Mini-Features: LGBTQIA-Centered Spaces in Minnesota (Part II)

Reporting by JT Pinther, Freelance Community Journalist

The two-part mini-feature series closes with four more queer-centered spaces in Minnesota, giving some love to more rural parts of the state, and recognizing two spaces with not only state-wide reach, but also international reach. Missed Part I? You can read it here.

Rootsprings Cooperative

Location: Annandale – unceded traditional territory of the Dakota people

Serves: Primarily Twin Cities, but open

Seventy-five miles northwest of the Twin Cities is a place that Signe Harriday, one of six co-founders of Rootsprings Cooperative, said is a much different rural space queer and BIPOC folks may be used to. 

Rootsprings is a land-based cooperative that stewards space for healing, originally with queer Black artists and activists top of mind. To even listen to Harriday speak about the land is calming, and she said one of the first visitors felt it right away too: “I drove onto the land and my shoulders dropped, found a new relationship with my breath.”

“There’s a healing journey when we get the opportunity to sit with, be with, to put hands in soil,“that allows us to think differently. It’s not like a magic wand to erase the trauma,” Harriday said.The cycles of seasons, cyclical nature give us pause as the earth continues to want to heal.”

Caption: Photo courtesy of Rootsprings Cooperative.

Rootsprings hosts three cabins where folks can stay–think bed and breakfast, but for healing. There is no wifi in the cabins, and Harriday said there’s intention behind that. 

“[Rootspings is an] oasis from the Twin Cities, close but still getting out of the city. Technology doesn’t work as well out here, you can unplug, but in a land that wants you here.”

Rootsprings is run by a group of six Black and Brown lesbians (three couples) who’ve been stewarding the land since February. While Rootsprings is open to white folks, the space centers people of color.

The coop opened to the public at the end of May 2021. 

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Telling Queer History

Caption: (L to R) Blair Imani, Mikko Blaze and Venus DeMars, the hosts of Telling Queer History’s most recent event. Photos courtesy of Telling Queer History.

Location: Twin Cities

Serves: Local, Statewide, International

Telling Queer History is likely one of the most accessible LGBTQIA spaces in Minnesota.

Five times a year, Telling Queer History hosts storytelling gatherings open to the public. Each gathering is located in a space on the bus line, oscillating between both Twin Cities for access, in community spaces that are ADA compliant, no exceptions. Events are substance-free, open to all ages and intersecting identities and include child care, an ASL interpreter, allergen-free food and sometimes even therapists on hand if topics are especially heavy for attendees.

The goal? To connect across generations and identities in queerness. “We provide a platform, especially for less-heard or unheard stories in Minnesota,” Rebecca Aylesworth, board chair of Telling Queer History, said.

Here is a clip to experience a sample of a story told in this unique space (includes captions):

During the pandemic, Telling Queer History moved to Zoom, and Ayelsworth said it has increased participation. In October, Telling Queer History will move back to in-person, but she said the scope of increased access via Zoom makes the decision to keep the virtual attendance option an easy one. “Our reach was much, much greater,” she said. “People attended from across the US, even from other countries.”

Events are recorded, and a near-future project of the organization is archiving all the stories in the Tretter Collection (more info on them later in this article) as queer oral history.

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TheShop’s RainbowRoad

Caption: Some RainbowRoad youth doing a teamwork activity. Photo courtesy of TheShop.

Location: Brainerd

Serves: Local

The Brainerd Baxter Youth Center (known locally as TheShop) is a space for youth ages 14 to 22 in the Brainerd area. TheShop offers programming, food, clubs, air conditioning and a safe place to be during the weekend and after school. While TheShop prioritizes respect and inclusivity, some of the youths asked for something more specific.

Executive Director Erin Wilmot was happy to deliver. “LGBTQ youth wanted their own space, education and place to gather,” Wilmot said. “We don’t have a lot of resources around here in Brainerd/Baxter. [What is now] RainbowRoad wanted a time that was just theirs, so they have Tuesdays!”

RainbowRoad is a group that would otherwise be hard to come by in the area. It hosts as many as 25-30 youth every Tuesday, and that doesn’t include supportive parents, volunteers and mentors. The group watches queer-focused movies, hosts speakers and overall provides a safe space to gather.

“One of our regular volunteers got a group of local queer adults to come to the group and share their experiences,” Wilmot said of one of the RainbowRoad nights. “They talked about resiliency, relationships. It was a great array of people.”

“It’s so Important for youth to hear from people who are here and continue to be here,” she added. “It was awesome to have these adults share and be true to themselves.”

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Tretter Collection

Location: Minneapolis

Serves: Statewide, but limited to UMN affiliates during covid

The Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies (known as the Tretter Collection) is a queer-centered space located at the University of Minnesota, serving as an immense vault of queer archives. The Tretter collection boasts “3,500 linear feet of material” including LGBTQIA periodicals, books, personal papers of queer Twin Cities figures, newsletters and much more.

Beyond the linear feet are the Collection’s audio-visual archives, including radio broadcasts, television programs and oral histories (Telling Queer History soon to be added!).

The Tretter Collection’s biggest focus is LGBTQIA archives representing the upper Midwest, but it includes history from all around the world. There is so much material, the Collection has multiple guides for browsing materials and resources. The Tretter Collection was the most-referenced queer space in the six interviews conducted for this two-part series.

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