Lavender Magazine 757

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To learn more about LGBTQ+ care at RUSH, scan the code, visit or call (833) 624-5428 .

We’re here for you when you need us! 612-778-4718 • Warehouse Specialist Ryan
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The 2024 Pride Edition

22 From The Editor: Twenty-Five Years (And More!) Of Pride!

23 A Word In Edgewise: In The Beginning Was...Not Us

24 From A to Zee: 1 in 3

26 Lavender Lens

30 Go Big, Or Go Home - Lavender’s Super-Sized Summer Of Pride Kickoff Party and Score @ Pride Are Back For A Second Round

32 Biz Buzz: Erik Sanborn of The Metropolitan Ballet

34 A Day In The Life: Michael Lee

36 2024 Pride What To Do Guide

36 Eat The Menu: French Fare

40 Eat The Menu: The Saga Of Zagat

44 World Ballet Festival: Ballet is for Everyone

48 The Loring Collective - Community By and For LGBTQ+ Artists

54 “Every BODY Needs Some BODY“ - With This Is Me, The Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus Tackles Body Shaming Head-On

56 Celebrating Pride with Thomas Søndergård at the Minnesota Orchestra

58 Not A Layover, A Direct Flight To Advocate And Musician: Parker Matthews

62 Leather Pride And A Flag For Us All

64 Love And Community In La Bohème

68 For The Love Of The Game: When Basketball Is So Much More Than Just Basketball

70 Looking Back: Pride Issue Covers From Our Past

72 Why I Serve: Army Lt. Sabel Peterson

74 What Does The Future Hold?: Staff Sgt. Kristin Swanstrom

76 Recognizing and Uplifting Diverse Voices: Army Capt. Kate Sulzle Serves Others

78 ’You Have To Hunt The Good Stuff’: Soldier Finds Community In The Minnesota National Guard

80 Rediscovering the World: A Guide to Smart and Splendid Summer Travels

86 Pride Journeys: Las Vegas

92 Metropolitan Skin Clinic Can Help Transgender People With Their Skin Journey

94 “Pilot Light“ - A New Documentary Film Tells the Story of a Local Kid Whose Passion is Fashion

98 Dirt Is Just Rodeo Folk Glitter

100 How Aurora FC Makes a Difference in Community


104 Finding Our Way Home: How Avenues For Youth Helps LGBTQ+ Kids Stay Off The Streets

106 Talking Good Pain vs. Bad Pain During Pride With Summit Orthopedics

108 A Knockout Fitness Experience: Unleashing Your Power At 9Round

110 The Benefits Of Bicycles

112 A Bright Future Lies Ahead In The Next Generation Of LGBTQ+ Healthcare Providers

120 How GoFundMe Helps Support The LGBTQ+ Community

122 Lazy Toad Farm Shares Its Passion For Plants With The Community

124 The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Says Hope and Resources

Are Available

THE COVER Carley Knox. Photo by Mike Hnida

126 Harmony Keepers: Redefining Security With Compassion And Inclusion

128 Celebrate Living With Alive and Kickin

130 Ask Elise: Queer BIPOC Resources in Minnesota and the Midwest

132 Running Wild and Running Safe


134 “Most Delicious Poison“: An Interview With Author Noah Whiteman

136 The Walser Way: Leaders for LGBTQ+ Inclusion in Automotive Retail

140 Books: 757


142 Staying Cool This Summer In Air Conditioned Comfort

150 “Clean Sweep“ - Author Patric Richardson’s New Book Confirms That Heart Is Where The Home Is

156 An LGBTQ+ Motorsports Athlete’s Invitation to Go Karting

160 The Best Seller In Its Class Gets Better


164 Bad Gay: Episode 11

164 Cheers To Supportive Parents

168 Two Covid Poems: The Book of Distractions and Romans


166 Community Connection

167 The Network

757 May 30-June 12, 2024

everyone, and we are proud to support our LGBTQ+ members and employees.

Visit us at booth 208 during Twin Cities Pride!

& Jake

Insured by NCUA


Managing Editor Randy Stern 612-461-8723

Editorial Assistant Linda Raines 612-436-4660

Editor Emeritus Ethan Boatner

Editorial Associate George Holdgrafer

Contributors Lakey Bridge, Buer Carlie, Natasha DeLion, Alyssa Homeier, Terrance Griep, Elise Maren, Jen PeeblesHampton, Linda Raines, Gabrielle Reeder, Alexander Reed, Gabrielle Reeder, Madison Roth, Jamez L. Smith, Susan Swavely, Carla Waldemar, Todd P. Walker, Emma Walytka, Spencer White


Vice President of Sales & Advertising

Barry Leavitt 612-436-4690

Account Executives

Nathan Johnson 612-436-4695

Richard Kranz 612-436-4675

Advertising Associate George Holdgrafer

Sales & Event Administration Linda Raines 612-436-4660

National Sales Representatives Rivendell Media 212-242-6863


Creative/Digital Director Mike Hnida 612-436-4679

Photographer Sophia Hantzes


Publisher Lavender Media, Inc. Doug Starkebaum 612-436-4664 Michael Winikoff 612-436-4660

Steven W. Anderson (1954-1994), Timothy J. Lee

Entire contents copyright 2024. All rights reserved. Publication of the name or photograph of any person, organization, or business in this magazine does Magazine Magazine is available free of charge during the time period published on the cover. Pickup Letters are subject to editing for grammar, punctuation, space, and libel. They should be no more than 300 words. Letters must include name, address, and phone number. Unsigned letters will not be published. Priority will be given to letters that refer to material previously published in Lavender Magazine. Submit letters to Lavender Magazine, Letters to the Editor, 5100 Eden Ave, Suite 107, Edina, MN 55436 or e-mail Volume 30, Issue 757 • May 30-June 12, 2024 LAVENDER MAY 30-JUNE 12, 2024 20 DREAM V ISION PLAN Relational Financial Planning Roya Moltaji, CFP®, ChFC®, CASLTM, CAP® Senior Financial Planner, Financial Services Representative 2013 Quorum Business Leader of the Year 100 S 5th St, Suite 2300, Minneapolis MN 55402 Call Roya today at 952-769-2126 WWW.ROYAMOLTAJI.COM Securities and investment advisory services offered through qualified registered representatives of MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. Roya, LLC is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC, or its affiliated companies. CRN202010-238440 lawyers you know. Locally sourced advocacy and advice from 612.339.7121 Custody & Parenting Time • Child Support Dissolution • Spousal Maintenance Complex Valuation • Domestic Partnership Adoption • Third Party Custody • Appeals Join our free in-person and online Support Groups for LGBTQIA+ people living with a mental illness F r e e t o E n t e r , F u l l o f A d v e n t u r e ! More than 200 miles of scenic trails across 28 parks. A Rede ned Cannabis Experience WELCOME TO SWEETLEAVES, WHERE YOUR DREAMS BECOME SWEETER 905 N. Washington Ave. • Minneapolis Your Choices. Our Support. | 651.967.5060 Visit us at our booth with Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota at Pride! You know your family’s needs best. Learn more about self-directed and licensed services for people with disabilities and older adults. PICS services: CDCS | CSG | IHS | Private Pay

Twenty-Five Years (and More) of Pride!

Welcome to our 25th Pride Issue!

Our first commemorative issue was published in 1998 – a few years after we began Lavender Magazine. Not sure about the history of creating such a huge issue every year, but it has become our premier issue every year.

As long as I have been in the Managing Editor’s seat (just two years-plus), we always produced the largest such issue for the LGBTQ+ Pride season. It is a point of pride here at this magazine.

Keep in mind that I’ve written for this magazine going back to 2008. Since 2012, I’ve been asked to write more than enough articles to fill the vast number of pages we produce every start of June (or end of May, in this year’s case).

It is a lot of work. There’s a lot of moving parts. Lots of e-mails, phone calls, conversations, scheduling, negotiations, and so forth – all turning into what you’re about to read in the forthcoming pages.

I wish I could summarize this issue. It’s impossible to do. While it is my job to know what’s coming after this column, I could only invite you to read the entire issue to discover the stories we’re ready to tell in this year’s Pride issue.

Considering all of the work that went into this issue, I wish to express my greatest gratitude to everyone at Lavender Magazine for their hard

Our Mission is to End Veteran Homelessness in Minnesota

LAVENDER MAY 30-JUNE 12, 2024 22
work in putting this issue together. That includes the team of contributing writers who have worked hard to produce the stories ahead. Please enjoy our 2024 Pride Edition. And, happy LGBTQ+ Pride Month! 
Photo by Randy Stern
@MACVORG SOCIAL MEDIA WWW MAC-V ORG WEBSITE H o u s i n g S e r v i c e s L e g a l S e r v i c e s E m p l o y m e n t A s s i s t a n c e I f y o u e v e r s e r v e d t h e A r m e d F o r c e s a n d a r e i n n e e d o f h o u s i n g , o r i f y o u k n o w a V e t e r a n i n n e e d , p l e a s e c o n n e c t w i t h u s t o d a y .

In the Beginning Was … Not Us

Noah Whiteman’s Most Delicious Poison is, as the subtitle explains, The Story of Nature’s Toxins–from Spices to Vices. His engaging text shifts deftly between humor, memoir, and scientific detail–some quite complex.

The complexities, however, serve to illustrate how vast a network has evolved between plants and animals over eons of survival conflict–well before humanity was a gleam in the cosmic eye. Late to the dance, humans borrowed freely.

“Opioid Overlords,” deals unexpectedly with “frankincense and myrrh,” now mainly associated with the manger in Bethlehem. Many still wonder, “Why did Wise Men bring those from afar–and what are they?”

Both were known even then for having pain pain-killing properties–today labelled “terpenoids” or (TRVP3). Principal in frankincense is incensole acetate, which works by binding to TRVP3 receptors in the brain.

But not to worry. There’s no examination, no need to memorize “TRVP3”–or even “terpenoid.” Whiteman’s book plumbs many levels, allowing the lay-reader to skim the minutiae yet comprehend the wonder at how tightly woven are the chemical defense/aggression ties between cer-

tain plants/insects and animals, including, finally, humankind. Whiteman stresses that while there are innumerable interconnections, from the beginning every living thing has drawn from the same elemental toolbox, tailoring natural its elements to their specific needs.

Early observation of his father’s struggle with chemical use led Whiteman to focus on similar struggles between plant and animal adversaries. When did they first utilize natural substances? How effective were they? How did their bodies incorporate and modify them over time? What insights may now be gained into similar benefit or harm for humans?

“Societal failures are the main reason people develop use disorders,” Whiteman adds, “while the Monarch butterfly evolved to cope with its toxins over millions of years. I needed to reconcile parallels between work and my surroundings growing up, and this is when I realized there was a common through-line in these two spheres of my life.”

The book is an eye-opener on this very complexity. No win-win, more a poison/toxin computer game with infinite levels and switch-backs; the goal: ‘Stay alive and feed, yet don’t decimate your food supply.’

In sum, it’s “Eat or be eaten.” The chemical warfare begun long before Homo saps “is why we have the natural pharmacopeia we do. We’ve simply tapped into a land-war that has been unfolding over the past 400 million years–think; The Very Hungry Caterpillar on a global scale.”

There are never certainties. Some plants utilize caffeine as a toxin to thwart insect aggressors while some bees imbibing caffeinated nectar pollinate more effectively. Humans, of course, swill caffeinated beverages daily; it revivifies and linked with reduced risk of depression, even suicide; but overmuch is toxic, fatal. “The dose makes the poison,” still holds.

“The human pursuit of nature’s toxins can be a new lens with which to view everything from the last 500 years of human history to our daily habits, including the ability to live longer, healthier lives.” But Whiteman also cautions us to remember, “Humans are very recent arrivals on the planet, while the war of nature, raging now for hundreds of millions of years, is what’s given us our crops, our medicines, our air, and our water.”

(Curious about that title? It’s from Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. More on that in the book!) 


1 in 3

I have a confession. I never expected to live past the age of 21 years old. Why is that, you ask? Well, in my teen years (1985-1993) I recall reading articles and seeing news reports saying that 1 in 3 Black men would either be dead or end up in prison by the age of 21.

I had friends who lived “the street life.” I remember being lonely growing up as an only child, so I had a yearning to be part of something, a group, or a crew. That something ended up being the local gang. I was a scrawny kid and I’m sure they were looking at me thinking “What are we going to do with this one?” I never got “jumped” into the gang like some of my friends did despite my best efforts. As a conciliation (I believe thinking back on it now) I was given the street name “The Reporter.” I even remember getting a black Los Angeles Raider’s hat with “Reporter” inscribed on the side in Old English font. Even then, I was the archivist of information. I always knew what went down, where it happened, and who was involved. Looking back on it now, that was actually a pretty dangerous position to be in.

During this time, the HIV/AIDS crisis was just building steam. According to CDC records, 47,993 people died of AIDS (or AIDS-related complication) between 1981-1987 and that figure jumped to 181,212 deaths between 1988-1992 and remained high at 159,048 deaths between 1993-1995. During those first years there was a 95.5% death rate of folks diagnosed with HIV. I knew well before my teen years that I was attracted to “boys & girls.” Being the late bloomer that I was, even the thought of getting sexually intimate with anyone would paralyze me with fear. There were a lot of unknowns and misinformation at the time regarding how one contracted HIV, how it progressed to full blown AIDS, and if there would ever be a cure for it in the foreseeable future. All I knew is that since I liked boys, this could also happen to me.

Whether I wanted this statistic to impact the way I lived my life or not, I always remembered 1 in 3, 1 in 3, 1 in 3. This is why a recent 2023 survey released by the Trevor Project shook me to my core. Part of the results focused on the perceived life expectancy of LGBTQ+ youth surveyed. The summary was that “Among the overall sample of LGBTQ+ young people, the majority (64%) reported believing there was a high chance (i.e., more likely than not) of living to age 35, while just over 1 in 3 (36%) believed their chances were low.” There’s that number again, 1 in 3.

The data was drawn from a survey of over 20,000 respondents from across the country between the ages 13-24. John Riley’s article “Negative Outlook” in Metro Weekly noted that the survey asked “the youth about their sense of purpose in life, focusing on six different aspects: whether respondents felt that their life has enough purpose; whether they find their life activities worthwhile; whether they believe the activities they engage in are important; valuing said activities; caring about said activities; and having many reasons to live.” I highly recommend everyone read this article! Today’s youth feel more hopeless than generations past. LGBTQ+ youth, in particular, are even more susceptible to those feelings given that so many of our states are trying to legislate their existence away and parents are fighting local school boards to prevent young people from reading about others who share their identity. I can assure you if reading about heterosexual people makes someone straight then why aren’t we all straight? The math is not mathing (#urbandictionary).

Again, the Trevor Project reports that “28% of LGBTQ youth reported experiencing homelessness or housing instability at some point in their lives.” That’s almost 1 in 3. Nearly half of LGBTQ youth surveyed have seriously considered attempting suicide in 2022.

These figures are not new to those of us within the LGBTQ+ community who have our ears to the ground and track what’s going on with our

younger generations. But I remember sharing these statistics with a close family member not that long ago and they were in utter disbelief. Hearing these data points literally stopped him in his tracks. We need to remember that nearly 9 in 10 American adults (87%) say they know someone who is gay or lesbian, however, far fewer (30%) say they know someone who is transgender (Pew Research poll). There’s that figure again, 1 in 3. It’s much easier to fear that which you do not know than that which you do know. More folk need to come to know folk who are transgender and/or nonbinary.

We are losing the battle to save a significant chunk of our LGBTQ+ youth. It’s true that access to HIV medication and PrEP has alleviated the fear that being intimate with someone as they grow older won’t be an automatic death sentence for them. They won’t have to bury 50%+ of their dearest friends by the time they are in their twenties. It’s true that they have been able to live in a time when being able to marry the person they love is a given regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. But it’s also true that they are living during a time that 515 anti-LGBTQ bills have been proposed in state legislatures around the country (ACLU). They are also living through a time that they are being bombarded by negative messaging 24/7 through social media that has been designed to create an addiction equivalent craving for them to stay on it for as many minutes in a day as possible.

Despite the odds, I’ll be turning 50 this year, 29 years past what I believed would have been my expiration date. Queer kids today deserve to live a much longer life than I have been able to enjoy thus far. What will you be doing within your community (whether you have kids or not) to ensure that happens? Queer kids don’t become queer adults by accident. It’s our (collective) responsibility to pave the way to ensure the road ahead for them is one that their life has purpose and that living to enjoy it is worthwhile. 

courtesy of Shutterstock


University of Minnesota Golden Gophers Women’s Basketball Pride Night 01.20.24

Timberwolves Pride Night
LAVENDER MAY 30-JUNE 12, 2024 28 OUR LAVENDER | LAVENDER LENS Minnesota Wild Third Annual Pride Night 03.12.24 PHOTOS BY SOPHIA
Professional Women’s Hockey League Pride Game Day 02.25.24

Go Big, or Go Home Lavender’s Super-Sized Summer of Pride Kickoff Party and Score @ Pride Are Back for a Second Round

Pride…just the word conjures up images of rainbows and confetti, balloons, floats, drag queens, music and dancing. Parades. Happiness. Fun. Celebrating the diversity of our community with laughter and joy and the knowledge that this is our month to show the world who we are and how we fit into every aspect of society.

This year, Lavender kicks off the Pride season with our second annual Summer of Pride Kickoff Party + Score @ Pride. Our inaugural super-sized combined event last year was a huge hit, and we expect this year to be even bigger and better!

Lavender’s First Thursday event began in February of 2008 with an attendance of a mere 20—30 people. It quickly grew in both size and popularity, soon boasting of an attendance of well over 150 attendees each month. The First Thursday for June always coincided with the June Summer of Pride Kickoff Party which easily drew crowds of over 500 attendees as a way of both unveiling Lavender’s annual Pride issue as well as sashaying into the Pride season with style.

Score came about a few years later as a way of bringing together LGBTQ+ athletes and fans for a monthly, sports-centric happy hour, and eventually the event evolved into the once-peryear Score @ Pride in 2018 as one of the signature events of Lavender’s annual Summer of Pride slate of celebrations, held on the Thursday before the Twin Cities Pride Festival.

