Mini-Features: LGBTQIA-Centered Spaces in Minnesota (Part I)
By: JT Pinther, Freelance Community Journalist
With Pride Month upon us as many COVID restrictions simultaneously lift, we are doing mini-features of a number of LGBTQIA-centered spaces, places and resources for queer folks to use and for allies to support. Watch for part two next week!
Serves: Local, Greater Minnesota, Northern Wisconsin
When Sean Hayes, co-founder of Trans Plus, came out as a transgender man at the end of 2014, he had never met another trans person before. “I had this feeling I would be the only trans person in Duluth,” Hayes said.
Today, he leads an invaluable resource for trans folks and their loved ones in the Duluth area.
Trans Plus provides Trans 101 workshops to local organizations, a biweekly (now weekly, per the community’s request) support group, consultations for local businesses and organizations for updating paperwork to have more gender-inclusive language and even rides for group members who don’t have transportation to meetings.
Hayes told us about a fundraiser Trans Plus recently held where they raised $2,000 in two weeks for a queer family that was struggling financially.
Carrying a legacy forward
Trans Plus has been reflecting on the group’s future as more and more people have been involved, even and especially during COVID. Continuing to have support group meetings—but virtually—allowed people who live in other places in greater Minnesota and in northern Wisconsin to attend.
A trans man named Evan Adams, one of the leaders in Trans Plus, took his own life in May, and Hayes said “His death has rippled, very far.”
Adams had visions Hayes would love to see carried forward, like creating “a trans resource center that’s focused around healing, inclusion and intersectionality. That dream is there.”
Beyond the brick and mortar, Hayes is dreaming as big as possible. “We’re sick of only surviving, one day to the next, surviving,” Hayes said. “Let’s dream, imagine—what does this community look like when it’s thriving?”
Location: Twin Cities
Serves: Twin Cities
Birth Revolution provides intersectional, social justice-oriented education for birth workers such as doulas and midwives. Fundamental to these trainings is centering BIPOC and queer experiences.
It is both the statistics around racism and health care and founder Nadine Ashby’s personal experience as a Black, queer and non-binary person that led them to start Birth Revolution.
“People are dying because of racism and homophobia and transphobia and fatphobia,” said Ashby.
In fact, Black and Indigenous women are two to three times more likely to die during childbirth than white women. Ashby underscored that a person giving birth could have the same economic status, same access to resources, same education level, and the disparity is still true.
So, Ashby and an expansive team of intersectional experts in birth and harmful systems are developing a comprehensive curriculum to educate individuals studying to be birth workers or even birth workers who are already trained but didn’t have anti-racism or LBGTQIA safety centered in their original curriculum.
“There are people who want to be competent and want to provide care that doesn’t cause harm,” Ashby said. “I saw a gap in resources around that. That’s why we started this.”
One of the many elements to the curriculum will be around language. Doulas, midwives, and other birth workers will often assume pronouns, referring to all pregnant people as “moms” or “mamas”, which can alienate pregnant, queer folks looking for resources. “If they hear all this gendered language, it doesn’t give them space to feel like they’re part of the birth community at all.”
What Ashby does in their work with Birth Revolution and as a doula themselves centers the intersectionality and advocacy of birthing people every day. “It’s exhausting and disappointing to have to educate your healthcare worker how to treat you, and treat you like a human being.”
Birth Revolution is working to change that.
Location: Twin Cities
Queer Voices has been a staple LGBTQIA expressive space since 1993. Now produced by Lisa Marie Brimmer and Sherrie Fernandez Williams, Queer Voices hosts writing circle workshops, currently virtually due to COVID.
According to The Minnesota Historical Society, Queer Voices is the longest-running curated queer reading series in the country.
Queer Voices was not available for comment, but through the book published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press in 2019, which presents poetry, prose and nonfiction pieces by writers who’ve presented at Queer Voices readings, it is clear this is an important space.
“Come with your writing tools, something yummy to drink or eat,” the Queer Voices webpage says, “and we’ll spend two hours grounding in the archive, responding to writing prompts, and sharing back in community!” Direct zoom link is here. As of print, the next workshop will be June 12 at 10 a.m.
Serves: Locally, but more to come!
Just a couple blocks east of the Midtown Global Market on Lake Street in Minneapolis sits the Quatrefoil Library, a community center that is home to more than 18,500 books, 5,000 DVDs, periodicals and sound recordings—all LGBTQIA materials.
Quatrefoil Library also hosts book clubs, Queer Voices readings and Dungeons and Dragons campaigns.
An exciting new change for the library is after 35 years of paid membership, Quatrefoil is waiving membership fees entirely. An individual membership used to be $40 annually.
“People were saying that the cost of a Q card was a barrier,” Claude Peck, Board President of Quatrefoil Library, said. “We wanted to lower those barriers.”
Another barrier for Minnesota queer folks has been location. Unless one lives in the metro, they cannot easily access these resources. But, this is on Peck’s to-do list.
“I’m hoping to expand to audio books and ebooks, which are especially important for people in Duluth, Mankato, Rochester… because it will all be digital,” Peck said. “It’s expensive though … If [a book is] new, it’s already going to be in digital form, but if you think about the older books though, those need to be digitized.”
The Quatrefoil Library closed its doors when COVID restrictions began and has remained closed since then, only providing curbside pickup for books. The space is set to slowly reopen, beginning with Saturdays in June.