The Social Scene for LGBT Folks

Urban Milwaukee – by Denise Cawley

I interviewed a wide range of LGBT people about how they meet others. Most talked by name and a few preferred to remain anonymous. Here’s what they had to say.

Martin Palicki, 37

Palicki is involved in many activities, some as a leader and some at events he just attends: the Milwaukee Gay Sports Network, Frontrunners, Milwaukee LGBT Community Center (he’s a board member), Guerrilla Gay Bar (Roving Gay Bar), Ham Bingo (takes place at Hamburger Mary’s), Pink Hat Parties (Sponsored by This Is It), TGIF (a monthly roving professionals gathering at a bar sponsored by the MKE LGBT Community Center) and the Milwaukee LGBT Film and Video Festival.

Carmen Barnes-Bolds, 40

Recently relocated from Milwaukee but comes back to visit frequently. “I have met countless people mostly at social gatherings. It seems that many people, young and old, are having dinner and card parties at their homes. A vast majority of them are hosting open forum group discussions, right in their living rooms and back yards. Spoken word poetry and book club nights at places like UWM, Sweet Black Coffee and PU or Poetry Un-plugged have become popular. The Art Bar, Jamaican Bar, Club Timbuktu, are LGBT friendly. There’s always your neighborhood dance clubs, sports bar and pubs like Walkers Pint, LaCage, Licka- D’s-Splitz…. Roller derby, volleyball, Basketball and soccer leagues are all popular places to meet LGBT people. IOU Sports of MKE really has a pulse of many of those events and schedules.”

michael munson, 45

“As a proud board member of the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, I highly recommend that people check out the dozens of events and opportunities the Center offers.  It would be hard for people to not find /something/ that interests them.”

Johnny King, 52,

“Most places I go are straight but gay friendly. I go to lots of house parties and dinner parties. I don’t do bars. I do go listen to bands and see entertainers if they are at festivals, lounges, coffee houses and events. I sometimes see bands at Club Timbuktu. I find most people say they are straight until we are alone when they suddenly become bi-curious. I am on the board at House of Demeure and attend events there. I attend many MSM (men who have sex with men) events from the work I do in health care and HIV/AIDS prevention. I attend various balls too. One of my most favorite places to go is Sherman Perk coffee shop. It is very gay friendly and they are very open to everyone. Sherman Perk hosts concerts, comedians and spoken word events.”

Valery Meyer, 62

“I enjoy Lesbian Alliance of Metro Milwaukee game and movie nights, PFLAG meetings, Miltown King shows, I also attend/moderate Gemini Gender meetings.”

Josh Schumaker, 34

“I volunteer with the Brew City Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. We are a global non-for-profit organization that works for and with the LGBTQ community doing fundraising, community outreach, and safer sex ministry among other things. The Brew City Sisters have been in the Milwaukee area since 2008. I joined as Sister Causa de Change in 2011 as a way for me to give back to my community after being a drag performer for 8+ years.

We encourage people to come to our monthly meetings (held even months at the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center and odd months at the SE LGBT Community Center in Racine) to come check us out and see what we are all about. Milwaukee Abbey does not have any Transgender members, but other “chapter houses” across the globe do include members of the Transgender community; we have men and (as we call them) bio-females, one of our founders (Sister Gimm E Summ is a woman. We are all-inclusive and currently have members who identify as heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual.”

Valerie Kurka, 31

“I moved back to Milwaukee two years ago and did not know any LGBT-identified people. I met quite a few people by volunteering with the MKE LGBT Center and attending their events like the monthly happy hours and Ladies Night Out. I also met people by going to the bars and playing rec sports through the city or county. There are also other groups where others can meet people: Women’s Voices Milwaukee, Lesbian Alliance, Gemini Gender, and SAGE. But I think the key in any situation is being friendly and open to people. Whatever LGBT event or place I am at, every person – gay, straight, and everything in between-has overcome oppression of some sort just by being there and that makes each person amazing to me. I genuinely want to know their story.”

Israel Ramon (age withheld)

“The best way to meet LGBT folks is to get out and get involved in the Community. The MKE LGBT Community Center sponsors TGIF Friday’s at different Milwaukee hot spots once a month. There is a good mix of people that show up. It’s always a great time and always interesting. This is in addition to other Center activities where one can meet many fun people. If one prefers to meet people in a less structured way, Milwaukee was great bars.  Both LGBT and Non-LGBT, but aways friendly.  Venture out to Second and National or the Brady Street area and you’ll find all kinds of establishments that are truly Milwaukee which reflect our city’s diverse LGBT Community.”