It gave the community a chance to see all of the options open to them that they could participate in the sports of their choice with likeminded individuals in the LGBTQ community, with teams that were welcoming and inclusive in every way. It also gave the local professional teams such as the Lynx, the Vikings, the Twins and the Wild a chance to show our community that they supported us and welcomed us at their games and in their stadiums with branded Pridethemed swag and the various Pride nights that they sponsored throughout the summer.

Both events drew, and continue to draw, enthusiastic and loyal crowds, folks who always make room on their calendars for Lavender’s events, and both events are highly anticipated by Lavender readers as both a way to kick off the summer and a way to kick off Pride weekend in the Twin Cities.

Building on the success of last year’s com-

bined event, this year’s Kickoff Party + Score @ Pride is slated to be held on June 6 at the elegant and inviting Hilton Minneapolis in their first-floor event room, The Gallery, that offers a great view of Marquette Avenue.

Attendees will be able to register for awesome prizes at the Lavender welcome table before stepping into the elegant event space where they’ll be welcomed by multitudes of vendor tables representing many businesses and organizations that support and welcome our community. Numerous local LGBTQ+ sports leagues will also be in attendance, welcoming your questions on how to come out to support their games or, better yet, to sign up to be part of their teams. Several of the Twin Cities’ professional teams will also be on hand with representatives eager to talk about how they appreciate our community coming out to cheer the players on at games and matches.

local LGBTQ nonprofits, LGBTQ sports teams and organizations, and Minnesota’s professional sports teams.

There is ample parking available, both as street parking and also in nearby ramps. Additionally, the Hilton Minneapolis will offer valet parking that evening for attendees. 

Be prepared to enjoy delicious complimentary appetizers, a cash bar, chances to register to win great prizes and pick up fun swag and promotions, and to peruse tables from a dazzling array of tables staffed by representatives from

Lavender’s Summer of Pride Kickoff Party and Score @ Pride

June 6 • 5:30 – 8:00 PM

Hilton Minneapolis, 1001 Marquette Ave. S. • Minneapolis

Photos courtesy of Hilton Minneapolis

Eric Sanborn of The Metropolitan Ballet

Business: The Metropolitan Ballet

Your Name: Erik Sanborn

Job Title: Founder & Artistic Director

Give us a brief overview of your business and what services you provide the community:

The Metropolitan Ballet is a Twin Cities organization founded by Founder & Artistic Director Erik Sanborn with a mission of uniting the communities of dance, music, and theater in staging high impact works in the performing art of dance and providing dance instruction with an emphasis on accessibility, diversity, and affordability.

The company has staged Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, Dracula, Agnes De Milles’ Rodeo, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Carmen by Alberto Alonso, Dracula set to a new score, Amadeus the Ballet, The Ballet Russes Festival, Le Corsaire, Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Don Quixote, several contemporary works, an annual Nutcracker in collaboration with The Kenwood Symphony Orchestra since 2007, and classic galas showcasing Chopiniana, Spectre de la Rose, The Dying Swan, The Fairy Dolls, and Esmarelda.

How many years have you been in business?

We’ve been in business since 1998. Our first major production was produced in 2004 with the staging of Romeo and Juliet.

What’s something unique we should know about your business?

Our organization has a special focus on bringing the tradition of ballet into the 21st century by sharing full-length classical ballets with the community. We present these performances collaborating with musicians to present our performances with live music.

What’s your favorite thing about your job?

I enjoy working with young artists as they pursue success in their craft. It’s rewarding to be a part of the development of young artists over the course of years as they discover the world of ballet.

What’s the best thing about working with the LGBTQ community?

Many of the artists engaged by the Metropolitan Ballet are members of the LGBTQ community and we’re proud of providing a venue where these folks can develop and showcase their talents—it’s great working with great people. When I think of the LGBTQ community, I think of people celebrating the best version of themselves in whatever identity they choose. In our productions, we create an environment where all our performers can bring

their personalities to the table and encourage a space that fosters exploration and free expression. This openness is critical to producing compelling performances.

Does your business have anything new, fun or unique happening on the horizon?

Yes! We’re celebrating our 25-year history with a compelling season including Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Nutcracker, Giselle, Don Quixote, and Romeo and Juliet. Of special note, the season includes our return to Northrop with a special presentation of Giselle featuring world-class performers Daniil Simkin and Skylar Brandt.

If you weren’t doing your current job, what would you be doing?

I would be wishing I was! Jokes aside, I would be playing the piano more, composing music, painting, writing poetry, and sailing on my boat.

Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Ballet 612.290.1533 10-time Angie's List Super Service Award Winner Sanding • Refinishing Repair • Install Recoat • FREE Estimates

Michael Lee

Where did you grow up?

Michigan, but I’ve lived in Minnesota for 20 years now. Does that make me local yet? (kidding)

Where do you live?

I own a house in South Minneapolis, close to Powderhorn and the Midtown Global Market. Who do you live with?

My dog Bella and Captain, my ginger tabby cat.

What is your occupation?

I’ve spent most of the last decade researching and writing my first book, which will be coming out in 2024. I also teach part-time at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and maintain a small professional grant writing business.

When did you come out?

When I was almost 18! Hard to believe that was nearly 30 years ago.

How’d that go?

For the first time, I felt like I’d found friends who really understood me. There were challenges, but overall, it was very empowering. When do you wake up?

Usually around 8 am.

Phone alarm or old school alarm?

Neither? My body wakes me up on a pretty regular schedule.

What’s the first thing you do in the morning?

Make my pot of tea – Earl Grey, hot, with a squeeze of lemon juice.


It varies, but usually oatmeal.


As an afternoon treat.

Cream or no?

Fattest dairy you’ve got, please.

How do you spend your commute?

When I teach in the classroom, the commute is about 6 blocks. Otherwise, I go from the kitchen to my home office (cold weather) or our 3-season porch (warm weather).

What do you nerd out for (gaming, music, history, etc.)?

History and politics (especially LGBTQ+), some sci fi (Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who), or just having good, personal conversations with people. I’m fine with skipping the small talk.

What music have you been digging lately?

I’m a nostalgia kind of guy. I like to stream old “Best of American Top 40” broadcasts with Casey Kasem. There was so much great music that’s been forgotten!

Is your work space tidy or a hot mess?

I think of it as a balancing act. Tidy with some chaos around the edges? If you open the cabinet

under my desk, you’ll be cleaning it up yourself! What’s been your favorite job?

Author, without a doubt. Some people might remember me from working on the Minnesota AIDS Walk for several years. But I love research and writing, especially nonfiction/biography.

Favorite weeknight meal: Go out, take out, or cook in?

I do love to cook, but going through the COVID lockdown made me appreciate delivery more – not to mention the people who make and bring our food. Always tip!

On a usual weeknight, you are doing what?

Either watching TV or enjoying the porch or backyard.


Set the stopwatch around 10:30. By 11:30, I’ve usually turned into a pumpkin.

Favorite weekend activity?

Depends on time of year. Fall? I live and die with Michigan State athletics. Lately this has had its challenges, but I love my Alma Mater, the Green and White.

What are you most proud of, and why?

My book, which will be the first mass-market biography of Randy Shilts, the pioneering gay journalist who wrote The Mayor of Castro Street, And the Band Played On, and Conduct Unbecoming. I’ve visited several interesting archives and interviewed many fascinating people who knew Randy. To have the experience of turning that raw material into a narrative feels really profound!

Words of wisdom to share:

Keep healthy boundaries. Assume that everyone you encounter is struggling with something that others might not be perceiving. Remember to ask for what you need. 

Photo courtesy of Michael Lee


PRIDE What To Do Guide


Going Out, Coming In: LGBTQ+ Spaces in Downtown


Through July 14 • Free to visit • During regular Museum hours • Mill City Museum

Check out this photography exhibit that showcases the importance of downtown Minneapolis’ LGBTQIA+ community spaces throughout the 20th century.

TC Pride – Second Annual Cheers To Pride

June 1 • Various neighborhood bars, breweries, coffee shops & restaurants Cheers to Pride aims to raise funds for Rainbow Circle, our year-round community programming. Thanks to the support, we were able to raise over $10,000 last year. These funds have helped us sustain vital programs throughout the Twin Cities.

Northfield Pride After Party

June 1 • 5:30 PM • Imminent Brewing, Northfield, MN

Join Mrs. Moxie and Lexi D for a post-Northfield Pride in the Park party in downtown Northfield.

Transforming Generations’ 2024 Pride Fest

June 2 • 12 – 5 PM • Harriet Island Regional Park, Target Stage

Join us for this welcoming & family-friendly environment for all attendees to connect across communities. This year, we are excited to uplift and celebrate many Hmong LGBTQ+ artists that will be joining us, including our drag superstars coming from our Drag ON Talent: Mentorship Program!

Thresholds: Art, Science & Neurodiversity

June 2 • 6 PM Doors/6:30 PM Show • Advance General Admission $10 (+ taxes & fees), At Door $17 (+ taxes & fees), Beth Graczyk Productions offers complimentary tickets to this who identify as part of the neurodiverse community • All Ages • The Parkway Theater, 4814 Chicago Ave., Minneapolis

Come out for an evening of film, performance, and dialogue exploring the diversity of sensory processing through the lenses of art and science which includes two short films and a live performance featuring the Twin Cities’ very own Michael Wolfe who identifies as a “black, queer, performance artist with autism,” offering insight into his daily life and inner world.

Drag Queen Charity Bingo

June 4 • 7 PM • Roxy’s Cabaret, 1333 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis

Kick off Pride month in style by supporting PFund’s work and potentially winning BIG at bingo. Enjoy a few fun games and see some great drag performances all while helping fund PFund grants and scholarships.

Saint Paul Saints Pride Night presented by Cub

June 5 • 7:07 PM • CHS Field, St. Paul

Dress in your rainbow best and come out to see the Saints take on Syracuse!

Rainbow Collective Soiree

June 7 • 7 – 10 PM • 601 W. St. Germain, St. Cloud, MN

A fundraising event for Rainbow Wellness Collective featuring hors d’oeuvres, drinks, music and a silent auction.

Minnesota United FC Pride Night

June 8 • 7:30 PM • Allianz Field, St. Paul, MN

Show your Pride as the Loons take to the field against FC Dallas and show their support for the incredible diversity among their LGBTQ+ fans.

Pride Evensong

June 9 • 4 PM • St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, 2300 Hamline Ave. N., Roseville, MN

All are welcome to join us this celebration. All the music that will be sung is by LGBTQ+ composers.

Third Annual Trans Joy Fest

June 9 • Gichi-ode’ Akiing Park, Duluth, MN

Join us for an event to celebrate the life of Evan Adams and to showcase our trans and gender expansive community’s beauty, power, and most of all, joy, into this safe and welcoming community that we are building together here in the Northland.

Minnesota Twins Pride Day

June 15 • 1:10 PM • Twins vs. Oakland Athletics • Target Field, Minneapolis Dress in your sportiest rainbow gear and cheer on the Twins as they celebrate the vibrant LGBTQIA+ community so prevalent here in Twins Territory.

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OUR SCENE | PRIDE WHAT TO DO Photo courtesy of BigStock/nd3000. All events subject to change or cancellation. Please be sure to check websites.

TC Pride’s Grand Marshall Reception

June 15 • 5:30 PM • The Hennepin, 900 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis

We are so pleased to announce our 2024 Grand Marshal, Carley Knox, and recognize their outstanding work in the community.

LGBTQ Women’s PRIDE Dance

June 15 • 6:00 PM • Minneapolis Eagles Club #34, 2507 E. 25th St., Minneapolis

The Twin Cities legendary all women’s band, the Roxxy Hall Band, will play from 7-10 PM, with an optional dinner/social hour starting at 6 PM. Cost is $10.

Judy Garland Festival 2024

June 20 – 23 • Grand Rapids, MN

Grab your ruby slippers and travel the yellow brick road to Dorothy’s hometown…not Kansas, but the hometown of Judy Garland!

Celebrating Pride with Thomas Søndergård

June 20 – 22 • Thursday 11 AM, Friday 8 PM, Saturday 7 PM • Orchestra Hall, 1111 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis

In a program close to Thomas’ heart, we invite you to join us for music by composers from the LGBTQ+ community featuring the Minnesota Orchestra return of soloist Francesco Piemontesi and culminating with the fireworks of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony.

Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus presents This Is Me

June 21 – 22 • 7:30 PM • St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Minneapolis

Step into a world of inclusivity, artistry, and self-expression with This is Me, a captivating concert experience brought to you by the TCGMC with special guests. Set against the majestic backdrop of St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, this event promises to be a celebration of diversity, acceptance, and the transformative power of music. Visit our website to purchase tickets.

A Very Moxie Brunch!

June 22 • 10:00 AM • Grand Events Center, Northfield, MN

Join Northfield’s Mrs. Moxie and her crew of drag artists for brunch!

Aurora FC Pride Night

June 22 • 3:00 PM • TCO Stadium, Eagan, MN

The women of the Aurora FC invite you to show your pride as they take on Chicago City FC.

Minnesota Lynx Pride Night

June 22 • 7:00 PM (Time subject to change) • Target Center, Minneapolis Come out and celebrate Pride Night as the Lynx take on the Phoenix Mercury.

One Voice Mixed Chorus presents The Art of Joy

June 22 – 23 • Sat at 7 PM, Sun at 3 PM • Ordway Concert All, 345 Washington St., St. Paul, MN

Join us for The Art of Joy, a concert celebrating the 35th anniversary of One Voice Mixed Chorus by honoring the origins and evolution of our mission. From the creation of vital LGBTQIA+ communities in a time when they didn’t exist, to the internal work of racial justice, our work is fundamentally about the quest for connection and belonging.

TC Pride Family Fun Day

June 23 • 11 AM – 2PM • Rain or Shine! • Como Park East Pavilions

Join us for a FREE Family Fun Day held annually to help celebrate LGBTQ+ families. Hot dogs, chips, beverages and more, along with fun, crafts and games for kids.

LGBTQIA2S+ Pride Demonstration Box Tending On Nicollet Island

June 25 • 6:00 – 8:00 PM • Nicollet Island, Minneapolis

Join us for a special evening during Pride Month to come together and revitalize the planting demonstration boxes in the Nicollet Island prairie.

2024 Pride Beer Dabbler

June 28 • 5:00 – 9:00 PM • Ticket Prices $20 – $70 (plus fees) • Minneapolis

Sculpture Garden

Get ready to dress cute and raise your glasses and pride flags because Pride Beer Dabbler is back this year for our 12th year and bringing together over 70 Minnesota breweries and cideries!

Petty Treason’s Big Queer Burlesque Bonanza

June 29 • 8:30 PM • Tickets $25 – $28 • 21+ • Turf Club, 1601 University Ave. W., St. Paul

Come out and join Bessie Snow, Deeva Rose, Dulce Diabla, Keke Boudreaux, Lala Luzious, ShyAnne Hornee, Theyve Havok, Tyler T Love, Violet Vulgaris, Wanda Lust and DJ Lakesha for a rousing good time!

Rainbow Run 5K – Show Your Colors

June 30 • 9:00 AM – 11:00 AM • BF Nelson Park, NE Main St., Minneapolis

This year, our theme is ‘Show Your Colors 365,’ so gather your friends and family and dress as bright and colorful as possible to celebrate and represent your identity in this race for all paces. There will be a contest for best race outfit with prizes!


Stonewall Sports Twin Cities 10th Annual National Tournament & Summit

July 18 – 21 • Various venues around the Twin Cities

Join us for a fun-filled weekend of festivities! The tournament is expected to bring more than 2,500 LGBTQIA+ people and their allies from across the U.S. to connect, compete and create community.

North Star Regional Rodeo

July 27 – 28 • Gates open at 11 AM • Dead Broke Arena, Hugo, MN

Come out and enjoy competition between some of the best LGBTQ rodeo riders and competitors in the Midwest.


Northern Minnesota CampOUT

August 8 – 11 • West Forty RV Park Campground

Enjoy an LGBTQ safe-space, make new friends and explore the beauty of Northern Minnesota! This year’s CampOUT will be coordinated with Range Iron Pride.

LGBTQ+ Boundary Waters Trip

August 21 – 25 • $845 per person, with possible financial assistance based on need • Maximum of 8 in group, minimum group size is 4 • Ely, MN Ely Outfitting Company & Boundary Waters Guide Service is a gay-owned business that supports diversity and inclusion in outdoor spaces, so this is a great opportunity to make new friends and meet interesting people in a beautiful locale! This trip is queer-guided & open exclusively to those who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community.


French Fare

Not that long ago, Minneapolis was considered flyover land by any card-carrying foodie with a craving for French cuisine. These days, planes can safely land at MSP with the guarantee of a trio of downtown kitchens vying to satisfy that culinary urge.

The first to debut, opening quietly under the radar, was Blondette, launched as part of bold-name chef Daniel del Prado’s growing portfolio. It’s hidden away on the sixth floor of a tower on 6th & Marquette as a sexy little bistro for those in-the-know. The menu of small-to-entrée plates rambles over some familiar (and beloved) territory, such as a spot-on Lyonnaise salad, complete with perfectly soft-boiled egg (the first dish I order when hitting a Parisian sidewalk café), to a robust country terrine, perfectly seared scallops and a classic duck a l’orange.

The original list’s less-expected (and delicious) territory, like a fricassee of sweetbreads and a unique and palate-thrilling combo of escargot and bone marrow, have left the building, alas, but the now-famous Blondette burger (Frencified with the addition of duck fat) still takes pride of place.

Next to emerge was Chloe, the long-awaited renaissance of bistro cooking by beloved chef Vincent Francoual, known for his restaurant, Vincent, on the Nicollet Mall facing Orchestra Hall before the pandemic closed down the café and the city.

His new location, in baguette-hurling distance of the Dome, offers a menu likely to appeal to ravenous sports fans as well as lovers of homey French

cooking, served up in an open, vibrant, seeand-be-seen setting. It’s a nod to all the classics: French onion soup, duck pate, escargot and poutine among the starters, followed by beef bourguignon, steak frites, cassoulet and such (plus a highly-recommended steak tartare). Chef Vincent wisely has included a couple of top dishes from his former restaurant—the famous Vincent burger, with its secret lode of pulled rib meat within the plump patty, and the scallops with orange sauce that made diners at the former Vincent’s swoon.

