Interest group: Families & Youth

Caring & Committed Couples List 2014

Each year since we introduced our collaborative list with Fair Wisconsin, our number of out and allied couples grows stronger! This year over 550 Wisconsin couples answered the call of Our Lives and Fair Wisconsin to stand up for love and fairness. Together we are sending a message—to our community,…

For Barb

As the threat of a marriage amendment grew across our state, so did the voices and hearts of those it targeted. This is the story of one college student, Madison Alder Eli Judge, who heard that voice—and answered: For Barb.

Making Schools GSAFE

Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools Executive Director Cindy Crane offers a comprehensive look inside the climate of our schools and how GSA programs are shaping systemic change for our entire community

One School’s SAGA

When Teddi Hereid experienced discomfort from her classmates in Mount Horeb, she chose to help initiate one of the most active and enthusiastic clubs in her school. Now, as a freshmen at UW-Madison, she is offering a student’s perspective on the impact of GSAs.

Coming Out of Denial

Brenda Farabaugh opens up about how she first reacted when her son Patrick came out to her, and where she is at with it now.

Coming Home

Restaurant owner Robert von Rutenberg looks back on his return to Madison and the family business.

Make It Better — Now

Rosemary Doyle, School Counselor at Northwood School in Washburn County, knows what it takes to make a difference in the day-to-day lives of LGBT youth.

A Family By Choice

Dr. Sue Gill challenges you to develop an inner template for what “family” can mean to you.

Good Family

Linda S. Balisle summons memories and weaves together varied life experiences to define what makes a family.

The Adoption Option

LGBT parents are changing the world one child at a time—through their adoption of children who need a stable home and by setting examples with their intentional parenting.

Caring & Committed Couples List 2012

Our collaborative list with Fair Wisconsin.

Every Diamond is Molded Under Extreme Pressure

Writer Ja’Mel Ware is rich beyond any monetary valuation. Find out why.

From Russia With Love

Denise Matyka and Margaret McMurray found their 
dream come true in the form of a little girl named Maria.

What’s a Mother To Do?

For PFLAG’s Karen Baker, OutReach Community Center’s 
2012 Ally of the Year, the answer was easy.

This I Believe

Glimpse the inner spirit of GSAFE 2012 Educator of the Year 
Abra Bankendorf Vigna to understand how she helps 
LGBTQ teens find their balance and embrace their strengths 
as group facilitator of Teens Like Us.

Play & Learn

Steve Mendez is helping to change the lives of young people, one adventure at a time.

Java Cat Coffeehouse

“The Place Where Everybody Knows Your Name”

Salvation in Sport

Cathy Noth found strength and direction through athletics, 
faith, and family.

Searching for Home

Our Lives Publisher Patrick Farabaugh shares how he learned the meaning of “home is where the heart is.”

Our Uncomfortable Truths

Examining real issues of racial disparity in Dane County is tough but crucial work that everyone, LGBT progressives especially, needs to engage in.

Justice Crusader

La Follette High School teenager Charlotte Detra finds a voice and a cause through restorative justice programs at her school and with GSAFE.

100 Percent Acceptance

UW student Roxanne Meyer navigated a rocky road to coming out, but found a place and people to call home in the Ten Percent Society.

Your Kid’s Best Advocate Is You

Single mom Dana Pellebon has been navigating the public school system with and for her autistic son and offers up some tips to parents facing the same prospect with special-needs kids.

Connected by Love

For Casey Garhart, the path to becoming a staunch ally for LGBTQ rights meant finding connection in an unusual place—her ex-husband’s new partner.

Heather & Heather Blend a Family

If only creating a happy blended family were as simple as throwing us all in a blender and pressing “whip.” Instead, it is something more like the art of keeping oil-and-vinegar dressing mixed, requiring constant vigilance and lots of experimentation with how hard, long, and often to shake, not to…

Open Hearts, Open Minds

The TransParent support group helps parents of trans* children navigate uncharted waters.

Marketing Love & Acceptance

Diverse & Resilient’s Acceptance Journeys program uses families’ stories to lay the groundwork for changing hearts and minds about LGBT lives.

