Acceptance Journeys

On National Coming Out Day, October 11, I had the pleasure of attending the launch of an anti-homophobia campaign in Milwaukee. The campaign is called Acceptance Journeys, and it features photographs and stories of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and their friends and family. Each story highlights how the friend or family member came to accept the LGBT person.
These photos and stories are printed on cards that are being distributed to United Way agencies and churches throughout Milwaukee to help start conversations about the importance of creating a supportive environment for people who identify as LGBT. Several people who are featured in Acceptance Journeys, including Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, shared their story in front of an audience of community members and leaders at the launch, held at Milwaukee City Hall. 
Mayor Barrett with Kofi from Diverse and Resilient looking on
The project is the result of a CDC Epi Aid investigation of increased HIV among young African American gay and bisexual men in Milwaukee that concluded that homophobia is a major contributor to the increased infection rates. A Community Readiness Assessment helped identify one-on-one conversations and a low intensity media campaign as the best approach to address homophobia, and focus groups conducted by UW Communications professor Shawnika Hull helped identify key themes to highlight in the stories. The second phase of the project, a low intensity media campaign, has subsequently been launched, with billboards and advertisements featuring the Acceptance Journey photos at transit stations throughout Milwaukee. I can’t think of a better way to spend National Coming Out Day! 
Shawnika Hull, Mari, and Anneke by some of the photos
 Kudos to Gary Hollander and Kofi Short of Diverse and Resilient Inc, a community based organization in Milwaukee that is coordinating the project and campaign.