Finally, earlier last summer, longtime local restaurateur David Fhima resurfaced in the former site of Ribnick Furs on North First Street, naming his stylish new digs Maison Margaux. A collage of small rooms—each with its own personality—and stylish, savvy servers deliver a menu of nearly two dozen choices, ranging from small plates to full-size entrees in a price range not for the faint of checkbook. Fhima salutes classics like scallops St. Jacques, bouillabaisse, onion soup and salade Nicoise, then throws in some less-oftenencountered specialties: frog legs Provencal, bone marrow and duck confit, and a lovely cauliflower, gruyere and chevre souffle. Vive la France! 


The Saga of Zagat

Back in the day—I’m talking back in the 1990s—a Zagat dining guide for each prominent American city defined where foodies would—and wouldn’t—eat. It started out in New York (natch!), when hipster couple Ted and Nina Zagat, who ate out two or three times a day, started handing out mimeo’d sheets of their opinionated restaurant ratings to eager friends.

Fueled by success, the Zagats decided to publish their restaurant ratings—over 300 in NYC alone—and sell the annual guidebook. Soon, dining destinations like Chicago, New Orleans and San Francisco had their own Zagatsponsored annual restaurant guides, too.

Continued on page 42

Photo courtesy of BigStock/volodymyrscherbak

During this decade of dining furor, I served as editor for a local book publisher, who asked me to help out pushing our titles at an annual NYC book fair. While taking a break from our booth in Manhattan, I spotted Ted Zagat manning his own booth and let him know that we had dining worth discovering back in flyover land: “Please consider publishing a book rating Twin Cities restaurants,” I pled.

Not only did he decide to do just that: He asked me to edit the project.

Long story short, here’s how I went about it, per Ted and Nina’s instructions. First, I combed my brain and telephone directories (remember those?) to amass a list of over 300 Twin Cities independent restaurants of note (no chains from other cities allowed), then distributed a list of them on a long form, which was to be filled in by any and every avid eater who cared to participate (and thus earn a free copy of the published book). I distributed this form to hotels, restaurants, the convention center, community groups, libraries–wherever I could think of.

Diners were asked to rate each restaurant at which they’d eaten in the past year or so on four standards: food quality, ambience, service, and value for money. Comments like “Great!” and “Terrific!” stood no chance of being included, so participants knew to be as clever as they could in their responses. (Example: In talking of Matt’s Bar, it re: a “neighborhood bar” that’s “cramped and dark and cheap-looking (the way I love it)”, where “everything is exactly as it should be”, “attitude and all.”)

These forms were returned to the New York office, where they were collated and printed out, restaurant by restaurant, for me to use in forming the comment to be published in the actual guidebook.

Not as easy as it sounds, for that exact Zagat formula demanded that the total review (25 words or so) run as one loooong sentence, incorporating the whole picture. And with wit and panache.

When published, the guidebook also listed the Top Ten cafes in several categories—for instance, by type of cuisine—Italian, French, etc.; romantic settings; dining with kids; scenic vistas; Sunday brunch. Then followed the entry for each restaurant, along with a numerical score for its food, ambience, service, and a price point for a dinner of appetizer, entrée and dessert.

Here’s a typical example. Survey participants’ remarks (those in quotes) are strung together thus:, with diners’ quotes strung together by me:

Alma (American food) 29 [out of a possible 30 points] for food), 25 (ambience), 28 (service) and $55 (cost of one average dinner in 2013)

Dinkytown 528 University Ave. SE, Minneapolis, (612) 379-4909, www.

“Alma does the soul good” rave reviewers of this Dinkytown “sleeper” where ingredients from “local farmers” inspire “exceptional” cooking by chef-owner Alexander Roberts that’s “always a pleasure” (with “something surprising every time”); “elegant” yet “unpretentious” with a “superb” staff, it’s “a bit expensive but worth it” for a “romantic evening”, ”entertaining business guests”, or “just dinner with friends.”

And the list goes on, for over 300 entries. Just for the record, the Cities’ top-rated restaurants in 2013, in order of popularity, were: Travail, Alma, La Belle Vie, Lake Elmo Inn, Lucia’s, Capital Grille, Craftsman, Meritage, and Matt’s Bar. Ten “Other Noteworthy Places” followed: Axel’s, Bachelor Farmer, Big Bowl, Doolittle’s, 5-8 Club, Heidi’s, Kincaid’s, 112 Eatery, Saffron and Victory 44.

Gone are the days of patrons carrying around the distinctive little red food bibles; now, of course, foodies hop online and feel free to add their own opinions. And the city’s dining scene continues to evolve and flourish. 

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World Ballet Festival Ballet is for Everyone

Minneapolis is one of four stops in the inaugural tour of the World Ballet Festival. This means three full nights of ballet at the Pantages Theatre in Minneapolis on June 7, 8, and 9. The festival is aimed at the ballet-curious every bit as much as it is aimed at ballet aficionados, offering a sampling of unique and beloved solos and more. The Festival enthusiastically leans into the World Ballet Company’s belief that “ballet is for everyone”. All three nights feature a different program, so choose your program wisely – or treat yourself to three consecutive nights of some of the best ballet that the US has to offer.

Although the World Ballet Festival is new, the World Ballet Company, which produces the show, is not. WBC, founded by Sasha Gorskaya and Gulya Hartwick, has successfully toured its signature program, The World Ballet Series, through more than 280 cities, delighting a cumulative audience of more than 250,000 people.

“World Ballet Festival is truly a celebration of all that we love about ballet,” says Hartwick when I ask what a ballet lover will appreciate about the show. “There is more than 200 years of ballet history presented over the course of the three performances, all brought to life by some of today’s greatest dancers.” Some of the featured dancers in Minneapolis include Isabella Boylston, James Whiteside, Aaron Robison, Sasha De Sola, and many more.

Boylston offers the following: “In today’s fast paced, digitally driven world, ballet and the performing arts are more needed than ever. Ballet is a real and tangible meditation that is ephemeral, transcendent, and can only be experienced by being present in the moment.”

“It has been proven that access to the performing arts greatly enhances one’s quality of life,” echoes Gorskaya. “We truly believe that ballet should be experienced by all and has been one of the most powerful storytelling art forms for centuries.”

At first blush, ballet might seem like a niche art form, but both Gorskaya and Hartwick encourage audiences to be surprised by how much more familiar they are with this cultural touchstone than they may realize. Gorskaya offers the following analogy: “Once I was invited to Pink’s concert. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go, because I thought I didn’t know many of her songs…I went. I was in awe of the talent, of course, and I realized that 50% of the songs on the radio are hers. Same with the Festival. You don’t realize how much of it you know already. Ballet is incorporated in the modern culture more that we think.”

The World Ballet Festival invites everyone to tap into their (perhaps yet undiscovered) love of ballet. That means showing up to the theater as yourself. “World Ballet Company wants all people to feel welcome at the performances and for our guests to enjoy and be entertained,” says Hartwick.

When I ask if they have any tips on etiquette, I get a friendly shrug. “People should applaud when they feel moved to do so by what they are seeing on stage. If they are nervous about that, they can always follow the lead of the audience and join in when they do so,” says Gorskaya.

The two communicated a similar ambivalence to theater-wear, which I noticed myself when attending the World Ballet Series earlier this year. Any outfit was fair game – from jeans with sweaters to floor length gowns and everything in between. Be comfortable or be glamorous. Just be there.

Rather than set out rules or recommendations, the two preferred to discuss the magic of these performances. “Seeing little ballet fans repeating Prima’s steps in the intermission, or even during the show sometimes (kids just can’t wait), hearing the collective ‘Ahh’ when the curtain opens before a certain scene, watching the audience give the rock concert type energy to our Jester from the Swan Lake…[it] gives me goosebumps every time,” says Hartwick.

“Once we were just departing from the Saenger Theatre in Pensacola [and] I noticed that across the street a group of teenagers were doing some kind of dance moves,” says Gorskaya, “I looked closer and realized that they tried to repeat Little Swans. I am so grateful to be a part of this magic.”

One of the things that makes the World Ballet Festival unique is the relationship building it does with each city on the tour. “We [value] the rich and uniquely diverse culture of every city we visit,” explains Hartwick. “In each visiting city, World Ballet Festival will collaborate with local ballet companies giving local dancers the opportunity to share the stage with seasoned professionals.” In Minnesota this means collaborating with Ballet Minnesota and Ballet Royale Minnesota.

When I asked Gorskaya and Hartwick how Minneapolis wound up on such a short tour, they had nothing but praise for our city. “Minneapolis is enchanting,” says Gorskaya. “The uniqueness of having a twin, the warmth of the audience, the beauty of the city and cultural richness. It all makes us want to come back again and again.”

Hartwick agrees, “When the idea of the Festival became real, we knew right away that the audience of Minneapolis has to be the first to see this rare program.” She pauses, “It is said that the people make the city. I find it very true, and I always meet a very special kind of people in Minneapolis. What the Hennepin Trust does in terms of programming and presenting is truly amazing. You are very lucky to have such amazing theatres in town.”

The World Ballet Festival will be at Minneapolis’s Pantages Theatre from Jun 7-9. All three nights will feature unforgettable dancing. Tickets are available in person at the State Theatre Box office or on the Hennepin Theatre Trust website, both of which are listed below.

Whether you have never seen ballet or grew up with the craft, Gorskaya and Hartwick want to see you at the Festival: “We fell in love with ballet a while ago and now we want to share this love and passion with you.” 

World Ballet Festival June 7-9

Pantages Theatre, 805 Hennepin Ave., Mpls

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The Loring Collective Community By and For LGBTQ+ Artists

Being an artist can be a lonely path, full of late nights, early mornings, or just secluded days consumed by your craft. The Loring Collective, however, is built on the belief that being an artist does not preclude being part of a vibrant community. “[LGBTQ+ people] have a tendency to hunker down and do everything ourselves because of our identities,” says Tony Burton, cofounder and current president of the Loring Collective. “But there’s strength in numbers.”

The need for an organization like the Loring Collective here in the Twin Cities has been proved by its rapid growth. I chatted with Burton about the origin, mission, dreams and goals of the collective. Burton’s enthusiasm for collaborating with new creatives was the incessant undercurrent of our conversation. If any aspect of the Loring Collective speaks to you, know that its organizers want to hear from you.

The Loring Collective emerged when a group of queer, college-aged musicians realized that not all of the venues where they attended basement shows were friendly to folks with marginalized identities. “Most of the venues in [our area] were great for queer creatives but there were a few that were really sexist, racist, and homophobic,” explains Burton, “We wanted to help make sure that the venues these artists are performing at were safe for them.”

What began as an effort to communicate safe spaces to other musicians soon blossomed into an active board that also sought to connect and uplift queer artists. “There was a board of five or six people that founded it together…but for the first two or three years Melissa (Riepe) and I were the primary people,” says Burton. “[Loring Collective] won a few grants and a few competitions at the U and it evolved from there. It went from protecting queer creatives to empowering them. And it went from just music to visual and performing art as well.”

In 2021 Loring Collective opened the Haus of Loring, where they now host all of their events. The space is small (right around 22 by 26 feet) but versatile. “Of course we have dreams of amazing, huge events, but we’re happy with our little boiler room aesthetics,” says Burton. “It’s a flexible space to showcase queer creativity.” Loring Collective has already hosted many events at Loring Haus, ranging from fashion shows, Dungeons and Dragons sessions, music performances, and the Loring Awards.

2023 was a landmark year for the Loring Awards. It was the first year that the awards were held in person. There was a record-setting 15,000 votes cast for the winners. It was also the first year that every category was won by a different person and every 2023 winner was a first time Loring Award recipient.

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Tony Burton. Photos courtesy of Tony Burton
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LGBTQ+Pride Dance

saturday June 29

Pre-Party on the Rooftop 6:30–8:00 pm free parking, appetizers, complimentary drink, the best views of the city from our Rooftop, & admission to the disco dance party. $50 Club Members / $60 Nonmembers

Disco Dance Party 8:00 pm–midnight cash bar & disco dance party with house, funk, & soul! $25 Club Members / $30 Nonmembers / $35 Nonmembers at the Door

The Loring Awards are a key component of the Loring Collective. “Our only requirement is that [nominees] are creatives – we like the term ‘creative’ because it can manifest in so many ways,” says Burton. “For example, my favorite award that we give is our Creative Activist of the Year Award. One of our nominees this year was this queer historian who crochets in her viral videos.”

Burton pauses. “It takes a lot of creativity to be an activist,” he says, “Nadi McGill – they are the Gully Boys drummer – won in 2020. They used their social media during the unrest following George Floyd’s murder to get resources to the communities that didn’t have grocery stores or things they needed to live.”

“We are here because there is so much queer talent that goes unnoticed,” says Burton. “You don’t have to go to Top 40 for music. You don’t have to go to a really expensive exhibit for art… You don’t have to go to the coast, to Chicago, New York, or San Francisco. We have great art here.”

Ultimately, this is the purpose of the awards. The information sharing that happens through the nomination process is second to none and it gives the Loring Collective incredible knowledge about queer artists in the community, which the collective is not shy about sharing. “We have great contacts – drag artists, singers, full out bands, trans pottery companies,” says Burton. “If you are looking to feature queer talent, we have great artists for you.”

Burton emphasizes that the roster of Loring Collective artists can never get too long. Loring Collective exists so it is easier to find queer creatives to hire, but also so queer creative can find each other and collaborate.

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“I love the word ‘hub’,” says Burton. “If you’re nominated, you’re part of the hub. We consider all nominees a part of the collective.”

The Loring Collective was granted 501c3 status in 2023 and has solidified its mission to empower and protect queer artists in Minnesota in addition to building a directory of queer artistic talent here and providing opportunities for art-

ists to network and collaborate.

Getting involved with the Loring Collective is easy whether you are an artist or not. The organization is young and its board still reflects that, although that is something they are hoping to change. “We’re seeking to grow and could use more queer elders on our board…we hope that will also effect the people we work with,” says

Burton. “People who have expertise in fundraising? Yes! Queer creative in their 60s? Hell yes!” The current board is all queer, but that is not necessarily a prerequisite – allies who can help Loring Collective grow might also be a good fit for the board.

“We are dependent on donations,” Burton says, almost embarrassed that money is an aspect of the project in which he believes so strongly. “GiveMN is our main platform,” says Burton. “We are entirely volunteer run. All costs are operational and go to our mission.”

The Loring Collective is a valuable resource for the LGBTQ+ and arts community. Having a safe space for artists to meet each other, deepen their craft, find inspiration, and even find work is vital. Nominate your favorite artists for the Loring Awards, network with other creatives, consider joining the board or making a donation, and hire community members for creative projects whenever you are able.

“This has been the joy of my life,” says Burton, reminding me once more to encourage queer creatives to check out the Loring Collective.

And so I will.

Because it might be the joy of your life, too. 

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BODY Needs Some BODY

With This is Me, the Twin Cities Gay Men’s

Chorus Tackles Body Shaming Head-On

The half-quaint term “Gay Pride,” coined in the 1970s (possibly) by Minnesotan activist Thomas Higgins, is a response to the very old assumption that non-heterosexual attractions are intrinsically shameful, a notion lugged like firewater and dirty blankets to the New World by the uptight white folk who settled this nation when it was merely a notion.

While America has come a long way in divesting itself of this unreasoning Puritanical bias, she currently wallows within the throes of another one, a bias all too often projected onto the physical body that houses those once-shameful attractions. That bias will be met head-on during the annual Pride concerts put on by the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus. As their website proudly proclaims, “Our season’s grand finale is a unique fusion of choral music and dance designed to challenge the stigma surrounding body image.”

This challenge is described by Doctor Gerald Gurss, the TCGMC’s artistic director. “Every day, we all look in the mirror and accept our truth that, ‘This is me,’” Gurss observes. “We find the most beautiful parts of ourselves, and we hold on to those positive thoughts while trying to drown out the voices in our heads put there by social media, family, and cohorts.”

Well…that’s the ideal; often the reality is a little more—sometimes a lot more–complicated. Diagnoses the Doctor: “At some point we have all felt like our bodies do not live up to a false societal standard . . . My skin isn’t tan enough. My hair is graying. I don’t have a thigh gap. I don’t look stereotypically ‘female’ enough. My teeth need to be more white. Do these shorts make my booty ‘pop’?”

But this examination didn’t occur solely in the mind of the Chorus’s artistic director—far from it. “In the spring of 2019, I held a roundtable discussion regarding future TCGMC programming with any singer who wanted to attend,” Gurss recalls. “I asked prompt questions such as, ‘What issues are important to you,’ ‘What hasn’t the chorus tackled before,’ and ‘What would you like to see the Chorus sing about again?’”

Like all the best musicians, Gurss listened before composing something to listen to. “I kept a tally going of answers that repeated,” he remembers. “One of the prominent topics to surface was body image/bodyshaming.” This led to the commission which is the central pillar of This is Me. “Every BODY” is described on the website as “a groundbreaking commission led by TCGMC featuring over 200 singers on stage and professional dancers that explores the complexities of body image, identity, and self-acceptance.”

Art’s inspiration is often rooted in imagination…but ignoring the hard knocks reality of nuts-and-bolts logistics will make said art forever theoretical. “Creating a large work of art of any medium is costly,”

Gurss acknowledges. “A new mural, a new, fourmovement symphony, a new sculpture in a public park, or a new seven-movement choral work about body image; they’re all expensive endeavors.”

That’s especially true of art that makes one’s ear drums wiggle. “In an effort to defray these costs, TCGMC collaborated with four other queer choruses to help underwrite this new creation,” Gurss says. These choruses added tweaks and twangs that bounced from Texas to Tennessee to Georgia to North Carolina to Washington, DC. Prohibitive geography was conquered by enabling technology. Reports Gurss: “The directors of these choruses gathered together over Zoom to decide on which composers we would ask to write the anthological work.”

Where body shaming was concerned, there was plenty of raw material to go around. “The composers gathered with the underwriting directors and talked about their own issues with body image,” Gurss recounts. “One composer noted, ‘I always felt unattractive because I was too skinny.’ Another noted, ‘My mother told me I was unattractive, because my nose wasn’t Asian enough.’ Another memory of note was a composer talking about people commenting on her hair texture as a black woman. Because the nature of the work is about body image, finding composers who represented a wide demographic was important to us in telling the stories of many body types.”

