclusiveness, compassion, connection, unity, and understanding, and its articles often challenge our communities to find ways to advance those values even further. It’s a magazine created by our communities, started as a labor of love by people who volunteered their time and talents to its writing, production, and distribution, that offers itself free to anyone who wishes to open it. There’s a lot of power in that. It’s no wonder then that some may feel threatened by that. It’s no wonder then that Our Lives magazine might be the target of bullies and vandals who knock over newspaper distribution boxes, write hateful messages on its covers and pages, and—this morning—break the windows of its office.
4. Our Lives magazine will survive broken windows. It will survive the petty acts of vandalism on its distribution boxes and magazine covers. We can’t make people not fear LGBTQ+ people, and not act out on that fear. But we can model fearlessness and community. This, to me, is a central part of what Our Lives magazine has always been about.
Thanks to Patrick Farabaugh, Emily Mills, and everyone who contributes to this magazine’s continued presence and success.”
Ali Trevino-Murphy, longtime reader
Living in Madison, I feel very safe being queer and being out and having a family. I know a lot of that has to do with other privileges I have. It’s easy to forget about the haters, the ones who are so hateful they go out of their way to commit acts of violence and terror, but they are out there even in our “bubble.” I’m feeling very grateful towards everyone who works at organizations who focus on the LGBTQ community, because their staff and volunteers are visible in a way that can lead them to have to deal with shit like this more than I do. Thank you for everything you do for us.”
Beth McConnell, reader & occasional contributor
Over the years I’ve done several photo assignments for Our Lives and I’ve come to think of the magazine and people creating it as sort of an extended family, one to which I am glad to belong, because these are moral, decent, kind people. I’m not sure there is any possible way they can be any more affirming, living cooperatively and peacefully WITH EVERYONE.
The person who vandalized the office could only do so by first picking up a rock and saying to themselves, ‘yes.’ They exerted more physical effort to cause damage, and it would have cost them nothing to just leave the rock on the ground. Literally, it would have been easier for the vandal to not be a damaging public asshole, to just walk away, even if they never get over their fear of differentness. Really cool if everyone could someday be on the same page, but even if that doesn’t happen, agreeing to disagree is always, always a viable/preferable option.
Shawnee Parens, longtime reader
This is both heartbreaking and infuriating. It’s easy sometimes (especially for privileged folks) to say, “Oh, it’s Madison, we’re so progressive,” but hate and homophobia/biphobia/transphobia are still rampant. I value Our Lives as a strong publication in my community and take this personally. Love & support to Patrick Farabaugh and Emily Mills who run the publication, but let’s be clear—this wasn’t an attack on them personally. It was an attack on the LGBTQ+ community.