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Snapshot: Barb Farrar, LGBT Center of Southeast Wisconsin executive director
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Snapshot: Barb Farrar, LGBT Center of Southeast Wisconsin executive director

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Barb Farrar

Barb Farrar is the executive director of the LGBT Center of Southeast Wisconsin, located at 1456 Junction Ave. in Racine.

The LGBT Center of Southeast Wisconsin holds its 10th Anniversary Gala on Oct. 19 at the Racine Masonic Center, 1012 Main Street.

The event includes a dinner, presentation, live and silent auctions, a drag show and dancing. Tickets are $100 and available online at www.lgbtsewi.org. Tickets to the dance only are available for $25.

For the past decade, the LGBT Center of Southeast Wisconsin, 1456 Junction Ave. in Racine, has served people of all sexual orientations and gender identity expressions in Racine, Kenosha, Walworth and northern Illinois.

Kenosha resident Barb Farrar took over as the organization’s executive director in June 2018 after spending nearly five years with the University of Wisconsin-Parkside’s human resources department. The 52-year-old Ames, Iowa native discussed the LGBT Center’s mission and the current state of the local LGBTQ+ community.

Q: What attracted you to this position?

A: I’m an out-lesbian. Being a part of the community and being able to help it grow so it could serve the community in a really great way was really attractive. Plus, the position itself, I think, tapped into a lot of my work experience and skill set as a human.

Q: What is your mission for the LGBT Center?

A: The mission is to create a safe space for people to come and be themselves as well as a way for us to help people connect back to their community. That could be either through services or with other LGBT folks or allies. That’s really the mission.

Q: Is the center large enough for people to come hang out or is it primarily used as a place for advocacy?

A: It’s definitely big enough for an office, meetings, events and support groups. People walk in the door and they come in just to hang out and use WiFi or use our library or watch a movie or talk to somebody. They may be in crisis. They may need referrals to other nonprofits. They may have just moved to town and need community. They may need a referral to a financial adviser or a therapist. We help provide those services.

Q: How has the LGBT community evolved over the past 10 years?

A: I would say the emergence of transgender people coming out more and the emergence of people who identify as non-binary has helped. Also, the younger generation being more progressive in terms of vocabulary. “They” is an official, singular pronoun. The trans, the gender non-conforming, the gender queer, the genderfluid have really reshaped the landscape of the LGBT community.

Q: What does the “Q” or “+” stand for in the acronym?

A: “Q” stands for both queer and questioning. Many people have reclaimed the word “queer” as a very positive word, taking back that power that maybe was misused in the past. The plus stands for many different groups. Intersex is a new term used for somebody identified as a hermaphrodite in the past. It could be somebody who is pansexual. It could be somebody who is attracted to all genders or somebody who is A-gender, where they don’t really feel like they’re male or female. It could represent someone who is A-sexual, which is somebody who feels like they weren’t born with a sexual drive or orientation. Then there’s two spirit, three spirit ... There’s a lot underneath it.

Q: What steps have been taken to educate the community?

A: One thing we do is provide safe-zone training. We will go to a corporation, a nonprofit, a group of individuals, a school district ... We will show videos to educate people. We use scenarios. We talk about straight privilege. We talk about educating people on pronouns. We talk about transgender and gender non-forming topics. We talk about what a transition for someone looks like. Things like that.

Q: Your group holds its Equality Prom each spring for area high school students. Is that still one of your biggest events of the year?

A: This year we visited 44 different schools and promoted it. We had about 130 students come. It’s free. It has historically been at the Racine Delta Marriott. Students from Kenosha, Racine, East Troy, Lake County, Sheboygan and all over come to it. It’s a wonderful event.

Q: Are you excited for the 10th anniversary gala?

A: It’s a celebration. We’re hoping for 200 to 300 people. People can come for the dinner or auction and presentation or come later for our drag show and dancing.

Q: Is there one final message you’d like to offer?

A: If I were to say one thing about the center, it would be that we’re small but anyone who walks through that door becomes a part of our family. We personalize the center and cater what we can offer to each person. We know it’s important for people to feel safe and a part of the community.

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