The final presentation will include the redoubtable talents of special guests James Sewell Ballet, The Minnesota Valley Women’s Chorale, and See Change Treble Choir. Adds Gerald Gurss, “One of the movements, ‘Tom and Dean,’ tells the story of a local gay couple: Tom DeGree and Dean Schlaak.”

Gurss insists that examining body shaming isn’t just a cynical attempt to ride the crest of trendy topics—rather, it’s a reflection of the hearts and minds of the Twin Cities community that the Chorus serves. “We exist because of our members, and if we sing about the issues important to them in bettering our communities, then I think we are more honestly relevant,” Gurss points out.

The cure for shame is, naturally and inevitably, pride, so it only makes sense that this presentation will take place during the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus Pride concert, held on June 21 and 22 at Saint Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi, Minnesota. It’s a safe bet that all audience members will find at least a little of themselves in This is Me. Or as TCGMC’s website puts it, “Join us as we embark on a journey of self-discovery and empowerment, celebrating the beauty of diversity and the boundless potential within each of us. Together, we will create a space of acceptance, love, and understanding.” 

Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus This is Me June 21 & 22, 7:30pm

St. Andrew’s Lutheran, Church, 900 Stillwater Rd., Mahtomedi, MN

$40.00 (Students $20.00)

LAVENDER MAY 30-JUNE 12, 2024 54
Photo courtesy of the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus
LAVENDERMAGAZINE.COM 55 Saturday, July 20, 2024, 10 – 5 Help us celebrate our 50th year of fine art and craft, fabulous food and local live music. All happening in the beautiful, shaded village park on the shores of Lake Pepin in Stockholm, Wisconsin. 952.934.1525 “Losing-my-mind FUN... AMAZING cast!” – MyTalk 107.1 NOW PLAYING!

Celebrating Pride with Thomas Søndergård at the Minnesota Orchestra

If you love Pride but sometimes wish that the festivities were a bit more – orchestral – you are in luck this year. On June 20, 21, and 22 the Minnesota Orchestra will put on a special concert: Celebrating Pride with Thomas Søndergård. All three opportunities to see the concert include either a lecture or entertainment in the lobby before the show. Greg Milliren, Minnesota Orchestra’s associate principal flutist, was kind enough to guide me through the details of the upcoming concert, the power of music, and why highlighting LGBTQ+ musicians throughout time matters.

The 2023-24 Season was Thomas Søndergård’s first full season as the Minnesota Orchestra’s music director. The season featured a captivating and diverse collection of music, and it only feels right to end with a celebration of Pride. This program features four pieces, all of which are connected to the LGBTQ+ community in some way: Ethel Smyth’s On the Cliffs of Cornwall, Benjamin Britten’s Young Apollo, Karol Szymanowski’s Symphonic concertante, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4.

Some of these names and pieces might be more familiar than others. “The first two pieces we do not really play that often,” Milliren says. Ethel Smyth has often been overlooked as an artist, so it is exciting to kick off the concert with part of her 1904 opera The Wreckers. “Her music is finally getting the attention it deserves,” says Milliren,. “I think people will be thrilled to hear her.” The music is dark, dramatic, and full of tension. Smyth was openly gay (she had relationships with both Virginia Woolf and Emmeline Pankhurst), an activist for women’s voting rights, and was awarded damehood.

Young Apollo was a commissioned piece that Bejamin Britten, a leading composer in Britain in the mid-twentieth Century, created for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Radio. “Britten is more well-known, but we haven’t played Young Apollo here – at least not during my time,” says Milliren. The piece is scored for string and a solo piano. Britten was with his partner, Peter Pears, for nearly 40 years, but because homosexuality was illegal until 1967 it was only after Britten’s death that Pears decided to talk about their love story.

Karol Szymanowski’s 1932 Symphonie concertante fuses Polish folk music with symphony and concerto elements. “I find his music fascinating,” says Milliren. And it is easy to see why. Symphonie concertante is a highly creative work that showcases why Szymanowski is the most notorious Polish composer since Frederic Chopin. Szymanowski traveled extensively and was a gay man, although this aspect of his identity is often glossed over, especially in Poland.

The final piece in this concert is Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. “This one is really special to me personally,” says Milliren. “It was the first symphony I heard as a teenager, and it made me fall in love with what the orchestra can do – and what the impact of its sound is on my emotions. It’s grand, bold and beautiful.” Symphony No. 4 is a daring, lyrical work with an exuberant conclusion. Milliren also mentioned that Tchaikovsky is notorious for bringing his emotions into his music, which is not true of all composers.

“It is a dark to light symphony,” says Milliren. “Even though it has this glorious ending there is still this underlying sense that true happiness is denied to someone like him who had to hide who he truly

was. I think most, if not all of us in the LGBTQ+ community, can relate to that. It is very tragic in one sense, but it is incredibly human as well.” Tchaikovsky did talk about his homosexuality in his private letters, and this is accepted as part of his story almost everywhere except Russia. In Russia, the point of his sexuality is still subject to debate, largely due to censors redacting the pieces of his letters that addressed it.

These four composers cover a vast swath of time – Tchaikovsky was born in 1840 and Britten died in 1976, but all are united by at least two things: their ability to create beautiful music and their sexuality. “I think music is a mirror of history,” muses Milliren. “It is important to remember that this music was created for us by people who were like us. Highlighting identity in this way turns that mirror back on ourselves.”

These pieces of music are a powerful reminder that in 1878, in 1904, in 1932, in 1939, and in so many years both before and after these pieces of music were created, there were people just like us creating beautiful art that would resonate through the centuries right back to us.

“To get a little more philosophical, perhaps, the kind of music we play in orchestra…you know, it mostly lacks words, it has no physical or visual substance really: it is an abstract art,” says Milliren. “Maybe the most abstract of the arts. But ironically that means it has the most power to make you feel something personal and profound. Because its meaning is crafted by your own mind or your own soul.”

Milliren pauses for a moment before continuing. “We have all heard that axiom that you find the answers to life’s biggest questions from within. I think for anyone with a marginalized identity or anyone who feels like they do not fit in music is a wonderful doorway through which we can explore those answers.”

Celebrating Pride with Thomas Søndergård is a unique way to do just that. Celebrate Pride by joining the Minnesota Orchestra in taking a look backwards. Use this powerful music to appreciate how far we have come, how powerful we have always been, and how beautiful we sound when we come together.

Tickets are available by calling the box office or the MN Orchestra website. 

Celebrating Pride with Thomas Søndergård Thurs, June 20 at 11 AM – Preceded by Nadine Hubbs’ lecture “The Queer Composition of America’s Sound”

Fri, June 21 – 8 PM – Preceded by performance by FlipPhone in the lobby

Sat, June 22, 7 PM – Preceded by Nadine Hubbs’ lecture “The Queer Composition of America’s Sound”

Ticket Sales – (612) 371-5656

LAVENDER MAY 30-JUNE 12, 2024 56
Photo by Zoe Prinds/Minnesota Orchestra



Music Director Thomas Søndergård and the Minnesota Orchestra invite you to a celebration of music from the LGBTQ+ community, featuring pianist Francesco Piemontesi performing Karol Szymanowski's Symphonie concertante for Piano and Orchestra. You'll also hear Ethel Smyth's On the Cliffs of Cornwall and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4.


Pre-concert complimentary refreshments at 9:30 a.m.

Pre-concert lobby exhibit and speakers.


$6 Happy Hour at 6:30 p.m.

Pre-concert and intermission drag performers... and more! Concert and Live Broadcast on TPT-2.


$6 Happy Hour at 6:30 p.m.

Pre-concert lobby exhibit and speakers.


MINNESOTAORCHESTRA.ORG/PRIDE | 612-371-5656 | #MINNORCH All artists, programs, dates and prices subject to change. Ticket required to attend pre-concert and intermission activities. PHOTOS Søndergård: Chris McDuffie;
Piemontesi: Marco Borggreve; Sasha Cassadine: Brent Dundore.

Not a Layover, a Direct Flight to Advocate and Musician Parker Matthews

Proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, Parker Matthews knew he had a passion for music and the lyrical arts when he was just five years old. He was watching American singer and actress Whitney Houston perform at the Grammys and a newfound sense of passion elicited from within himself: “Mom I want to do that,” Matthews said to his mom. His mom replied, “That’s cute, sweetie, that’s great.”

As Matthews got older, the calling got more vociferous, and he began to enroll in vocal lessons, vocal coaching and even began to play musical instruments such as piano and violin, according to Matthews.

Growing up in Pittsburgh and following his parents’ wishes, he got a job in business and was unfulfilled with his occupation.

It wasn’t until a trip to Europe when Matthews realized that he was done with having a traditional business career.

“And really it was the thought, not to get too deep, but it was the thought of being 75 years old one day and thinking, I wonder if I would’ve tried, what would’ve happened?,” Matthews questioned.

Putting spontaneity at the forefront, upon arriving home Matthews booked a one way ticket to Los Angeles to pursue his dreams of becoming an artist.

There is a learning curve to songwriting, and making sure to network with different folks in a new environment is a vital aspect to growing as an artist, Matthews said.

“And I really feel like I finally found, even though I had years of training, found my voice out here and my style,” added Matthews.

In terms of writing material and picking lyrics, Matthews used his own experience in the dating world, drawing from the bad dates he went on. In regards to the people, Matthews said he experienced what he refers to as people who crafted “smoke and mirrors.”

“For people that are trying to also follow in my footsteps and do what I’m trying to do is just be very careful of who you’re working with,” Matthews said.

Parker Matthews’ hit song: Layover

Gaining 1.8 million views on the social media platform TikTok was Matthews hit song titled “Layover.” The song was produced by Matthews and co-writers Myah Marie and Michael Blum, according to Matthews.

During one of the first writing sessions, Matthews could feel his nerves begin to reach a climax.

“I was so nervous that day because I knew that what I had done thus far at that point had bumped me up to this next level of industry people that have much bigger credits and much more knowledge and just that history in the industry,” Matthews said.

Layover is about a Greek flight attendant that Matthews was planning to visit in Greece again, until he broke Matthews’ heart, according to Matthews.

“Things just really fizzled out,” Matthews added. “So, we sat down and we wrote that record, and that’s how Layover came to be.”

Being able to choose where his song was distributed, Matthews selected TikTok as a streaming platform because it was such a fresh platform at the time his song was released in 2022.

“I used to try to keep everything very calculated, but with that release and then moving forward, I was like, you know what? I just want to do stuff that’s in the moment and see what happens,” Matthews said.

After a big success, a new door was unlocked in Matthews’ passion for music, and he created his own label called PM3 Entertainment.

His new label was created to work with more songwriters and take care of them in ways larger labels didn’t, according to Matthews.

“Throughout the years that I’ve been here, a lot of people that I’ve worked with, mostly heterosexual people in the industry have said, “Well, don’t say he, say they or you or keep it more ambiguous so it doesn’t pigeonhole yourself,” Matthews.

Matthews said he listened to them for so long, but in creating his own label he knew he would be his most authentic self and refer to the other person as “he”, because “he broke my heart,” said Matthews.

LAVENDER MAY 30-JUNE 12, 2024 58
Continued on page 60
LGBTQ+ SPACES IN DOWNTOWN MINNEAPOLIS APRIL 18 – JULY 14, 2024 704 SOUTH 2ND ST. MINNEAPOLIS, MN 55401 Bringing to life the sights, heart, and energy of Downtown Minneapolis’s LGBTQ+ community spaces. This exhibit immerses visitors in queer resistance, love, and community as it tracks the neighborhood’s evolution from the 1940s to 2000. Learn more

Diving into the creative process with sound and lyrics

Living with ADHD, Matthews said he frequently will stop in the middle of a crosswalk to jot down a note that may be a potential lyric, because he will easily forget.

Matthews recalls calling his producer and remarking that he has nine songs he wants to have written in the span of just two days.

“Nine songs in two days? Are you crazy?” remarked his producer. “Listen, if we plan it out like this, it won’t be that hard,” Matthews responded.

Throughout the creative process, Matthews said it’s important to live in the moment and to have fun, not thinking too hard about the first draft, knowing you can make edits later on.

Growing up, Matthews listened to all female singers, including Adele, Christina Aguilera and Jennifer Hudson. In his own music, Matthews said he strives to hit high notes just like these female powerhouses.

It wasn’t until the last five years that Matthews was asked to explore his lower register and adopt a gentle tone.

“I think I really perfected that so it’s able to have that blend and that difference of drama per record,” Matthews said.

In terms of who Matthews is playing to, he said his lyrics are for every person, but especially for those who have lived their lives feeling like an outcast.

“I was very made fun of growing up my whole life and never fit in,” Matthews said. “And I know what that’s like, and to be able to have a beacon of hope, even if it’s just in a song that lasts for three minutes, that can take you away from that everyday pain, that’s my job.” 

LAVENDER MAY 30-JUNE 12, 2024 60 JULY 27-28, 2024 HUTCHINSON, MINNESOTA SATURDAY 10a–5p • SUNDAY 11a–4p 12th Annual 38 POTTERS from Minnesota and Beyond! Pottery Olympics Competition Raku Demonstrations Kids’ Station Food & Beverages Available On Site Rain or Shine Masonic West River Park in Hutchinson 1003 Les Kouba Pkwy NW off Hwy 7 West along the Crow River. Look for signs! FREE ADMISSION!

At the Hilton Garden Inn Minneapolis Downtown, you'll find an inviting atmosphere and top notch service from the first hello to the next. Wind down with shareable bites, a handcrafted cocktail, then retreat to your room with an ahhhh-inspiring bed. Book today!

Subject to availability.

LAVENDERMAGAZINE.COM 61 June 14 • June 28 • July 12 • July 26 • August 9 Conservation rocks at the Minnesota Zoo. Experience the area’s best live music while enjoying the Treetop Trail and your favorite Minnesota Zoo animals. Get tickets now at Live Music • Food & Drinks • Animals • Adults Only
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Leather Pride and a Flag For Us All

Pride 2024 has kicked off; we fill our days and nights in June with celebrations and activities for everyone in the Twin Cities. The Saloon and Eagle will have their gear/leather nights, patios will be packed from Lush to the Black Hart, and we will all wait in anticipation for our beloved 19 to return. The Leather and Kink communities are no different in their celebrations if but a little more visible in leather, rubber, and fetish gear interspersed amongst the crowds. Puppies will wag and flogs will swing across the metro in private and public gatherings. And, in the background, quiet and dignified, will be the Leather Pride Flag.

This is especially important this year, as the Minnesota Leather Pride Flag celebrates 15 years of existence and prepares for retirement and purchase of a new flag. This is the second flag to grace our Ashley Rukes Parade and one of the largest in the world.

The original concept of the Leather Pride flag was created in 1989 by Tony DeBlase, editor of Drummer Magazine, as a symbol for Leather folk who had been participating in pride events. As the leather community included all genders and sexual orientations, he gave no specific symbolism to the design, leaving it to the viewer to interpret the colors and symbols. His intent was for it to be as inclusive as possible. Today, versions exist that replace the heart with boots, puppy paws, fists, and a collection of other symbols, but the original heart still most widely is accepted by everyone.

In Minnesota, we embraced the concept of the leather flag and created one of the largest for our parade. In 2008, Dr. Cheryl Maloney, the then Executive Director of Twin Cities Pride, spoke at the retirement of the flag, “Since its creation the giant Leather Pride flag that we are retiring today has been the largest Leather Pride flag in the world, measuring 76 feet by 29 feet. This flag, and the matching giant Rainbow flag, first made their way up Hennepin Avenue as part of the Twin Cities GLBT Pride Parade in 1998, and the flags have been one of the most beloved parts of every Twin Cities Pride Parade.” The original 1998 Leather flag was sent to the Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago and the current flag, much larger than the first, began the first of many trips down Hennepin Avenue.

The stories that have accompanied the second flag have been humorous over the years. It takes over 80 individuals to carry it and usually more show up jockeying for position with certain spots unofficially claimed. The current flag size is a close secret with original documents destroyed after ordering because the person didn’t want anyone in the world to beat us by a foot. During a strong wind, some folks have been lifted off their feet and we’ve had folks get trapped underneath. During COVID, the flag was laid out in a public park for pictures…drawing startling attention from the neighborhood. Supposedly years ago, internet savvy folks insured two rubbermen kissing

in front of the flag would win the Lavender pride picture contest… I’ve learned not to ask questions.

To some, the flag may not been seen as representing them in a changing world, be it keep Pride family friendly or leather is not inclusive enough. I have a different perspective; I have spent the last 8 or more years being the person walking backwards down the parade route keeping the flag moving and watching.

I’ve watched puppies and trans folk come to the parade and take their place at the Leather Pride Flag next to old gay leathermen and butch dykes. I have watched pronouns change on the same flag carriers as they strived to be their authentic selves. I have seen newly out folks who realized that leather offered the freedom they were looking for and joined the march. For me, as Two-Spirit, I’ve cheered inside each time a new person of color joins the flag. I’ve seen the Sisters, titleholders, and drag queens from around the country join us to support the flag. I’ve watched young kids and families cheer for the stripes and heart as we walk by on the street. And numerous mothers and grandmothers wave in celebration.

While yes, the flag may represent those of us that practice sex and fetishes behind closed doors, but in that early morning on Sunday in June…it represents freedom of expression. It represents an unbridled enthusiasm to be the weird, the different, the maverick in the crowd. Tony DeBlase may not have intended to give symbolism to the flag but I believe more than ever its simplicity and our Minnesota story stands for everyone. As Minnesota Leather Pride continues to fundraise for the future flag, we all should be proud to know…we will continue to have the largest Leather Pride Flag in the world.

More information concerning the Leather Pride Flag Fundraising can be found at or the MN Leather Pride booth in the park. 