Thrilled & Terrified: A Story of Race & Transformation

GSAFE co-director Kristen Petroshius explains the difficult but important process of bringing racial justice into the mission for LGBTQ equality.

We’re Federally Recognized Now

Attorney Christopher Krimmer explains the hundreds of marriage rights now available to same-sex spouses who live in Wisconsin.

Reaching Out to Bring Together

Vicente Lezama has been a driving force for LGBTQ rights and acceptance at Fond du Lac High School and now hopes to continue that work in the larger Wisconsin community.

Circle of Art

Children’s Theater of Madison’s Roseann Sheridan found acceptance and a lifelong passion among the drama geeks.

Stressing Out

Dennis Christoffersen identifies the things that cause us stress in our day-to-day lives and offers a first step toward finding peace.


Joining Proud Theater helped Adrian Connor find his voice and a calling to help give that gift to future generations.

Justice Crusader

From his high school GSA to a path toward international and immigration justice, Camden Goetz looks for tools to make the world a better place.

Young, Gay, and Latino in America

Alianza Latina’s Christian Alejandro Real Merino is working to bridge a cultural divide and build up a community along the way.

Health-Care Crusader

James Lehman is working for better LGBTQ health care by every available means.

How Sweet It Is

Danez Smith shares a taste of what Self Love can be.

Parental Rights

Is a contract to create a family and exclude the birth mother enforceable? Linda Balisle considers a case examining this question.

We Are Young

What is the status of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth in our state? Molly Herrmann talks with Anneke Mohr about the biannual 2011 Wisconsin Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Holiday Cheer?

Dr. Sue Gill offers both a reflection and some helpful suggestions on recognizing and addressing family holiday stressors.

Sowing the Seeds of Education and Tolerance

Sustainably built Badger Rock Middle School teaches students how to live in harmony with the environment and each other.

Vinegar Kisses: A Poem

Nicholle Johnson, UW-La Crosse Pride Center peer educator, received a Seekardia Writing Award for her poem “Vinegar Kisses.” We are pleased to reprint an excerpt of it here, accompanied by an introduction by the writer.

I’ve Got the Power

Proud Theater Mentor Gavin Logan on art and its power to connect and transform.

Setting Change in Motion

Meet Drew, Taryn and Statia, three Oregon High School students learning the value of–and creating–a strong GSA presence.

The Intentionality of Wedge Politics

GSAFE co-director Kristen Petroshius explains why LGBTQ and race issues must go hand-in-hand.

Growing Up with the Rainbow

Nicole Campbell got involved in her middle school GSA to support people like her aunts and to help build a more inclusive future for all her peers.

Victory for Equality

Attorney Michele L. Perreault explains Judge Crabb’s historic ruling declaring Wisconsin’s marriage equality ban unconstitutional.

Love Warriors

Meet the eight plaintiff couples in the ACLUís lawsuit to bring marriage equality to Wisconsin

Stand and Be Counted

Molly Herrmann explains why the new state health report on LGB people matters, and why surveys of the LGBTQ community are crucial to its well being.

Flip the System

In order to really address racial disparities in our communities, Linda Ketcham explains why it’s crucial to change the systems that enforce monochrome workplaces.

Living Truth

Connie North explores the work of author and teacher Helen Boyd and what it means to love a trans* person.

A Strong Alliance

The Indian Mound Middle School GSA provides a safe space for students to provide support for each other and explore their own personalities.

Why PFLAG is So Important

After talking with the Madison chapter President Kay Heggestad, the value of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays becomes as real as the love a mother has for her son

The Invitation

When a wedding invitation arrives in his mailbox, Patrick Farabaugh is left pondering about homecomings and bridesmaids

Friendly Faces in Familiar Places

Returning home helps Bjørn Holtan discover that Midwestern values have grown to include our family values at one of Madison’s most endeared traditions.

An Individual Journey

The road to self-acceptance is full of speed bumps and landmarks along the way. Dale Decker helps you steer clear of wrong turns.

V for Valuation

UW Allies Program co-president Amanda Hunter opens up about the friend that helped her find the courage to step out and stand up for herself.

A Needle in the Haystack

Meet Emily Harris, the 25 year-old owner of the Wylymar farms in Argyle

Happily Ever After

David Valdes Greenwood goes inside a same-sex marriage to candidly show the ups and downs of domestic bliss.

