MILWAUKEE — The first-ever Milwaukee County Transit System Pride bus is now on the streets and ready to pick up passengers. The bus is one of the ways county and city leaders are kicking off Pride Month.
Celebrations for Pride have looked different during the last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. For the second year in a row, Milwaukee's Pride Fest has been canceled. Milwaukee Pride Inc. President Wes Shaver said 100,000 people have missed celebrating Pride at the Henry Maier Festival grounds.
"It's important that minority and underserved groups be thought of and served throughout the year and throughout a city and throughout a community. We must continue to educate our entire community, because that's what makes diversity whole," Shaver said.
The city and county want to make sure the community's pride is still on display throughout June. The Pride bus is one way they're doing that.
"Transit plays a key role in advancing equity and providing equal access to every opportunity Milwaukee County has to offer," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
"85% of our transgender and gender non-conforming neighbors right here in Milwaukee County rely on public transportation to get to work, school, appointments and other important destinations," said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley.
The bus was designed by Brianne Mueller, a graphic designer who works with the county.
"I'm extremely happy about it, I love how it turned out," Mueller said. "As a bisexual woman, it's incredible to be able to work on something like this and see the city come together and celebrate something like this."
The bus features the colors of the pride and transgender flags as well as a black and brown stripe to include people of color.
"We really wanted to include the inclusive Pride Flag, include people of color and the transgender community," Mueller said.
And Pride is much more than just displaying colors and celebrating. It's a chance to remember the fight for equal rights for the LGBTQ community.
"We celebrate the milestones of progress, the fights for equality, the blood, the sweat, the tears of so many who fought for equal rights, visibility, tolerance and acceptance," Shaver said.
An important part of that fight is the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City. Stonewall brought national attention to the fight for gay rights. The following year, the first Pride marches were held in cities like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
In 1988, Milwaukee held its first official Pride Fest. Over 200,000 Wisconsinites identify as LGBTQ+.
"I will say that we have made some progress, but we still have a road that remains ahead of us," Crowley said.
That road includes ensuring spaces across the county, like public transportation, continue to be welcoming and safe for the LGBTQ+ community.