LAVENDER MAY 30-JUNE 12, 2024 62
Photo courtesy of BigStock/budastock
LAVENDERMAGAZINE.COM 63 Amie Burnett, JD, CFP® Financial Advisor 952.921.3371 7101 York Ave S, Ste 330, Edina, MN 55435 Ameriprise Financial cannot guarantee future financial results. Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP ®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and CFP (with plaque design) in the U.S. Securities offered by Ameriprise Financial Services, LLC. Member FINRA and SIPC. © 2024 Ameriprise Financial, Inc. All rights reserved. Not FDIC or NCUA Insured | No Financial Institution Guarantee | May Lose Value Your unique vision for the future requires a more personalized approach to financial advice. From growing your family to planning for retirement, I can help you navigate your financial journey. Ready to work toward your financial goals? Let’s plan for them together. Building more financial confidence through every conversation. One Main St. SE, Suite 206 • Minneapolis Depend on my team for Integrity Experience Results Along Superior Shores 3300 London Road - Duluth, MN 218.726.8910 TAKE A TOUR Protect your future: Keep benefit eligibility while making your money last Supplemental Needs Pooled Trust Special Needs Pooled Trust Visit our booth at PRIDE! 888.806.6844 | LSS Pooled Trusts for People with Disabilities

Love and Community in La Bohéme

June is a month known for vibrant displays of artistic beauty. It’s a month where LGBTQ+ people from all walks of life come together to celebrate who they are. There is an astounding diversity in the LGBTQ+ community, and naturally the ways they express their identities takes a myriad of forms. For some LGBTQ+ individuals, their Junes will be spent performing opera.

On the 14th and 15th of June, the Lyric Opera of the North (LOON) will be performing their production of La Bohème in Duluth at the Marshall Performing Arts Center. La Bohème was composed by Giacomo Puccini, with a libretto written by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. Originally premiering in 1896, Puccini’s opera found international success, and as time has shown, its appeal has not withered over the years. Despite premiering over a century ago, its story about the bonds of friendship and love formed between a close group of working artists still resonates with audiences.

It also still resonates with the LGBTQ+ cast and crew that are bringing the story to life in Duluth. Robert Riordan plays the role of Schaunard the musician, and he identifies found family as a theme many LGBTQ+ individuals can relate to in La Bohème. As he explains, “For so many in our community, biological families aren’t always the safe spaces to grow that all children deserve. So instead we form our own families, filled with the people who will see us through the joys and sorrows of life.”

The found family themes were also relatable for Rose Freeman, the production’s trans nonbinary stage director. “La Bohème is eternal because of its relevance” explains Freeman. “Rereading this libretto sent me reeling to an essential time of my life where I lived with a chosen family of artists called the Lesbian Lounge. We made art, desperately needed money (but didn’t worry about it) and loved each other wildly and ferociously”. If the enduring appeal of La Bohème demonstrates anything, it shows that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Despite all of the social changes that have happened since the opera’s premiere, people are still coming together to create supportive communities.

Opera is traditionally seen as a very conservative institution, but it has also been a home for many LGBTQ+ individuals. Sara Beukers is the hair and makeup designer for La Bohème, and she notes that in all of her years working in opera, she has never been the only LGBTQ+ person working for the production. As she says, “We’re everywhere and I love that!”

According to Freeman, opera has its roots in radical traditions. Jacopo Peri wrote what is considered the first opera in 1589, Dafne, and in many ways it was a break from traditions. As Freeman describes, “The music written [for Dafne] was full of compositional styles discouraged by the church and about non-religious subjects in 17th century Europe. The performance was held privately in the Medici family’s home (for a wedding).” Opera would also often incorporate cross dressing into performances, having women perform in pants as males in what was known as a breeches role.

This isn’t to say that the history of opera is spotless. As a gay man, Rob Riordan has experienced positive and negative aspects of being an opera performer. As he explains: “In my experience, artists can be very inclusive and accepting people and opera at its roots can be subversive and radical. On the other hand, opera is still an art form and industry that

Jeremiah Sanders, Rose Freeman, Robert H. Riordan, Sarah Beukers. Photos by Michelle Skirda/Lyric Opera of The North
Continued on page 66

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carries a lot of elitist, sexist, racist, ageist, homophobic, and transphobic baggage. We have new operas such as As One and Fellow Travelers that tell LGBTQ+ stories through opera, but we also still see productions that use cruel caricatures of effeminate gay men for a laugh.”

He encourages opera companies and audiences to constantly push for the inclusion and representation that marginalized communities deserve. Including LGBTQ+ people on the production staff will inherently lead to stories that reflect LGBTQ+ perspectives, at least according to Freeman. As Zie eloquently explain: “All of my work is inherently nonbinary and trans because I am nonbinary and trans. I can do a simple love story between a man and a woman, yet it will still be queered because it’s me leading the room with a trans experience and a queer ethos. How does a trans person see love. In isolation and othering, trans people know that love and acceptance is so precious that it’s worth fighting for, that love needs community support to thrive, that loving yourself is part of loving others.”

Not only will this queerness shine through in the stage direction, but it also manifests in the hair stylings of Beukers and the passionate acting of Rob Riordan and Jeremiah Sanders, a non-binary person who plays the role of Colline the philosopher. In bringing these characters to life, LGBTQ+ people can see themselves reflected in these stories. In a powerful statement on the power opera has, Freeman states, “I firmly believe that queerness and opera are working together to save the world- and this is how. Queerness teaches you how to love, listen, fight, feel fully, find community and embrace the terrifying unknown of discovery and opera does the exact same thing.”

Love is a powerful force, capable of driving people to incredible acts of community.

Anyone who wants to witness the power of love explored through the found family of La Bohème can do so by witnessing the upcoming LOON production. The show is a reminder that community helps us face the adversity life throws our way. It’s a message that is exceptionally well suited for the month set aside to celebrate the diverse and wonderful community that LGBTQ+ people have built. 

La Bohème

June 14 at 7:00 PM and June 16 at 3:00 PM Marshall Performing Arts Center, University of Minnesota, Duluth, 1215 Ordean Ct., Duluth


LAVENDER MAY 30-JUNE 12, 2024 66


When Basketball Is So Much More Than

LAVENDER MAY 30-JUNE 12, 2024 68
Just Basketball

Entering her 15th season with the Minnesota Lynx, and her 20th season in the WNBA, Carley Knox knows just about everything there is to know about basketball. Her role with the Minnesota Lynx is an extremely prestigious and powerful one: Knox is the Lynx President of Business Operations. This means, in her day-to-day job, she oversees all business operations of the Lynx, including ticket sales and service, logistics, business development with the Lynx President’s Circle and corporate partnerships, budget management, diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, season scheduling, and she is the primary liaison between the team and the WNBA on league-wide business, COO, and marketing initiatives.

Possibly the most impressive part of Knox’s work and legacy is her creation of the Minnesota Lynx President’s Circle. The President’s Circle is one of the most exclusive and innovative programs in all of professional sports, and it’s the first of its kind. Along with unparalleled access to the Lynx, this elite club offers passionate fans the unique opportunity to give back to their community. The President’s Circle has reached more than 65 non-profit organizations and helped support more than 5,000 underserved youth—because to Knox, that’s what it’s all about: giving back and creating a better world.

Knox whole-heartedly believes in the Lynx’s mission of using sport as a vehicle to fight for all marginalized groups and to change the world for the better. To her, basketball isn’t just basketball—it’s the way to make a world a better place. Knox says, “the Lynx have always been leading the way in these [social] movements, in these activisms, and I’m just really, really proud of what we’ve built here. Yes, winning 4 championships in 7 years has been phenomenal, but I’m actually more proud of our off-the-court social justice work and our activism.”

And the Minnesota Lynx have a long history of activism and a dedication to social justice indeed. They’ve always used their platform for good, from active involvement supporting marriage equality (and being there the day it was signed into law), to being the first team to stand united against police brutality, to being the first sports team to wear ‘Black Lives Matter’ warmup shirts… the Lynx don’t shy away from tough conversations. After all, that’s what pushes our society forwards, into a more just and equitable place to live. Knox says that sports are “a microcosm of society, and so I think in the WNBA, something that we’ve always talked about, is showing the world what’s possible. And when you come to our games, you see how beautiful and diverse it is, and how many different groups of people come together, and again, everyone is aligned and part of this bigger movement.”

The WNBA as we know it today is an extremely open organization; it supports a beautifully diverse group of people. But unfortunately, that wasn’t always the case. Knox knows personally how difficult it was to exist as an out lesbian—or really any marginalized group—in the public eye. She says, “I was a college athlete myself, and a college coach. I saw firsthand and experienced firsthand homophobia, you know, [and] saw firsthand racism, sexism, etc, etc that was rampant in athletics, and women’s athletics as well, that really held women’s athletics back. And so I think it’s really important for us to acknowledge that it’s not just about wins and losses, but it is about this larger movement that we’re all a part of. Everybody is aligned: from our coaches to our players to our staff in terms of these same values.”

Knox’s dedication to her dreams, and her unrelenting dedication to social justice and change helped shape the WNBA as it is now. She continues, “I was the first out LGBTQ+ athlete at Ohio University… I think that I’ve been paving the way all throughout my career. I feel like I was true to myself in my path… I think what I went through early on in my career was definitely an impetus for the work that I’m doing today.” Her identity as a lesbian and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, she says, “definitely informs my passion for speaking up when I do see any sort of injustices… and this larger cause of when I come to work every day, I feel like I’m helping to change the world, and [I’m] leaving the world better than I found it. I’m very passionate. Not just personally, but passionate about the intersectionality of what we’re doing here, and that it’s so meaningful for all of us to stand together and bring about change together.”

The whole country seems to be abuzz with excitement for women’s basketball and the WNBA right now, and this only further helps Knox’s and the Minnesota Lynx’s activism. Knox says, “this movement is palpable,” and she doesn’t think it’s a fleeting thing either. She continues, “The Caitlin Clark effect has been absolutely incredible, but so many people paved the way before Caitlin, that helped get us there, especially so many women of color in the WNBA that have been paving the way for this moment. This has been a movement all along, and so I don’t think this is a shot in the pan… I think this is the next step in the movement that so many have been fighting for.”

Women’s sports being front and center, receiving recognition and airtime, playing at sports bars, and with fans watching… all of this progress is here to stay, and so much of it is due to the hard work of the WNBA and the Minnesota Lynx, and of course, just as Knox says, “those that paved the way for us, especially all the incredible women of color in the WNBA that have paved the way.”

The door has been flung open for female athletes, for athletes of all sexual orientations, and young queer athletes have the most incredible role model to look up to in Carley Knox, undoubtably. Knox says, “I want to live a life that represents how I want to see the world, and how I want the world to be. Hopefully I’m an example for those that are coming behind me. Because I can remember when I was young, coming out to my own family, and they said, ‘oh, you’re never going to get married, you’re never going to be able to have kids,’ and I was just like: watch me.”

Seeing such a powerful, respected and adored member of the LGBTQ+ community is such a beacon of light for so many queer youth. Through all the trials and hardships of her start in the industry, Knox has created a place of peace and love for all in the world of basketball. When asked what she loves about being a lesbian, Carley Knox smiled. She didn’t have to think for more than a moment. “I love women,” she laughed. “I love my wife. I love the family we’ve created. I love our nine-year-old son. I love fighting the fight for all marginalized groups. I love being a member of the LGBTQ+ community, and being politically active and being authentic and being unapologetic… I love all of it, and I think it all intersects in a beautiful way.” What a perfect example that you can be yourself and reach your dreams; you don’t have to pick one or the other.

The Minnesota Lynx will continue to fight for a better, more equitable world, and celebrate the beauty of diversity in all its many forms. 

Minnesota Lynx Pride Game vs. Phoenix Mercury June 22 – 7:00 PM Target Center, Minneapolis

(Left to Right) Photo by Mike Hnida. Photo courtesy of Carley Knox.

Looking Back Pride Issue Covers From Our Past

The 2024 Pride Edition featuring the Minnesota Lynx’s President of Business Operations, Carley Knox.

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Why I Serve | Army Lt. Sabel Peterson

The Minnesota National Guard’s Army 1st Lt. Sabel Peterson has always been an active person who loves to work on teams and lead others. Peterson currently serves as the Executive Officer of the E Company, 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment. Additionally, she works as the state’s Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program’s officer in charge, assisting Soldiers as they go through the deployment process and reintegration following a deployment.

Peterson’s interest in the military started when she joined the Minnesota National Guard as an artillery cannon crew member to help fund her higher education goals. She quickly found that the Guard was a great resource toward advancing future aspirations, joining the Reserve Officer Training Corps during college to pursue becoming a commissioned officer.

“My leaders have seen qualities in me that are effective in leading troops, so I’ve had a lot of fun doing that during my junior enlisted years,” said Peterson. “I’ve been a part of many great teams in my career so far – I love achieving a common goal and having fun doing so, and those around me usually like that too.”

During her career, Peterson has had many mentors and advocates who have seen potential in her and pushed her to apply herself in ways she might not have thought of herself. It’s directly because of them that she is where she is now. She proactively participates in special organizational groups that advocate for those serving alongside her in the Minnesota National Guard.

“I am part of the LGBTQIA+ community and attend as many LGBTQIA+ events with the Minnesota National Guard special emphasis councils as I can,” Peterson said.

The council creates a space where service members who are also part of the community can feel comfortable expressing themselves in the workplace and educate others in the force -who may need to be made aware of those serving in their ranks.

“It’s great that someone like me in the rank that I’m at can help create space for those under me and enable them to feel safe to express themselves in the workplace, knowing they have an advocate above them,” Peterson said. “Others should definitely participate! Special emphasis councils aren’t just for those who are part of a specific community – they’re also for those outside the communities that can help unite ‘insiders and outsiders’ in any group.”

Peterson has completed extensive military training, but a recent mission in Africa is one of her best experiences.

“In 2019, I was fortunate enough to go on a diplomatic mission to Morocco with the Army,” she said. “Spending a week at the Royal Military Academy and two more weeks across the country learning about the variety of cultures found in Morocco.”

Recently, she completed the state’s Unit Public Affairs Representative course, which trains service members to help tell the stories of their team members.

“That course was great exposure to public relations, which I love!” said Peterson. “I love telling stories, and it’s great that I can do so and bring my civilian career and education to the Minnesota National Guard.”

Looking to the future, Peterson plans to continue progressing in her military career one weekend a month while returning to her civilian career, working in marketing in the entertainment industry, producing events and shoots in Los Angeles.

Peterson has some advice for those thinking about joining the Minnesota National Guard.

“The Minnesota National Guard can be a great resource for those looking to push themselves and see what they can do, all while earning great benefits that will assist many different facets of your life,” said Peterson. “There’s a spot for everybody in the Minnesota National Guard and many career options – we don’t just shoot guns and throw grenades!” 

Photos courtesy of the Minnesota National Guard

What does the Future Hold? Staff Sgt. Kristin Swanstrom

We all know people who encounter unpredictable and challenging situations, requiring them to adapt quickly. Their ability to remain composed, or look composed, in high pressure situations is enviable.

Staff Sgt. Kristin Swanstrom, a Tactical Aircraft Maintenance specialist, or crew chief, from the Minnesota National Guard’s 148th Fighter Wing, is one of those people who make hard work and change look easy.

The 2017 graduate of Proctor High School always knew she wanted to be in the military. She started the process to join the U.S. Air Force when one of her teachers, a retired 148th Fighter Wing member, encouraged her to consider the Air National Guard.

Swanstrom enlisted in June of 2017. She attended Basic Military Training at Joint Base Lackland – San Antonio, Tex., then technical training at Sheppard Air Force Base, Tex., where she learned to launch, recover, refuel, and maintenance operations on the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

As an F-16 crew chief, Swanstrom performs aircraft, engine, and component inspections; conducts pre and post flight inspections; uses technical data to diagnose and solve maintenance problems; and conducts functional testing of various aircraft systems.

Swanstrom deployed in support of a 2020 NORAD homeland defense mission and again in 2022 to Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, in support of Operations Inherent Resolve and Spartan Shield. She’s also traveled to Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., and Tyndall Air Force Base, Fl., in support of large-scale F-16 flying training deployments.

In 2021, Swanstrom was named Airman of the Year by the 148th Fighter Wing for her outstanding technical accomplishments and professional development efforts in 2020. During this period, she was lauded when she identified jet engine damage caused by foreign object debris while at a deployed location during a post-flight inspection.

“Staff Sgt. Swanstrom embodies the highest standards of excellence as an Airman, serving as a role model with professionalism, dedication, and integrity,” said 148th Accessories Element

Supervisor, Senior Master Sgt. John McEwen. “She has the innate ability to recognize how she can best serve others, putting them ahead of her own needs.”

While serving her country and working full time as a crew chief, Swanstrom also attended the University of Wisconsin Superior, and simultaneously earned her private pilot certificate. “I attended classes from 8 a.m. until noon most days,” said Swanstrom. “I worked (at the base) from 2 p.m. until 11 p.m. and took my flight lessons on the weekends.”

While she demonstrated grit and excellent time management in achieving her goals, Swanstrom credits many mentors, supervisors, and connections she made from her military career. One standout mentor is Capt. Beth “BATR” Hovland, a pilot assigned to the 148th Fighter Wing. Swanstrom and Hovland both represent a small percentage of women who perform duties in traditionally male-dominated career fields. “I considered getting out after my six-year enlistment,” said Swanstrom. “BATR always encouraged me to stay and make it better for the next person.”

For a while, Swanstrom considered applying for a commission in the Air National Guard with the goal of becoming an F-16 pilot. As she continued her education, she noted “that I loved my legal classes.” Beyond her coursework, she also completed an internship with the Duluth Housing and Redevelopment Authority where she immersed herself in eviction law.

In December, Swanstrom graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Superior with a Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies. She’s enjoying the extra time she has now that working full time is her only responsibility. The standout high school athlete is dedicating some her extra time to self-care and fitness.

This summer, Swanstrom will leave her full time at the 148th Fighter Wing to pursue her Juris Doctorate at St. Thomas School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota. She’ll still serve as a crew chief with the 148th Fighter Wing, but it will be part time.

Navigating change with grace is a remarkable skill. Swanstrom’s ability to adapt and lead during change speaks volumes about her character. It’s often individuals like her who inspire others to face transitions with confidence and determination. 

Photos courtesy of the Minnesota National Guard

Recognizing and Uplifting Diverse Voices Army Capt. Kate Sulzle Serves Others

Capt. Kate Sulzle has always worked to uplift and serve those around her. Raised in Saint Louis Park, Minnesota, she joined the Minnesota Army National Guard in February 2017. She was contracted and commissioned through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps while enrolled at the College of Saint Benedict in Saint Joseph. During that time, she served in a part-time capacity with Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 125th Field Artillery Regiment. Once she commissioned in May of 2019, she attended the Field Artillery Basic Officer Leadership Course, at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Upon returning to Minnesota, she served as a fire direction officer within her organization and, eventually, became a platoon leader. In 2022, Sulzle left the field artillery world to become a public affairs officer with the 34th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade, or 34th ECAB. Her reason for enlisting was two-fold, Sulzle said. “I needed help paying for school,” she said. “I was also drawn by the opportunity to give back to my community and state.”