Dealing with the Deuces

In the wake of the marriage amendment, Dale Decker examines how shame can prevent that “personal connection” necessary for creating change.

Oh, the Places He Goes!

Meet Terry Halverson vacation planner, social mixer

Changing the Game

Two Madison West High School seniors, Isabel Medina and Miles Walser, are attempting to push the boundaries for queer youth with a Wisconsin first: The Young Queer Sports Club.

Holding Schools Accountable

After an Ashland student was harrassed and beaten by his classmates, he took his school to task. Tamara Packard takes a look at a legal precedent

Who I Am Today

UW-Madison student Charlie Martin found his unexpected confidence after given a kick out of the closet

Our Gay Greats

Searching for LGBTQA women and men to model herself after, UW–Madison senior Amanda Hunter finds the importance of visible role models.

Mother, Daughter, Spirit

Photographer Lois Bielefeld recounts the long and twisting path toward self-acceptance and reconciliation with her family

Hard Truths & True Love

GSAFE scholarship winner Quintin Smith-Bickham found a path away from despair and toward a living truth that’s helping lead the way for LGBTQ youth in Milwaukee and beyond

The Paths We Least Expect

The untimely death of his son, followed by his wife, leaves Roy Lavery questioning love, faith and sexuality as he searches for answers outside of the Latter-Day Saints.

I Am Strong

Zachariah Strong comes out about identity, being himself, and the strength it takes to resist labels.

How Her Jouney Begins

For Daun Johnston, the road less traveled leads through Madison and ultimately to her own personal truth.

The Path to Parenting

As the reality of creating our own families increases, so do the paths we take to get there. The Law Center for Children and Families reports on a variety of options and success stories.

Fatherhood Realized

Wisconsin Rainbow Families’ Vance Skinner and Brendan Barrett outline the evolution of their identities and what lead to their desire to have children.

Our History: How Far We’ve Come…

Could gays present themselves as parents? No, said the Wisconsin Supreme Court in the early 1970s

The Teachers’ Teacher

As the GLBTQ Resource Teacher for the Madison School District, Bonnie Augusta is empowering GLBTQ students while educating faculty and staff on how to support the needs of queer youth.

Another Kind of Childcare

As your family planning begins, Jaime Zimmerman suggests opening a custodial account to protect your future child’s financial health.

Acting with Pride

Executive Director Brian Wild reflects on the past, present, and future of Proud Theater.

My Moms and Me

After Cal Schroeder’s mother came out, all she had to do was find the courage to do it for herself.

Dear Cris

After surviving years of declining health and a double transplant, OutReach’s Development Director Nikki Baumblatt looks back at the woman who cared for her, loved her, and stayed next to her through it as she tries to say: I Love You.

Finding Their Common Voice

Past Fair Wisconsin Board President Dan Ross charts the path that he and his partner Charlie Squires took from meeting at a graduate school party into a shared life of activism.

Quitters Do Win

Diverse and Resilient partners with OutReach on “Room to Breathe,” a solution to help us stop smoking. Amber Ault reports.

What Comes After Prop 8?

While demystifying the legal aftermath of California’s Proposition 8 vote, Tamara Packard offers a perspective on our progress.

Form and Formlessness of Love

Embracing her sexual identity later in life, an Anonymous Reader shares the discovery that helped her feel love.

A Thread in Our Cultural Fabric

John Quinlan talks with author Will Fellows about the timeless relevance that helped inspire Brokeback Mountain—the collection of narratives in Fellows’ Farm Boys.

Meeting the Need

The Salvation Army of Dane County faces serious fundraising shortfalls in the wake of bad press internationally, but the local chapter has worked directly with the LGBTQ community for years.

Families Connect

Kim Simes and the Family Equality Council work to lift up the voices of children in the fight for marriage equality.

The Revolving Door Closet

Dennis Yadon tells the story of his family and the times when going back into the closet became necessary for professional and emotional survival

Justice Warrior

Caroline Werner interviews Carrie “Chaous” Riddle, a working class grandmother who has dedicated herself to volunteering on behalf of the most vulnerable among us

Out At Last

Madisonian Rosalee Eichstedt reflects on her relationship with her newly out bisexual dad and how it impacted her own path toward self-acceptance.