Ashe Palmer, 25

“I have volunteered at Diverse & Resilient, with the Alverno Gay-Straight Alliance serving as President while I was a student. I perform as a drag king for fun at Hamburger Mary’s, the Miramar Theater, Frank’s Powerhouse, and my alma mater’s annual drag show. My most favorite event of all is PrideFest. I am now trying to learn more about politics too.”

Mike (last name withheld for privacy) 32

Recommends: to help you find the best dart and softball leagues. The Bowling League is called Monday Night Irregulars: Also: “I go to bingo with a bunch of bowlers from the HIT bowling league every Monday night, I used to be on the league too and I work doing lighting at LaCage.” (Mike, like most people interviewed, is a frequent volunteer.) “I volunteer as the photographer for PrideFest Milwaukee, AIDS Walk, ARCW events and Milwaukee LGBT Community Center events.”

Auston McLain, 29

“The best way to meet people is to just get involved. Through volunteering especially, you’ll always meet exactly the kind of people you want to be around. I met my boyfriend while I was volunteering for a state assembly race. I added to my network and professional experience working on Big Night Out for the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center too. You make the best friends working on a common goal.”

Charvonne Kemp, 44

“The Milwaukee LGBT Community Center is where I have met folks, by being on their Special Events committee. Also, being a part of the Wisconsin Rainbow Families and attending their events.” (Wisconsin Rainbow Families has a weekend in the Dells coming up April 24.)

Edward Todd Britt, 30

Honestly, the best place my husband and I have found to meet people is through the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center‘s monthly TGIF events. Good people, good food (and drinks of course!) from supportive and affirming venues across the county. Other than the Center, there are a couple of classier gay bars, PrideFest Milwaukee is always a blast and the local Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce has some fun events as well.”

Steve Yoder, 50

“For me it’s this simple: The Milwaukee LGBT Community Center–events and volunteering are the best ways to meet wonderful people. I learned so much about the LGBT community. I made really important, lasting friendships. I had a blast at the fundraisers, too: HamBingo (at Hamburger Mary’s) and Pink Hat (at This is It lounge) are always fun with great results for the Center!”

Podkayne Miller, 28

“I put the Milwaukee Queer Exchange together last summer and that has been my main source of interactions. Most of my friends attend Genderqueer Milwaukee and we usually meet up for coffee after the twice-monthly discussions on 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of the month.”

Leo Long, 37

“I’m a Miltown King performer for I’ve met a ton of people through that and that many other gather there to meet new folks. Pathfinders and Diverse and Resilient are great places to volunteer and meet new people. I like to go to Fuel, Art Bar and River West Public House too.”

Carmen A. Murguia, 48

“If it’s dancing you want, capture a night of merengue, salsa, and bachata at People’s Lounge in the corazon/heart of the deep Milwaukee’s barrio on the South Side where the DJ jams the Gran Combo classics and Chino and Nacho’s latest hits.  For a more urban feel of Core DJ Blade’s hip hop, R&B, house and rap music, hosted by Shonda Harrel bartender and owner known as Boss Lady of D’s Licka D Splitz on 41st and Lisbon Avenue.

I firmly believe Milwaukee’s Metro scene truly is a gem to be had! D’s Licka D Splitz is LGBT owned and operated for LGBT people. People’s Lounge is Puerto Rican owned and LGBT friendly welcoming people from all backgrounds! Listen, can you put in the article I am single too?” (Murguia is a well known poet who reads throughout the city as well.)

Cindy Van Vreede, 57

“I go to Ladies Night Out at Hot Water. There are a few Facebook groups that get the word out about women’s events. Wander Womyn is one. Wisconsin Lesbians is another. I go to the SAGE support group every Wednesday. (SAGE is a program of the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center. SAGE stands for Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders.) I enjoy Women’s Voices Milwaukee. I’m trying to develop more social activities with SAGE. I plan on doing the May Skylight Theater event – Be OUT with Skylight. I loved the SAGE glass blowing outing too.”John Griffith, 66

“I meet people in my building at Brewery Point where I help organize lots of dances, socials, times to meet those running for political office and more. We have numerous LGBT people and allies in our senior community. I go to TGIF too. I volunteer and I am working on a mentoring program for youth at the Center (the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center). I attend SAGE 50+ events at the Center for the support group, games and social days, plus movie nights. I want people to know SAGE events are open to everyone. We need more female identified people to attend because the more diverse it is the more fun we have. Join us.”

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