On the civilian side, she earned a bachelor’s in psychology with a minor in communication from the College of Saint Benedict and a master’s in science in applied psychology with a focus on industrial organization psychology and program evaluation from the University of WisconsinStout in Menomonie. While working on her master’s, Sulzle worked as a research assistant at the college’s applied research center.

Throughout her time in the Minnesota National Guard, she has worked on multiple sets of long-term orders. Presently, she is supporting the deputy chief of staff for the rear detachment of the 34th Infantry Division, known as the “Red Bulls,” while the organization is deployed to the Middle East.

Currently, Sulzle lives in New Richmond, Wisconsin, with her wife, Casie. The couple met in 2017 at a community pool where they both were working and became good friends, she said. After some time, they started dating and married in February 2020.

Throughout her career, Sulzle has had two mentors that she says have been instrumental in her development as an officer, Army Chief Warrant Officer Five Tina Podratz and Army Capt. Andrea Tsuchiya.

“From early on in my career, they taught me what right looks like, how to be a better leader, and how to navigate being a woman officer in a combat arms role,” she said. “Their mentorship and guidance have continued to positively impact me in my role as a public affairs officer.”

Her most memorable experiences while serving have happened while serving as a public affairs officer with the 34th ECAB, Sulzle said.

“The opportunity to fly in helicopters, capture moments through photography, and engage in joint training sessions with other groups such as special forces and the Canadian military has been incredibly rewarding,” she said. “These experiences not only showcase the opportunities available in the Minnesota National Guard but also highlight the collaborative spirit that defines serving in the Guard.”

As a public affairs officer, Sulzle also serves as the brigade diversity and inclusion Officer. This role has provided her with the opportunity to amplify the voices of Soldiers that she serves with, she said.

“In this role, I have the opportunity to recognize and uplift the diverse voices of Soldiers within our brigade, including those in the LGBTQ+ community, by sharing their stories with the public,” she said.

In her personal life, Sulzle and her wife are dedicated to uplifting others in her community.

“My wife and I are also proud members of the LGBTQ+ community,” she said. “We believe it is important to be a safe space for others and to serve as strong advocates and representatives within the community.”

Looking toward the future, Sulzle is in the process of seeking full-time employment in her field of study after she has finished her duties with the 34th, and to having new adventures with her spouse.

“After my current orders, I would like to see myself working as a program evaluator,” she said. “My wife and I would like to buy a home in the near future and travel often to try foods from around the world.”

She is also looking forward to developing the Diversity & Inclusion program that she is currently working in.

“One of my goals as a D&I officer would be to further develop the D&I program for the 34th ECAB to expand its reach and impact,” she said. “While the program currently highlights diversity and promotes inclusion, there is still work to be done to create a better experience for Soldiers.”

For those considering a career in the military, Sulzle has some advice. She recommends those who may think that serving is the right choice for them assess how a career in the military fits into their long-term plans and aspirations, she said.

“For me, The National Guard helped me to afford a quality education,” she said. “In addition, I would recommend understanding the opportunities and responsibilities that come with serving in the Minnesota National Guard. On one hand, I devote a great deal of time to the work I do for the Minnesota National Guard. On the other hand, there are many opportunities to explore your talents and interests without committing to active duty or full-time service.” 

About the Minnesota National Guard: Established in 1856 and headquartered in St. Paul, the Minnesota National Guard has more than 13,000 Soldiers and Airmen who serve in 58 communities across the state. The CitizenSoldiers and Airmen of the Minnesota National Guard are ‘Always Ready’ to fight the nation’s wars, protect the country, respond to state emergencies, and contribute to local communities. For more information about the Minnesota National Guard, visit

Photos courtesy of the Minnesota National Guard

‘You Have to Hunt the Good Stuff’ Soldier Finds Community in the Minnesota National Guard

At a very young age, Army Sgt. Romeo Hall moved to Minnesota from San Diego, living in Atkin for 10 years and then Brainerd for another decade. Raised by a single mother with his sister and two brothers, he learned a lot about building resilience and relationships.

“It was difficult as you can imagine,” he said, referring to being raised in a single-parent home. “But I’ve also been blessed with many lifelong friends and bonus family that even today, support me in ways I’ll never be able to pay them back for.”

Growing up in a somewhat rural community made it difficult to find people with whom he shared similar life experiences, Hall said. But through his military service, he was able to meet people that he could connect with.

“I grew up in Brainerd and had a hard time finding many friends who I shared things in common with as a queer person of color,” he said. “I deployed with the task force in 2021. I went to Kuwait and Syria and got the opportunity to form bonds with other Soldiers that will definitely last a lifetime.”

Hall joined the Minnesota National Guard in July of 2018 as an automated logistical specialist with Golf Company, 134th Brigade Support Battalion. For the first year of his career, he served part-time before taking a job as a production controller at Camp Ripley. In that role, he processed hundreds of work orders amounting in hundreds of thousands of dollars-worth of repair parts to support his unit’s mission. After returning from his deployment in 2022, the newly promoted Sgt. Hall applied for a production controller position at the field maintenance shop at the Arden Hills Army Training Site where he currently works full-time. His work as a technician for the military has taught him many valuable lessons about accountability, professionalism, and drawing boundaries, he said.

People who work with Hall see his value. One of his leaders, Army Maj. Margaret Gregg, who serves as the field maintenance manager, describes Hall as a leader who embodies dedication, resilience, and intrapersonal skills that contribute to the success of the organization.

“As a production controller, Romeo is responsible for the flow of operations in the shop, but he is also the face that our customers see and interact with,” she said. “His ability to connect with people while finding different ways to support them through operational needs is unique and ahead of his peers.”

Throughout his life and his military career, Hall has had female mentors that have shaped who is he today.

“I’ve always been heavily influenced by the many matriarchal figures I’ve had throughout my life,” he said.

His first mentor in the military, Army Sgt. Kelsi Davis who worked with Hall at Camp Ripley, served as an example of what it means to “lead from the front,” he said.

“She’s an incredible mother at home, an exceptional Soldier at work, and both places would fall apart without her,” Hall said. “She taught me what a backbone is and how to use it. For that, I asked her to pin on my new rank when I became a sergeant, beginning my time as a noncommissioned officer correctly.”

Choosing a favorite memory from his career thus far is impossible, Hall said. But one that stands out in his mind the most took place in the spring of 2023 while he was at the weapons qualification range at Camp Riley with the Stillwater-based 34th Military Police Company. From that experience, he gleaned an understanding of what it means to mentor others.

“I’d never seen senior leadership so enthusiastic, helpful, and willing to train any group of Soldiers through constructive criticism, positive reinforcement, and an easygoing attitude that made Soldiers comfortable enough to learn at their own pace,” he said. “It felt like my first, ‘Welcome to the 34MPs,’ and I’ll remember that forever.”

His time in service, Hall said, has helped him to connect with other members of the queer community who serve alongside him and to build a shared experience with others.

“In my short time in the military, I’ve had the privilege to meet many other members of the queer community, it’s always a pleasant surprise being reminded that not only are we here, but we’re here in numbers that I think would surprise anyone,” he said. “Most of my personal friend group is comprised of queer Soldiers in various stages of our careers. We’re always wanting the best for each other,

taking that, ‘battle buddy,’ mentality straight into our personal relationships, all thanks to the military.”

Whether he continues to serve for another five, 10, or 20 years, he is looking forward to building memorable relationships with those around him, he said.

“Regardless of how much time I have left in the military, I look forward to using every moment to make more meaningful connections with the incredible Soldiers that make up this organization,” he said. “You have to hunt the good stuff, keep an open mind, and be curious, not judgmental. The next Soldier you meet could be a chance for a business venture, lifelong friend, or a new roommate.” 

About the Minnesota National Guard: Established in 1856 and headquartered in St. Paul, the Minnesota National Guard has more than 13,000 Soldiers and Airmen who serve in 58 communities across the state. The CitizenSoldiers and Airmen of the Minnesota National Guard are ‘Always Ready’ to fight the nation’s wars, protect the country, respond to state emergencies, and contribute to local communities. For more information about the Minnesota National Guard, visit

Photos courtesy of the Minnesota National Guard

Rediscovering the World A Guide to Smart and Splendid Summer Travels

As the world reopens and travel rebounds with vigor, adventure seekers and culture enthusiasts are eagerly marking their calendars. With a significant increase in travel bookings indicating a pent-up demand for exploration, many are looking for unique ways to enjoy their journeys. This guide offers a fresh look at travel through three engaging themes: “Destination Dupes,” which explores lesser-known alternatives to famed destinations; “Destinations Worth the Splurge,” for those looking to indulge in exceptional travel experiences; and “Summer Sojourns: Quick Fun Getaways,” perfect for those seeking short but memorable escapes. Each category is designed to inspire and fit different travel preferences, whether you’re looking for affordability, luxury, or a quick retreat.

Destination Dupes

Fredericksburg, Texas: A German Gem in the Hill Country

Fredericksburg, celebrated for its German heritage, offers a peaceful alternative to Texas’s larger cities like Dallas, Austin, and Houston. This quaint town features distinctive architecture, lively festivals, and delicious cuisine. Its landscape is dotted with “Sunday Homes,” traditional dwellings built by German settlers for weekend stays.

Rich German Heritage: The town’s German roots are celebrated through traditional festivals and distinctive architecture.

Historical and Cultural Attractions: Delve into Fredericksburg’s history at the Pioneer Museum and the National Museum of the Pacific War, which offer insights into the town’s early settlers and military heritage. Additionally, tours of the Lyndon B. Johnson Ranch provide a personal glimpse into the life and presidency of LBJ.

Trueheart Hotel: Stay at the Trueheart Hotel, which merges historical charm with modern amenities..

Wine Country Experience: The town lies within the Texas Hill Country, a region known for its vibrant wine scene. Enjoy vineyard tours and wine tastings that highlight the local viticulture.

Culinary and Shopping: Dive into Fredericksburg’s culinary scene at local festivals showcasing traditional German cuisine. Visit Fischer & Wieser for gourmet mustards and preserves. The town’s shopping district also offers a variety of unique antique shops and art galleries.

Jacksonville, Florida: A Cultural Oasis and Beach Alternative

Jacksonville stands out as a vibrant and culturally rich alternative to Florida’s traditional beach destinations like Fort Myers. With its less crowded beaches and a dynamic mix of cultural and outdoor activities,

Jacksonville offers a unique blend of experiences for those looking to escape the typical tourist pathways.

Inclusive Celebrations: Jacksonville’s welcoming spirit shines with two PRIDE Celebrations: a colorful parade and festival in June and a focus on cultural enrichment through workshops and art exhibitions in October.

Cultural Attractions: Explore a wide range of cultural offerings at the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens and the Museum of Science and History, both of which offer engaging exhibits suitable for all ages.

Vibrant Music and Nightlife: Dive into the city’s eclectic music scene, which features everything from indie rock to jazz, showcased across numerous live music venues.

Coastal and Outdoor Activities: Take advantage of Jacksonville’s beautiful coastal setting with activities like surfing at Jacksonville Beach, paddle boarding at Neptune Beach, or enjoying the natural beauty along the St. Johns River and the city’s extensive park system.

St. George Island, Florida: A Pristine Retreat on the Gulf

Nestled on the Florida Panhandle, St. George Island stands as a tranquil escape from busier beachfronts like Panama City or Destin. With its untouched beaches and serene environment, the island is a perfect haven for those seeking quiet and nature.

Natural Beauty and Seclusion: Renowned for pristine conditions and scenic views, the island’s beaches are ideal for those who enjoy tranquil beach walks, fishing, or soaking up the serene atmosphere.

Dog-Friendly Beaches: Welcoming to pets, the island allows visitors to enjoy beach time with their furry friends, enhancing its appeal to pet owners.

Wildlife Conservation: As a crucial nesting site for sea turtles such as loggerheads and green turtles, the island offers seasonal guided turtle walks, providing unique wildlife watching opportunities.

Accommodations: The Collins properties on St. George Island offer a variety of lodging options from quaint cottages to spacious homes, all located conveniently on the beach.

Dining: Harry A’s Bar and Grill serves up fresh local seafood in a relaxed setting, perfect for experiencing the local flavor and laid-back lifestyle.

Environmental Recognition: The island is celebrated for its cleanliness and conservation efforts, with accolades from Dr. Beach highlighting its commitment to preserving natural beauty.

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Douro Valley. Vineyards landscape of the Porto wine, near Pinhao village, Portugal. Photo courtesy of BigStock/ruivalesousa

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Destinations Worth the Splurge

Explore Portugal’s River of Gold

This Summer

Portugal, a premier and increasingly popular travel destination, captivates with its rich tapestry of history, vibrant culture, and stunning landscapes. The Douro River offers a unique journey through this enchanting country during the lively summer months. Starting from the vibrant streets of Lisbon and moving to the terraced vineyards of Porto’s riverfront, a cruise along the Douro River provides a profound connection to the region’s cultural heritage and natural beauty. This journey is an ideal way to experience the local wineries and witness the vineyards’ summer beauty.

Exploring the Douro River: The Douro stretches from Porto into the heart of wine country, showcasing terraced vineyards and the traditions of Portuguese winemaking.


River Cruises

Experience: Viking River Cruises provides luxurious, comprehensive tours along the Douro. Their Longships feature elegant accommodations and local cuisine, designed to enhance the cultural and scenic experiences of the region.

Personal Insights: Starting in Lisbon, the tour offers rich cultural encounters, with optional visits to iconic sites like the Jerónimos Monastery and Alfama’s historic streets. The journey continues with a train ride to Porto, where the deep-rooted wine culture comes to life. On the Viking Longship, I traveled along the Douro River, exploring the lush vineyards and soaking in the region’s stunning beauty. Summer brings the vineyards into full vigor, offering guests a chance to engage deeply with the region’s renowned wine heritage.

Experience the Mediterranean: A Summer of Luxury

Embark on a cruise across the Mediterranean during the sun-filled summer months, the ideal season to immerse in its rich history, diverse cultures, and stunning landscapes. A voyage aboard Explora 1 not only promises adventure but also surrounds you with luxurious amenities that elevate the experience to extraordinary levels.

Explora 1 Overview: Explora 1 melds elegance with comfort, offering spacious accommodations and exquisite service. Guests enjoy gourmet dining crafted by award-winning chefs and a comprehensive spa, along with a variety of dining venues and leisure activities, ensuring a journey of unmatched comfort and indulgence.

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Diverse Destinations: While the spotlight here is on the Mediterranean, Explora 1’s capabilities allow for adventures to other vibrant locales such as the serene Caribbean and the pristine Arctic, each selected to enrich the cruising experience with diversity and splendor.

Personal Voyage Insights: * Personal Voyage Insights: My journey on Explora 1 took me from Los Angeles to Vancouver along the scenic West Coast of the United States. This trip featured diverse environments and cultures, with memorable activities like biking across the Golden Gate Bridge and exploring the historic charms of Victoria.

Discover the Rhine River: An Opulent Summer Journey

Embark on a cruise along the Rhine River, Europe’s storied waterway, perfect for a summer getaway. With its rich history, vibrant culture, and breathtaking landscapes, a journey along the Rhine offers a seamless blend of scenic beauty and cultural exploration.

Elegant Cruising on the Rhine: Experience the elegance of cruising on Riverside Luxury Cruises’ riverboat Debussy, known for its outstanding comfort and attentive service. This cruise allows you to experience the Rhine’s majestic flow through historic and picturesque regions.

Enchanting Destinations: Navigate through key European cities such as Amsterdam and Basel. Discover the old-world charm of Cologne, explore the wine towns of Rüdesheim and Koblenz, and soak in the beautiful cityscapes of Strasbourg.

Riverside Luxury Cruises: Choose Riverside Luxury Cruises for their renowned service and opulent riverboats, including the Debussy. They offer spacious accommodations and exceptional amenities like gourmet dining at the Chef’s Table, panoramic views, and no single room supplement on selected bookings for 2024 and 2025.

Personal Travel Insights: My journey started in Brussels, mixing modern buzz with historical allure. Highlights included biking to a cheesemonger farm in Holland and visiting Brussels’ iconic Atomium. The trip culminated in Amsterdam, allowing easy exploration of its famous canals and rich artistic heritage from the riverboat’s central docking location.

Summer Sojourns: Quick Fun Getaways Sandestin, Florida

Experience the quintessential summer in Sandestin, where the emerald waters and soft, sandy beaches provide a picturesque

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backdrop for a variety of outdoor activities. Engage in water sports, enjoy golfing on several renowned courses, or explore the area by bike. The Village of Baytowne Wharf offers shopping, dining, and entertainment options suitable for the whole family, making it a lively spot throughout the summer. In Sandestin, the spirit of inclusivity shines at the annual South Walton Beaches Pride, celebrating diversity and community in a picturesque coastal setting, making it a must-visit for those seeking a supportive beachside escape.

Where to Stay: The Hilton Beach Golf Resort and Spa is an excellent choice. Recently renovated, this luxurious resort offers direct access to the beaches, a range of dining experiences, and relaxation opportunities at its expanded spa facilities and new infinity pool.

Nashville, Tennessee

Embrace the vibrant energy of Nashville this summer, where music and cultural festivities abound. Known as Music City, Nashville is essential for anyone interested in the roots of American music, featuring iconic venues like the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Ryman Auditorium. Beyond music, explore Carter Vintage Guitars’ new, larger location, a paradise for musicians with live demonstrations and a vast selection of instruments. Nashville’s Broadway district buzzes with live music spanning country to rock, making it a perfect backdrop for summer nights. Nashville’s vibrant LGBTQ+ scene includes the beloved Nashville Pride Festival, which fills the streets with music, dance, and colorful celebrations each June, reflecting the city’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Where to Stay: In Nashville, the luxurious J.W. Marriott offers sophisticated accommodations with stunning city views, while the boutique Kimpton Hotel provides unique charm and excellent service. Both hotels offer easy access to the city’s rich tapestry of music, arts, and dining, making them perfect for those looking to immerse themselves in Nashville’s lively cultural scene.

As summer unfolds and travelers eagerly seek out new adventures, let this guide be your compass to smart and splendid journeys ahead. Whether you’re drawn to the charm of Fredericksburg’s German heritage, the cultural oasis of Jacksonville, or the pristine retreat of St. George Island, there’s a destination calling your name. For those ready to splurge, embark on a luxurious river cruise along Portugal’s Douro River with Viking, immersing yourself in the rich tapestry of history and vineyards’ summer beauty. And for quick, fun getaways, immerse yourself in the excitement of Las Vegas, bask in the beauty of Sandestin’s beaches, or groove to the rhythm of Nashville’s music scene. Wherever your travels may take you, may each moment be filled with wonder and discovery, as we explore our planet. Happy travels, fellow adventurers! 

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Aerial cityscape of Porto, Portugal with the Douro River and the Luis I Bridge during sunrise. Photo courtesy of BigStock/rudi1976

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Las Vegas

Las Vegas, known for its vibrant and inclusive atmosphere, embraces LGBTQ culture with open arms, making it a thriving hub for the community. Iconic events like the annual Las Vegas Pride Parade and Festival bring together people from all walks of life to celebrate diversity and unity. Las Vegas Pride is typically in early October so start planning now.

The city’s commitment to inclusivity is reflected in the diverse range of LGBTQ-friendly accommodations, ensuring that visitors feel welcome and respected. Beyond the nightlife, Las Vegas hosts a variety of LGBTQ-focused community organizations, support groups, and cultural events that contribute to the rich tapestry of the city’s inclusive ethos. Whether exploring the famous entertainment offerings or participating in community-driven initiatives, LGBTQ individuals and allies alike find a warm and accepting home in the vibrant tapestry of LGBTQ culture in Las Vegas.

Ever since I was young, I have always wanted to stay at the Bellagio. Their iconic foundations have fascinated me for decades. The hotel stands as an epitome of luxury and sophistication, offering an unparalleled experience that seamlessly blends opulence, entertainment, and fine dining. From the moment you step into the grand lobby, it’s evident that Bellagio is committed to providing a world-class stay, especially when you glance at the ceiling adorned with Chihuly glass sculptures.

I stayed in a recently renovated room in the Spa Tower with an unobstructed view of the Vegas strip and the fountains. The attention to detail is evident in the tasteful decor, plush furnishings, and modern amenities. Beginning at 3pm on weekdays and noon on weekends, the choreographed water show set against the backdrop of the Las Vegas Strip is a mesmerizing display of artistry, combining music, light, and water in perfect harmony. It sets the tone for the exquisite experiences that await within Bellagio.

Bellagio is also home to the famous Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, a lush oasis that undergoes seasonal transformations, displaying stunning floral displays and thematic installations. This botanical escape provides a serene contrast to the lively atmosphere of the casino and the bustling Strip. During our stay, the staff were completing their new Springtime exhibition, which gave us Alice in Wonderland vibes.

For those seeking entertainment, Bellagio offers the spectacular “O” by Cirque du Soleil, a water-themed extravaganza that complements the hotel’s overall theme. Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art is another cultural gem within the hotel, featuring rotating exhibitions that display masterpieces from around the world.

Although it is possible to never leave the hotel, we wanted to experience other MGM Resorts properties, so we headed to LPM at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas for dinner. LPM offers an exquisite dining experience that effortlessly marries Mediterranean charm with the vibrant energy of the Strip. From the moment you step through the entrance, you are greeted by an ambiance that strikes a perfect balance between sophistication and conviviality.

LPM’s interior is a visual feast, adorned with chic decor, warm lighting, and an intimate atmosphere. The combination of contemporary design elements and classic French accents creates a welcoming space that feels both elegant and comfortable. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or seeking a romantic dinner, LPM’s ambiance sets the stage for an unforgettable dining experience.

LPM’s menu is a culinary triumph, highlighting the rich and diverse flavors of the French Riviera. The emphasis on fresh, high-quality ingredients is evident in every dish. We began our meal with a variety of appetizers, including the

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Photos by Joey Amato
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Yellowtail Carpaccio, Escargots, and their signature Burrata prepared with heritage tomatoes and basil and topped with white truffles. For our main courses, we decided to focus on seafood entrees, so we tried the Lobster Risotto and grilled Chilean Bass. Both were prepared to perfection and paired very well together if you are looking to share entrees.

Of course, one of the biggest attractions of Las Vegas is the strip itself. Spend a few hours meandering through each hotel and taking in the Vegas vibe. There is no other place in the world quite like it.

If you are in the mood for a little adventure, head to Area15, located about 10 minutes from the strip. Area15 is an immersive entertainment complex that blends art, technology, and entertainment in a unique and captivating way. Boasting an otherworldly exterior and a dynamic interior, Area15 is home to a variety of innovative experiences, including interactive art installations and virtual reality adventures. Its anchor tenant, the Meow Wolf’s Omega Mart, is a surreal supermarket-like environment filled with mind-bending art and hidden mysteries. The venue also hosts concerts and live events including Beyond Brunch, a variety show hosted by drag queen extraordinaire Andrew Ryan. The 2-hour spectacle includes a wonderful buffet and performances by talented acts ranging from hoop dancers to Cirque-style entertainers. The show is well worth the price of admission; it is not your typical drag brunch.

Spend the afternoon touring Area15 or head to The Sphere, Las Vegas’ newest concert venue. Rock icons U2 opened the venue with a 40-night run, but guests can purchase tickets to Darren Aronofsky’s multisensory film Postcard from Earth.

For a trip down memory lane, especially if you are in you were born in the 70s or 80s, check out Retro by Voltaggio at Mandalay Bay. The restaurant owned by Top Chef stars, Bryan and Michael Voltaggio, takes diners on a nostalgic journey through time, blending modern culinary techniques with comforting flavors reminiscent of classic American dishes set in a retro-chic environment. The space is adorned with quirky memorabilia, neon accents, and a colorful palette that captures a sense of nostalgia without feeling overly kitschy, creating a welcoming environment for diners to unwind and enjoy the culinary adventure.

Retro by Voltaggio’s menu is a playful exploration of classic American favorites. We started our dinner with the Deviled Eggs with smoked trout roe along with the Beet Steak Tartare, which was incredible. Next came the bluefin tuna Ceviche served over coconut crushed ice. For our en-

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trees we tried the Trout Meuniere, which was served in a lemon and caper sauce, as well as the Lobster Thermidor with lobster waffles…yes, you read that correctly. It was as delicious as it sounds.

Save room for the dessert cart which contains innovative creations that satisfy the sweet tooth. Whether you’re a fan of nostalgic flavors or simply seeking a unique and enjoyable meal, Retro by Voltaggio is worth the visit.

After dinner, catch a performance of Michael Jackson “ONE” by Cirque du Soleil also at Mandalay Bay. The show is a captivating tribute to the King of Pop that seamlessly blends the magic of Cirque du Soleil with the timeless music and iconic choreography of Michael Jackson. From the moment the lights dim to the final bow, the show is a high-energy, emotionally charged celebration of the legendary entertainer’s life and legacy. This isn’t your typical Cirque du Soleil show and is more like a concert featuring all of Michael’s greatest hits, memorable dance moves, and state-of-the-art production. I felt like “ONE” is the type of concert Michael would have wanted to perform if he were still with us.

The thing I like most about Vegas is it is always evolving. Every time you visit, there is something new to see or do. Viva Las Vegas!

Enjoy the Journey! 


Metropolitan Skin Clinic Can Help Transgender People With Their Skin Journey

Dealing with changes in our facial appearances can be frustrating. Whether it be acne, aging, unwanted hair, or not being able to find skincare products that work for you, having unwanted features in such a visible and noticeable area can cause insecurities. These issues become increasingly more upsetting for transgender people who are transitioning.

Metropolitan Skin Clinic, located in Edina, is a Black, LGBTQ+, and women-owned skin clinic that has a multitude of options for all skincare needs, including helping trans clients with their skin at several stages of their transition.

The clinic starts with an in-depth consultation for their clients where they take a series of photos and use them to create a comprehensive and holistic treatment plan with their client, said Carrie Lucio, nurse practitioner and lead of injections at Metropolitan Skin Clinic. She said it’s important for clinicians to ask clients what works best for them, especially trans clients.

“Sometimes we come in with our own agenda for somebody and what looks feminine or masculine to us versus making them an intricate part of this journey that we’re going to go on with them and saying ‘What do you feel like? Show me some pictures, show me things that you find feminine to you, that’s going to make you feel like you look like on the outside how you feel on the inside,” Lucio said.

She said the person usually can bring ideas as they’ve put a lot of thought into this whole journey and it’s the injector’s job to give them all of the options with the risks and benefits.

When mapping out the treatment plan, they try to line up treatments at Metropolitan with other treatments that trans clients may be getting outside their office, according to Lucio. She added they start with what will be most impactful for the patient.

“Finding out what is most meaningful for them is what is going to lead where we go and then the goal drives the treatment plan,” Lucio said.

She said some skin issues they can help trans clients with are unwanted hair growth, softening or strengthening facial features, unwanted acne, and skin texture. The clinic offers options for home care, injectables, and other services.

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Photos courtesy of Metropolitan Skin Clinic
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Unwanted hair growth is something they can treat first, which can help trans clients feel like they see instant results and change on their journey, Lucio said.

Wayne Zink, one of three owners of Metropolitan Skin, said the BAREit laser light pulse focuses on the hair follicle, which helps treat thicker, sometimes curly, hair and a larger hair follicle. He added this makes it more accurate and much faster.

“If you’re the patient and you’re transitioning it’s a much less tedious, arduous, and painful process,” Zink said. “You can get a lot more done without incurring pain and oftentimes in the transition journey anything we can do to lighten the load of that journey is helpful.”

Lucio added they have multiple handpieces to ensure they can treat all body types and areas of the body. She said Metropolitan brought this laser in because it’s safe for all skin colors and types.

“There’s a lot of people who are transitioning and people of color that come in and they think ‘This treatment might not be made for me’ and we’ve got something to offer them too,” she said.

People receiving hormone therapy can face side effects such as unwanted acne or textured skin. Lucio said they can treat unwanted acne through medical grade skincare, hydrafacials, or ForeverClear laser treatment.

She added most patients who are receiving hormone therapy will experience changes in the texture of their skin, which may include larger pores, a reddish or dull texture, and sometimes hyperpigmentation. Some treatments for that can be a chemical peel or a moxi laser treatment.

Zink added skincare routines for someone transitioning differ based on the type of hormone therapy.

He said testosterone causes larger pores, increased oil production, and the ability to grow hair on the jaw, chin, and neck, which can create bumps, whiteheads, clogging, and blemishes. Skincare to help with these issues would include ingredients such as alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids, glycolic acid, and lactic acid, according to Zink. Skin affected by estrogen would need more calming ingredients and cleansers.

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“Pilot Light” A New Documentary Film Tells the Story of a Local Kid Whose Passion is Fashion

“Everyone involved in this project was there because they wanted to be,” Casey Pflipsen remembers. “This was truly a passion project. We all were learning things, making mistakes along the way, and it was totally okay.”

The passion project to which Pflipsen refers is Pilot: A Jarrah Webster Story, a documentary film that nominally tells the tale of not a who, but a what: Jarrah Webster is the clothing brand (and passion project) of fledgling fashion designer Raja Babu. Of course, as with most passion projects, creator and creation are, in fact, interchangeable, so perhaps Pilot simultaneously tells the tale of a what and a who.

While most documentaries look back at an accomplished subject’s accomplishments, Pilot: A Jarrah Webster Story looks forward. Notes Pflipsen, “This film is very unique and experimental because director Sawyer Brice decided to make a documentary about a person who essentially hasn’t ‘made it’ yet.”

The movie telling the story of the art student who hasn’t made it very nearly went unmade. “The story goes, that [Pilot director] Sawyer Brice met Raj at an event or party or something,” Pflipsen says. “Sawyer must have been pretty blown away at Raja’s presence, his attitude, his art, and overall vibe. It was one day after meeting Raj that Sawyer was inspired to film a documentary about him.”

What might have seemed an avenue to inspiration for the director was a road to nowhere for the subject…at least initially. As Pflipsen recounts, “Raj was not into the idea at first, but after some convincing, he finally said yes.”

According to the project’s website, “The lens follows Raja as he navigates the pressures of graduating college and finding his identity, both artistically and individually. The documentary introduces his inner circle, with each person offering heartfelt testimonials on his profound influence within the local scene.”

The film’s title contains multiple possible meanings. “As Sawyer has said, in Hollywood language, a pilot is the first of more to come,” Pflipsen explains. “This documentary shows the beginning of Raj’s career as an artist/designer. This was Sawyers’s first full-length documentary as a director. And, by coincidence or not, Raj’s grandfather was a pilot.”

Pflipsen, who describes himself as “a queer analog photographer and filmmaker from Minneapolis,” served as a kind of pilot himself during the filming of Pilot, directing the collaboration’s photography. “The job of a Director of Photography–DoP for short–may vary from each person you ask,” he explains. “Since Pilot was a documentary, it was a lot of ‘run and gun filming.’ We tried to capture the moment.”

Those moments weren’t always complicit in their own capture. Says Pflipsen: “As the DoP shooting the scenes, it was my job to collaborate with the director Sawyer Brice, to quickly and efficiently find the best angles with the best lighting possible in the most efficient way possible.”

Pilot is made visually distinctive by filming different sections with different stock. “It was shot about 50% of analog film,” Pflipsen supposes, referring to the quaint substance used to record light when movies were viewed on reels. “It’s an artistic choice for sure.”

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(Top to Bottom) Photo by Sawyer Brice. Photo by Casey Pflipsen




LSS Supported Decision-Making

The ability to weave these old-fashioned webs is what got Pflipsen the gig in the first place. “[Director Sawyer Brice] brought me on to shoot all the 16mm footage,” Pflipsen says. “The look of 16 mm film is so unique, and a breath of fresh air in our perfect digital world. 16 mm is a great medium for low-budget films because it creates an amazing look at a lower cost.”

The portal for the reality revealed by Pilot is Minneapolis-based Overbite Studio. As delineated on its website, “Overbite is home to a roster of filmmakers, photographers, and multidisciplinary artists who collaborate seamlessly, bringing expertise across commercials, music videos, documentaries, and photography.”

But, ultimately, it was the passion of the people who wanted to work on the project that got Pilot to its graceful landing. “What surprised me was the amount of people needed to create a film,” Pflipsen confesses. “The directors, producers, cinematographers, cast, gaffers, grips, photographers, stylists, and friends who helped out along the way. At the end of the film, you’ll see how long the credits are, and we truly could not have done it without all of those wonderful people.”

Those long credits ran for the first time when the film debuted in Saint Paul on March 4th of this year. “The Pilot screening went great,” Pflipsen reports. “Huge turnout, lots of love, cheers, and tears from the crowd. So much of the Minneapolis art scene came to support the movie. It was truly magical.”

The mistakes made by the moviemakers and the things learned by the moviemakers probably escaped the notice of those initial moviegoers, but the passion which serves as the lifeblood of Pilot: A Jarrah Webster Story will surely abide…for those who made the film, as well as for those who view it. “I just want to give a hug and shout out to everyone who was involved,” Casey Pflipsen concludes. “All the cast, everyone at Overbite Studio. I am so thankful to be involved in this wonderful Minneapolis art community.” 

(Top to Bottom) Photo by Sawyer Brice. Photo by Casey Pflipsen
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Dirt Is Just Rodeo Folk Glitter

The summer sun beats down over the packed stands, alighting the swirling dust motes with a golden twinkle, a bright blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds overhead. Around the arena, horses neigh, steers bawl, and music plays, but the crowd in the stands has gone tense and quiet, eyes focused on one particular chute.

Suddenly, the signal is given, the gate swings wide, the crowd erupts into cheers, and two thousand pounds of solid muscle, bone and hooves leaps airborne from the chute, the rider holding on with one hand tied into a braided rope hand grip and the other held high, staring down at the longest six seconds imaginable as they sit astride this whirling tornado of muscle-bound bovine.

Most people couldn’t imagine walking up close enough to touch to a fully mature bull, let alone attempting to ride one, but the folks of the North Star Gay Rodeo Association aren’t your run-of-the-mill stock. These hardy people live their lives to the fullest as they ride, run and rope their way through some of the most grueling sports around—sports borne of necessity in the lives of those who worked the ranches and the ranges of the American West, and who now celebrate that history and keep it alive by competing in the variety of events at their annual rodeo.

The NSGRA was founded in October of 1989 by five individuals who, after attending the Phoenix Finals Rodeo, had the vision of bringing gay rodeo to the Upper Midwest. Brainstorming ideas and pooling resources, they began to implement all of the necessary components required to see that dream become reality. Bylaws were drafted and ratified, officers were elected, and they quickly achieved incorporation with the state of Minnesota. Membership in the International Gay Rodeo Association rapidly followed, and the life of the NSRGA began shining brightly as they

represented Minnesota and Wisconsin in its first Parade of States in 1990 in Phoenix’s Road Runner Regional Rodeo.

Through the years, NSGRA flourished, and the North Star Gay Rodeo is now one of the highlights of summer for many LGBTQ+ folks in the Twin Cities and surrounding areas. According to Jorge Sanchez, President/Rodeo Director of the NSGRA, a couple of years ago, the group elected a new board of directors who came on board with a lot of ideas on how to make the rodeo even better. Sanchez says “we got more involved with the community. We made our rodeo free admission and family-friendly” in order to make everyone in the community feel welcome at the events.

While one might not think of combining the words ‘LGBTQ+ community’ and ‘rodeo’ in the same sentence, Sanchez assures me that nothing could be further from the truth. I asked Sanchez if the people that give life to the NSRGA tend to be mostly folks who grew up on farms or in rural communities, and spent their childhood around livestock. Although many are, there are just as many who have decided to dive into something completely outside their box to give it a try, and get well and truly hooked.

Sanchez remarked that “because NSGRA is open to everyone, we don’t like to use the words cowboy or cowgirl; we’re just rodeo people. Some of the members come from small towns but most are from the city. We fell in love with the group because we are all are so different, but at the end of the day have the same goal to be kind to people and to give back to our community.”