Finding Family

Judge Rhonda Lanford found her true self through the love of families, both blood and chosen, and a lot of hard work

Surrogacy for Same-Sex Couples

Technology’s come a long way for this increasingly popular parenting option, and marriage equality might make the legal side a little simpler.

LGBT Safe Schools

Part 2: Students Are the Focus

Marriage Equality / Family Equality

Attorney Michele L. Perreault examines the progress made and challenges that remain in ensuring full parental equality following the victory for marriage equality.

Kat and Teresa Riley with their children after Dane County Circuit Judge Shelley Gaylord ruled their marriage was constitutional and must be recognized under Wisconsin adoption laws.

The Privilege of Planning Ahead

Linda Ketcham examines the ways in which we worry about our children, depending on where they come from.


In spite of struggles at home and at school, Tara Gregorich found the support she needed to come out and drop the mask she’d been living behind.

The Value of Individuality

King of the Screwups by K.L. Going

As Goes Iowa…

How did our neighboring state 90 minutes west achieve marriage equality? Tamara Packard reviews their Supreme Court’s unanimous opinion.

Happy Anniversary

Making the choice to come out let Adam Nelson live openly. 10 years later he looks back at how he did it.

The Courge to Act

In their own words, Fair Wisconsin Leadership Award winners Kathy Flores & Ann Kendzierski of Appleton exemplify the power we each have to make a difference.

We Shall Overcome

GSAFE Educator of the Year Scott Lone of West Bend East High School approaches his role with dedication and courage.

40 years after Stonewall: Pride In Progress

The past 50 years in a civil rights movement through the eyes and perspective of a Madison native by Brian Powers.

Avoid Entitlement Traps

How can couples best protect their rights to the house they purchase? Tamara Packard suggests specific language to use in your title.

Up to the Challenge

Meet Katie Belanger. As Fair Wisconsin’s new Executive Director, she’s using her experience and resolve to fight the good fight.

Addressing Religion-Based Homophobia

Crisis by Mitchell Gold and Mindy Drucker

Love Makes a Family

And sometimes, love also makes the man. Tyler Driscoll, Michele Burton-Driscoll, and their son, Johnny, show us how.

Estate Planning Basics for Same-Sex Couples

Jaime Zimmerman explains the basics and benefits of a well-designed estate plan.

Moving Beyond Labels

Every gay person I met told me they had recognized it at a very young age—I hadn’t…

The Cultural Advocate

People came expecting Special Olympics, something warm and fuzzy. It was so far from that, dealing with sexuality, rape, and relationships.

Already a Classic

Sugarless: A Novel by James Magruder

Our Journey to Jackson

We stayed in hotels bonding with a child who we may or may not parent. We were glorified babysitters during this period, yet we already fell in love with him.

For the Love of Country

A soldier and her wife reflect on their loneliness and honor in the oppressive world of military discrimination.

Choosing Love

Jimmy Owen reflects on the coming out, coming together journey that he and his parents have traveled.

A Force to be Reckoned With

GSAFE’s Middle School Program Assistant Monica Adams is ready to advocate for multicultural, queer youth around the state.

Decisiones de Hombres

Diego Campoverde-Cisneros hace una reflexión cargada de emociones y vivencias personales acerca del camino hacia su aceptación.

Justice Warrior, pt. 2

In the second of a two-part series, Caroline Werner delves into the history and ethic of a queer activist family.

Centering Desire in Our Work

The following is an excerpt of the speech given by Kristen Petroshius when accepting the LGBTQ Advocate of the Year Award at the Outreach Banquet this past fall.

Qualitative Research Surfaces on Wisconsin Trans* Youth

Virginia Harrison reports on a groundbreaking study of trans* and gender-nonconforming youth in Wisconsin schools and the unique challenges they face.

Congrats! We Can Marry. Now Should We?

Attorney Christopher Krimmer lays out the legal ups and downs of legalized same-sex marriage and makes a case for why it is—and sometimes is not—right for a couple.

