Gay neighbors come out on billboards in Wisconsin

September 12, 2008
A lot of the time, when people aren’t sure how they feel about issues facing our community, it's because they feel that they don't know any lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people in their own communities. A group of advocates in southeastern Wisconsin are setting out to change that. They’ve developed a public education project called The Gay Neighbor Campaign to raise visibility about these issues and introduce community members to their LGBT neighbors. The campaign is a project of southeastern Wisconsin’s Cream City Foundation and is the first large-scale effort aimed at raising visibility in the area.  Since mid-August, more than 30 “Gay Neighbor” billboards have gone up across Milwaukee, Waukesha and Jefferson county.  The billboards feature photos of real-life LGBT people and their families that live in the area. GLAAD has been fortunate enough to be involved in the Gay Neighbor campaign from the beginning, at first by giving feedback on campaign concepts and ideas, and then by supporting the Cream City Foundation’s press conference where they announced the campaign.  We were also able to help out with pitching the story to localnationalmainstream and LGBT media outlets. The story has been picked up by more than 40 media outlets, and the campaign’s website received more than 120,000 hits in the first week. The Gay Neighbor website is designed to be a space for LGBT families and allies across the country to share their stories. The stories shared on the website include neighbors’ first names and zip codes to show that LGBT people and their families live, work, raise families and go to school throughout the state of Wisconsin. And the next time a parent of an LGBT son or daughter is driving from the Jefferson or Waukesha suburbs to their job in downtown Madison or Milwaukee, they’ll see billboards along I-94 with messages and photos from local parents like Dave and Georgia, showing their support for their gay son, Nathan.  And we know that it's pictures and stories like these that have the power to change hearts and minds and help LGBT people everywhere feel empowered to be open about their lives and their families. Check out some of the media coverage of the Gay Neighbor campaign that GLAAD helped secure: