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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

JOURNAL: You Have A Place Here

Photo by Izzy Fonfara Drewel
This is It! has served as an LGBTQ+ hub since the 1968.

Wisconsin has a reputation for being one of the drunkest states in the Union and contains the third highest volume of bars per capita, but for Wisconsinites, bars are a lot more than just a place to drink.

They are community hubs reflecting the personalities of the attendants they attract. Saloons, speakeasies and sports bars each have a unique flavor serving the various communities that make up the state.

Wisconsin carries another important legacy as the “Gay Rights State,” as it was the first state to enact a law prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing and other public accommodations based on sexual orientation.

Right here in Milwaukee, these two legacies come to a crossroads at the oldest continuously running gay bar in Wisconsin, This is It! The bar, humorously referred to as “Tits” by regulars, is not only a prominent site for queer nightlife. It has also served as a safe haven for LGBTQ+ Milwaukeeans and a force for progress in the city.

The bar opened in 1968 at 418 E. Wells Street, where it still resides to this day. At the time, gay bars existed but were still uncommon. “Bottoms Up,” a 2012 book highlighting Wisconsin bars, contains an article about This is It! that says the founder, June Brehm, “knew a lot of gay people and wanted to create a comfortable and safe gathering place during a time when gays suffered great discrimination.”

Under Brehm and her son’s management, the bar earned the reputation as a powerful supporter of Milwaukee’s gay community. The bar even held fundraising events for the Cream City foundation and the fight against the AIDS pandemic.

The establishment was a comforting presence for those grieving loved ones lost to AIDS. It also served as a place to heal after the serial killings by Jeffrey Dahmer struck the local queer community.

Over time, This is It! garnered a loyal following of old clientele who had experienced pain of discrimination before gay and lesbian people in Wisconsin had become legally protected in 1982. However, the bar continues to attract new patrons, many of which are enamored by the lively drag scene it encourages.

The bar later welcomed drag superstar Brian Firkus, better known by the stage name Trixie Mattel, onboard in 2021, as co-owner.

Trixie is a Milwaukee native and came to fame after competing in “Ru Paul’s Drag Race” in 2018. She recognized This is It! was responsible for kicking off the careers of many fellow drag performers, and wanted to guarantee the establishment survived the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bar has only grown more popular since then and continues its efforts to protect and unify Milwaukee’s queer community. The bar hosts weekly favorites like Thursday Drag Bingo and Friday Drag shows that have, on occasion, featured esteemed queens such as Trixie Mattel herself.

This is It! is much more than a bar, it is a Milwaukee institution with a commitment to improving the lives of queer individuals in the city and across the state.

Cities like Milwaukee need gathering places like these to protect and serve its LGBTQ+ community. Truly, Wisconsin’s queer culture is celebrated at This is It! and the establishment welcomes all to find a home within its walls.

This story was written by Joey Schamber. He can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Joseph Schamber
Joseph Schamber, Executive Opinions Editor
Joey Schamber is a sophomore from Downers Grove, Illinois studying journalism and will serve as the Executive Opinions Editor for the 2024-2025 academic year. Outside of the Wire he enjoys cooking, drawing and skateboarding. He is excited to be writing stories and to be active in his community!
Izzy Fonfara Drewel
Izzy Fonfara Drewel, Production Director
Izzy Fonfara Drewel is a senior from Papillion, Nebraska majoring in journalism with a double minor in music and Spanish. This school year she will be serving as the Production Director. In previous years, she made her home on the Arts & Entertainment desk as the Executive Arts & Entertainment Editor, and she was the Executive Opinions Editor last year. Outside of the Wire, Izzy plays the trumpet in the Marquette University Bands and spends her free time trying new restaurants and playing card games with her friends. She is excited to pilot this position this year and build a strong staff that is confident in their abilities.

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