Motivated & Empowered

Trans*, Asian-American, young, and queer: Skylar Lee is blazing a trail for intersectional equality in the Madison school system and beyond.

Protecting Our Youth

Congressman Mark Pocan issues a rallying cry for the movement to turn its sights more thoroughly on creating safe and supportive environments for LGBTQ youth.

Congratulations! You Are Now Married to Your Ex

Attorney Christopher Krimmer explores the tricky technicalities of gay marriage and divorce and the patchwork of laws that impact couples even long after they’ve split.

Radically Inclusive

Baraboo High School senior Catherine Hartup has been an active and driven member of her school’s GSA and was the lone student to speak in support of the district’s new trans-inclusive athletic policy.

Mother Love

After the nightmare of losing her child to suicide, Skylar Lee’s mother Joanne Lee is dedicating herself to continuing the work that her son began on behalf of the LGBTQ community that she struggled for so long to understand.

Defined by Drive

Henry Gaylord represents a new generation of LGBTQ-identified youth who refuse to be pigeonholed, one way or another, by their sexual orientation.

And Baby Makes Three: Marital Children of Same-Sex Spouses

Attorney Christopher Krimmer explains the present status and future fight to establish a marital presumption for same-sex parents.

Proud Mama

Jane LaFlash never intended to become a crusader for LGBTQ rights, but when her son came out to her at 16, she sprung into action to make sure he had the support needed—and ended up helping to found Madison’s chapter of PFLAG.

On Loss and Living On

In the midst of tremendous loss and pain, LGBTQ people deal with both expected and unique challenges when facing the death of a romantic partner. Below, a handful of our community relate their own stories of being widowed in the hopes of helping others better navigate one of the most difficult parts of our lives.

Be the Change

Haruka Yukioka didn’t see faer truth reflected in faer childhood in Fond du Lac, but a trip to GSAFE’s leadership camp motivated faer to build a more inclusive community at home.

The Invitation

When a wedding invitation arrives in his mailbox, Patrick Farabaugh is left pondering about homecomings and bridesmaids

Safer Schools, Braver Youth

2016 GSAFE Youth Scholarship winner Keiana James talks about what motivated her to join her school’s GSA and work toward creating a safer environment for all students..

Just As Strange

Amy DeGraff-Castro found ways to reconcile and embrace all the diverse parts of themselves through LGBTQ activism and outreach.

Learning for Liberation

GSAFE’s Ali Muldrow pays it forward as an educator to incarcerated youth.

Building on a Legacy

Wisconsin Alumni Association President Paula Bonner reflects on important family ties, barriers broken, gracious mentors, and a life’s work to help create equality and innovation in evolving academic and alumni relations environments.

A Survivor Finds Community

Intimate Partner Violence is an often ignored but, still serious issue, within the LGBTQ community in particular. Kathy Flores of Diverse & Resilient interviews a survivor who is part of efforts to educate, support, and create better resources for those impacted by IPV.

10 years of Our Lives

Our Lives turns 10 years old this July, and this issue marks the start of our year-long retrospective. We take a look back at some of the people, stories, and changes that have marked the past decade of the LGBTQ community here in Madison, the state, and beyond.

Find Your Rhythm

Joey Jadryev looks back on coming to terms with his sexuality, and how dance and drag both helped him fully embrace his whole identity—and what he would tell his high school self now.

A Different American Dream

Rodney Lucas, aka F. Stokes, talks about his new documentary Ain’t No Babies in the City and why he felt compelled to tell the story of his sister and her partner’s decision to start a family in the face of massive societal prejudice.

Living in Code

Nayeli Portillo reflects on living at multiple identity intersections and learning to navigate different spaces without burying her truth.

First, Do No Harm

Dr. Kathy Oriel strikes out on her own in order to provide quality and compassionate medical care, particularly for those too often left out of the system.


Kaci Sullivan gives us a vulernable, beautiful update on his journey into trans parenthood and the birth of baby Pheonix (a continuation of an article that appeared in our November 2017 issue).

Compass Rose

James Van Abel found support and direction through Briarpatch’s Teens Like Us group, and now has the chance to give back to the next generation.

Celebrating Your Special Day, Done Your Way

Wisconsin’s LGBTQ newlyweds share their wedding experience and advice.

I Am UndocuQueer

U.W. Ph.D. candidate Laura P. Minero draws strength and inspiration for her work from her own experiences as an undocumented, queer Latinx—and from the parents who worked so hard to give her opportunity.

Well Versed

East High student Daniel Gengenbach discovered a new self-confidence and a community of support through the world of slam poetry, Proud Theater, and an accepting environment.

Breaking Binaries

Kaci Sullivan speaks to being transmasculine and pregnant in a society still steeped in binary expectations and understandings of childbirth.

The Power of Vulnerability

Former middle school teacher Abigail Swetz reflects on the triumphs and travails of the classroom, how wanting to be a good role model for her students pushed her toward a healthier and more open sense of self, and why she’s leaving the profession to work in public policy.

Mission Driven

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin President Tanya Atkinson takes a holistic view of social justice and healthcare advocacy, with plenty of love and laughter along the way.

We Are Family

Joseph Brooks, co-founder of Miltown LGBT Families, talks about the group’s origins and why creating a space for LGBTQ parents and kids to come together and share friendship and resources is crucial.

Lighting the Spark

High school student Zoë Wyse discovered her passion for social advocacy and fighting for LGBTQ+ rights during a pivotal writing workshop at the U.W. Her #IFeelSaferWhen campaign is just the start.

Citizen In Limbo

Attorneys Michele Perreault and Raluca Vais-Ottosen explain two lawsuits making their way through U.S. courts regarding citizenship and immigration rights for children of same-sex parents.

Finding My Voice

Our Lives contributor Charles Wetzel talks coming out as a home-schooled kid in an Evangelical church, and finding a passion for both photography and politics.

For Love and Food

Oscar Villarreal and Jordan Wegner of Fuegos restaurant talk family, loss, and finding and sharing love through a delicious alliance between innovative and traditional foods.

Intersex and OK

When one Wisconsin parent learned his child was born intersex, it set him and his entire family on a crash course with medical professionals, and toward an even greater fight for acceptance and support.

My Story, My Life

Creative writing helped Rachel L. reclaim the voice she’d lost after childhood sexual assault and trauma went unheard and disbelieved.

Why Immigration is an LGBTQ Issue

Recent news stories have highlighted the plight of LGBTQ asylum seekers, who often face persecution and even death in their home countries, only to experience discrimination and abuse in the U.S.

Shelter From the Storm

Courage House is poised to become the state’s first home and drop-in space for homeless LGBTQ youth. We asked co-founder Brad Schlaikowski the whys and hows of opening the new space in Milwaukee.

Becoming Extraordinary

Appleton high school student Travis Thor talks finding internal acceptance and joy in coming to terms with his many identities.

Authentic Gains

Hybrid Athletic Club and Bakke Athletics owner Kjersten Bakke was taught from a young age to embrace her curiosity and the unknown, and to be true to herself. These lessons helped shape her somewhat unlikely life trajectory.

Committed to the Long Haul

When he’s not helping manage the Chocolaterian Café, college junior Sean O’Brien is busy fighting for progressive policies and learning the political ropes.

Citizen In Limbo… Again

A recent effort by the Trump Administration to deny birthright citizenship to children of same-sex couples has many on edge. Attorneys Michele Perreault and Raluca Vais-Ottosen of DeWitt LLP break down what’s at issue and what’s at stake.

Loving through Adversity

Lavender Knight and Tanya Mudrick’s love for one another is a bond that has survived and deepened despite everything they have been through.

“I Am Jazz” reading returns to Mount Horeb Public Library on February 27th

  What: The Annual Jazz and Friends Day of Readings Where: Mount Horeb Public Library When: February 27th, 6:30 p.m. Why: Because, my loves, this is what power looks like. My darlings, an event coming soon is our first chance in 4 years to catch a hint of a moment…

OPEN LETTER from Vica Steel: Madison Metropolitan School District is currently enacting a transphobic policy

The leadership of Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) is currently enacting a transphobic policy. And yes, it’s about bathrooms. It’s ALWAYS about bathrooms.  Here are the facts: The policy our leadership is enacting is to require that staff and students use different bathrooms. I know, that doesn’t seem transphobic on…