The North Star Regional Rodeo has all of the traditional rodeo favorites such as bull riding, barrel racing, bronc busting, and team steer roping. Other competitions on the two-day slate of activities include calf roping on foot, breakaway roping, pole bending (get your minds out of the gutter!), team roping, chute dogging, flag racing, and steer riding.

However, one needs to remember…this ain’t your granddaddy’s rodeo!

Photos courtesy of the North Star Gay Rodeo Association

Sanchez said that the North Star Regional Rodeo also offers several fun, campy events to bring laughter to the crowd. One of these is known as Steer Decorating—a team of two wrangles one steer, with the first contestant bringing the steer across a designated line while the second contestant ties a ribbon on the animal’s tail. Then, the first contestant takes the rope loop off the steer’s horns while their partner races to hit the timer behind the chute.

The Wild Drag Race is also an event unique to gay rodeo. A team of three is in the ring with a steer wearing a halter and rope. Two members have to get the steer to the finish line. After getting the animal across the line, the third team member— kitted out in drag—climbs aboard the steer and rides (or attempts to ride!) the animal back across the line.

However, according to Sanchez, the perennial crowd favorite is Goat Dressing. What is that, you may ask? Well, you combine a team of two humans, add one goat, and throw a pair of brief style underwear into the mix. With underwear in hand, the team must catch the goat, get the underwear on its back end and over the tail, and run back to the finish line. As one can imagine, comedy often ensues!

Of course, as anyone familiar with rodeo can attest, no rodeo would be complete without rodeo royalty sparkling up the arena in elaborate spangles, sequins, crowns and sashes. Sanchez proudly said that NSGRA has “five categories for Royalty– MS, MR, MISS, MsTer and MX. We have a Royalty competition every year, and the Royalty help represent the organization throughout the year. We also have a Junior Royalty. If anyone is interested in running for Royalty, please let us know. All are welcome!”

NSGRA is a 501c(3) nonprofit organization, and money used to support it throughout the year and to put on the July event is raised through a combination of fundraising, donations and sponsorships. The organization is always grateful for any community support from individuals or businesses, and one can easily donate at the rodeo’s website.

This year’s North Star Regional Rodeo will be July 27 – 28th at Dead Broke Arena, Hugo, MN. Everyone is welcome to compete at the rodeo; they simply have to become an NSGRA member for $20. Registration can be done online or in person at Dead Broke Arena from 5:00—7:00 PM on Friday, July 26th.

For information or to register, visit 

zealous advocates


Dorsey understands that fairness, equality, and respect are not just fundamental to the law. They are fundamental to productive workplaces and peaceful communities. Dorsey is committed to being an inclusive organization that values diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and contributions. Learn more at


How Aurora FC Makes a Difference in Community

With two undefeated seasons, and the continued work toward many more championships, the women’s pre-professional soccer club Minnesota Aurora FC already provides the community with the opportunities to experience some amazing sporting events. But, alongside their soccer achievements, Aurora FC works hard at supporting their community and different organizations that share their values.

Aurora FC is a women-led soccer club that understands what it means to be an active member of their community. Jillian Davis, VP of brand marketing and communications of Minnesota Aurora FC, has been with the group since last fall, and already, she has worked for and witnessed the many ways in which the group helps their communities.

“Our unofficial tagline is ‘By community for community’. What we try to do is make sure that we put into place support systems for community organizations, causes that we care about, and also that we are creating pathways for people who may not have had opportunities in the past to come and work in sports, or play in sports, or whatever that might be.” Davis said.

Not only does Aurora FC work hard as a team to continue to find success in soccer, but they also work hard behind the scenes to provide opportunities for those who may not have the resources to access them. Davis emphasizes that, while their first objective is making goals on the field, they also have many ongoing projects to help them make their goals in fulfilling their community.

One of the ways they support their communities is through their multiple theme nights that they host. Each theme night centers around a different community and highlights their story through art and storytelling.

“We’re going to have four theme nights this year, and some of them center on specific identities, for example there’s an indigenous peoples night, and for each of these theme nights we have worked with an artist from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area to create custom piece of merch that’s aligned with that theme, we’ll see a bit more promotion of those items, and storytelling around why we chose those artists, how they’re aligned with our mission and our values, and just some really cool, really beautiful T-shirts and posters, things like that,” Davis said.

Through the combination of arts, sports, and the platform of Aurora FC, different communities get a chance to share their story with others. In this, attendees also get a chance to see different communities

courtesy of the Minnesota Aurora FC Continued on page 102

that they may not have heard about before but identify with. Together, people can be united together through the theme nights in soccer, art, and community.

This June, the theme night will be Pride, and it focuses on highlighting the Minneapolis and St. Paul LGBTQ+ community. Here, one can enjoy a warm environment of soccer, smiles, and scarves made by a local artist.

“We’ve done Pride night for the last couple of seasons, and it’s a very popular theme night for us. We’re thrilled to support and build community around the Pride community in Minneapolis St. Paul, so we have an artist who identifies as a part of the LGBTQIA community, and she has designed a scarf for us, and we will be talking about how we got to know her, how she’s involved with Aurora, and then that piece will be available for purchase,” Davis said.

Even more, Aurora FC makes sure that the groups that they work with align with their values and missions. Davis describes their “vetting process” that researches the groups that they work with to make sure that they are working toward similar objectives.

“In the past we’ve worked with Avenues for Youth, different organizations that support LGBTQIA youth and communities across the metro, so there will be a lot of chances for people to interact with organizations that maybe they were not aware of before. We are hoping to give those organizations a bigger platform, and get them in front of more people, and also as always create a safe space for people to come and watch an incredible game of soccer while we celebrate Pride,” Davis said.

Aurora not only brings communities to the field, but also goes out into the community to share inspiration. Davis highlights her recent experience speaking to students at a Minneapolis public school about

how to prevent bullying. She recalls witnessing the impact of their group through their words and visual representation of successful women in the sport’s industry.

In addition to speaking to students, the club also provides educational avenues for people to pursue. They currently offer a PA program that supports the educational trade of public announcers in sports so that people are granted the opportunity to learn the skills to become a PA. They also offer mentorship for those interested in learning about videography and photography in sports media.

If one is interested in seeing firsthand some of the incredible movements Aurora FC is known for, some specific events coming up include:

• Minnesota Aurora Public Announcer Class | Tuesdays -June 4th | St. Paul MN

• Aurora Vs Rochester FC | Thursday June 6 | Eagan, MN

• Aurora Soccer Camp | June 10-12 | Eagan, MN

• Aurora Vs Chicago City FC and Pride Night | Saturday June 22 | Eagan, MN

Overall, Aurora FC makes strides both on the field and in their community by continuously working toward new goals. Everyone is encouraged to attend a game and share memories and stories within its welcoming community.

If you are interested in supporting the club, Aurora FC is always welcoming people. Feel free to visit the website at to learn more about community events or job opportunities. 

Minnesota Aurora FC Pride Night vs. Chicago City FC June 22, 3:00 PM TCO Stadium, Eagan

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Finding Our Way Home How Avenues For Youth Helps LGBTQ+ Kids Stay Off The Streets

Alarmingly, nearly 40% of youth experiencing homelessness in the U.S. identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. But even with this startling statistic showing that almost half of homeless youth are LGBTQ+, there’s still a huge lack of LGBTQ+-specific housing programs. That’s where the Minneapolis-based ConneQT Host Home Program of Avenues for Youth comes in.

Author of No House to Call My Home: Love, Family and Other Transgressions about LGBTQI Youth Homelessness, and Program Manager of ConneQT, Ryan Berg (he/him), says “Avenues for Youth is based in Minneapolis, with organization-operated houses located in North Minneapolis and Brooklyn Park. We partner with youth ages 16-24. In addition, Avenues supports youth in community-based settings located throughout the Twin Cities through the ConneQT Host Home and the Young Families housing programs.” Basically, these programs work to match homeless LGBTQ+ youth with a host family in the community to provide food and shelter, along with support, to youth in need. Then Avenue provides “wrap-around services and support like building independent living skills, financial literacy support, mental health support, and [they] help work on the youth’s personal goals. Those goals are typically around long-term stable housing, employment and education.” With a community-based program like ConnectQT in place, LGBTQ+ youth have a much better chance of not only surviving, but thriving. According to Berg, The ConneQT Host Home program “plays a crucial role in providing a lifeline for LGBTQI+ youth, particularly trans youth who find themselves without a safe and stable place to call home when they come to Minnesota seeking refuge.

You might be wondering: how does something like ConneQT actually work? Berg explains, “Youth determination is at the center of our

process when matching youth with hosts. In ConneQT, youth get to read the applications of hosts (in each application hosts write an open letter describing who they are and why they want to host) and the youth get to decide who they’d like to meet. After the youth makes this decision, a series of ‘meet and greets’ are scheduled. These meetings are an integral part of the intentional matching process hosts and youth partake in in order to assure an affirming and sustainable living arrangement for both.” By allowing the youth to have their own agency and decision-making ability in this process, everyone involved feels empowered to take charge of their lives. And Berg also notes that this isn’t an act of charity from the community members offering youth a place in their homes. ConneQT is driven by a philosophy of solidarity instead. Berg says “we believe that communities can thrive when we share our resources from the perspective of ‘us and us’ and not ‘us and them.’”

Berg shared one of his favorite success stories from ConneQT: a story about one of their home hosts, Clara and her prospective youth match, R. With nerves on both sides, Clara and R met to speak about potentially living with each other. Clara’s three-legged Labrador, Holly and R’s adorable emotional support dog, Mocha, immediately hit it off.

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Photos courtesy of Sarah Williams/Avenues for Youth

From there, the nervous tension of meeting each other eased, and the two “fell into a natural conversation that started with their love of their dogs, then migrated to topics like their mutual love of making art, interest in neuroscience and desire to meet the personal goals they’ve set for themselves.” Berg commented on the ease and flow of their conversation, saying “Typically, my role in these meetings is to gently suggest topics of conversation, to ask questions that help flesh out a better understanding of how this potential living situation could look. The ConneQT team wants to create an opportunity for both prospective host and youth to glean what they need about the other person and the environment to truly envision what life would look like living together. With Clara and R, I rarely needed to steer the conversation or suggest topics. They sat across from each other, sipping tea, the fire in the background, and fell into conversations about their daily routines, and what it would mean to share space and their lives as housemates.” It’s connections like these that demonstrate the power that comes from ConneQT being based on solidarity and community, rather than charity. This is why ConneQT works.

Berg continues with the success story “Fast forward to today: R has now lived with Clara in ConneQT for six months. This past semester, R was on the Dean’s List at their community college and they are transferring to a four-year institution next semester. They are working and saving money and dreaming about the next chapter of their life… R said being accepted for who they are and being a part of something has made all the difference in the world.” Community and resources can truly make a situation that had once seemed impossible to achieve into a reality.

Programs like ConneQT are particularly important right now. With so much anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, specifically targeting trans children and adults in many cases, more and more youth are finding themselves

in need of community assistance. Berg says “Being part of the LGBTQ+ community, I understand firsthand the challenges and struggles that LGBTQ+ youth face, including homelessness and discrimination. This personal connection fuels my passion and commitment to creating a program that not only provides housing but also affirms and supports the identities of the youth it serves. My identity allows me to bring empathy, understanding, and cultural responsiveness to my role, ensuring that the program meets the unique needs of LGBTQ+ youth in Minnesota.” When the LGBTQ+ community comes together, it is truly an unstoppable force for good.

Avenues for Youth is so proud to help support queer youth in their pursuit of their goals towards a better life. It’s a beautiful thing to watch your community thrive, and even more beautiful to actively work together to make it happen.

If you want to learn more about Avenues for Youth or the ConneQT Home Host program, you can check out their website at 


Talking Good vs. Bad Pain During Pride With Summit Orthopedics

Summit Orthopedics provides comprehensive orthopedic care, from the diagnosis all the way to generating a rehabilitation plan for pain and chronic pain.

Angela Voight, a sports medicine doctor at Summit Orthopedics, diagnoses and treats non-surgical injuries. Working at Summit for twelve years, Voight said she primarily sees athletes through sideline coverage for races and running events.

Voight gets to see people for inquiries to keep them healthy, active and moving, from volunteering with Twin Cities in Motion and Moms on the Run, to soccer or football coverage.

With the 2024 Twin Cities Pride Festival approaching on June 29, lots of walking and long days outside are in the future for attendees.

“Particularly in the queer community, one of the main issues is that there’s less access to care,” Voight said.

Folks in the community can have a hard time finding providers who understand the LGBTQ+ community and give them the care that they need, Voight added.

Other things that affect the LGBTQ+ community, such as substance abuse, mental health issues and partnership violence can also lead to disproportionate pain within the community, Voight said.

“I see a lot of people that have a big event, and are not prepared for it, and then end up injured or sore,” Voight said.

For a big celebration like Pride where you have multiple days of walking and increased levels of activity it’s important to start training early,

Voight said. This can look like walking more ahead of time, going for outdoor walks in your free time and staying on your feet for longer prior to Pride.

It is also a good idea to incorporate other forms of movement such as strength training into your routine, Voight added.

Wearing appropriate footwear also plays a key role in minimizing risk for pain, according to Voight.

“I always tell people to prioritize comfort over fashion when it comes to footwear,” Voight said. “For pride, we like to get dressed up, but wearing shoes that allow you to be on your feet for long periods of time is critical.”

Footwear such as tennis shoes, walking and running shoes are suitable options, Voight added. Specialty running stores, such as the Twin Cities Running Company, are good options to get customized footwear that place comfort at the forefront.

There may also be increased substance use, because during Pride folks are celebrating and having a good time, Voight added. More drinking and substances may be used during this time of celebration, so monitoring these behaviors are important to avoid injury.

“The attitude of saying ‘no pain, no gain’ causes problems,” Voight said. “I think people often don’t know when to stop in terms of what is normal soreness and pain versus what is injury.”

The process of figuring out the answer is tough, Voight added. The only kind of “good soreness” is the kind that arises when a new activity or new workout is performed.

“I have a job because it’s hard to figure out these things,” Voight said.

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courtesy oif BigStock/lisafx

If soreness is general and not specifically affecting one specific area of the body and diffuses a few days after the new activity is started, this type of soreness is typically normal, Voight said.

If one knee or shoulder hurts and it doesn’t get better in the span of a few days, that could be a sign of injury, according to Voight.

“I see a lot of people who ‘increase’ too quickly, when they have a new routine or want to get in shape,” Voight said. “Pain is telling us something, it’s our body saying ‘hey, I don’t like this’, let’s do something about it.”

In general, a little soreness that resolves fast is okay, but anything that persists and affects one specific area should be evaluated, according to Voight.

From a cultural perspective, Voight said chronic pain is most often wrongly associated with pain “in your head,” and is commonly dismissed.

Chronic pain can be tough to describe because it is typically something that has been present for months to years, Voight added. The pain is persistent, affecting daily life function and one’s mental health.

“A lot of times women are dismissed if they have pain, along with people of color and those who are in lower socio-economic statuses because there can be bias in the medical community,” Voight said.

Differences in the types of injuries seen in Voight’s practice vary by age, as in younger populations sports-related injuries and acute injuries tend to be more common.

In older populations, even after the age of forty, more degenerative conditions are present such as arthritis, joint diseases and tendon injuries, Voight said.

With “hot girl walks” trending and the debate of what form of exercise is “better,” Voight said both running and walking have benefits for overall health.

“The saying that ‘running will ruin your joints and cause arthritis’ is simply not true,” Voight said. “Both forms of exercise are excellent for your joint health, and people who stay active are less likely to have arthritis.”

It is important to have good form and start slowly when it comes to running since it is very repetitive with more impact, Voight added.

In terms of weightlifting, good form and technique is also essential, according to Voight. Having a trainer or physical therapist to help through the process can ensure good form is being used throughout.

“I am happy to see anyone who wants to come in,” Voight said. “Access for the queer community is not great, and I want folks to know that I want to be a part of providing good care for the community.” 

Summit Orthopedics
Photo courtesy of BigStock/

A Knockout Fitness Experience Unleashing Your Power at 9Round

Deep in the heart of Golden Valley, just off Highway 55, lies a sanctuary that’s redefining what it means to be fit. 9Round isn’t just any old gym – it’s a thriving community where strength meets belonging, and every punch and combo packs a powerful message of inclusivity.

At the helm of this kickboxing haven is Amber, a force to be reckoned with and the proud owner turning up the heat. Her journey started six years ago as a dedicated manager, but her passion for fitness and creating a welcoming space birthed a vision too bold to ignore. In November of 2023, Amber took the leap, becoming 9Round’s newest franchisee and personal shero to the LGBTQ+ crowd.

You see, for Amber, owning 9Round represents much more than a successful business venture. As a lesbian herself, she understands the alienation the LGBTQ+ community often faces, even in spaces designed for health and wellness. But not on her watch – 9Round is a fiercely inclusive sanctuary where everyone is warmly welcomed, regardless of how they identify. From the moment you lace up your gloves, 9Round envelops you in an electrifying atmosphere that crackles with high energy and zero judgments. Whether you’re a seasoned fighter or a total newbie, the dedicated trainers have your back, guiding you through kickboxing circuits designed to incinerate calories and emotional baggage alike.

But don’t let the intense workouts fool you – beneath the thumping music and flying kicks, there’s a palpable sense of community that’s the real heart of 9Round. As you throw punches alongside a vibrant crowd

of all shapes, sizes, and identities, you can’t help but feel a profound connection. This diverse tribe sweats together, supporting each other’s unique journeys towards health with a radiant authenticity. That’s the magic of 9Round – it’s a place where embracing your truth is celebrated, not shamed. LGBTQ+ members can come as they are, free from the scrutiny that so often clouds gym experiences. From the motivational mantras echoing off the walls to the unabashed self-expression on the mats, 9Round is a brave space to shed insecurities and discover your most powerful self.

Of course, the fun doesn’t stop when the workout ends. 9Round hosts regular events and group sessions to keep that community bond glowing bright. From adrenaline-fueled PRIDE gatherings to heart-pumping dance parties, there’s always an excuse to unite and let your inner fire burn wild. As word of this one-of-a-kind inclusive oasis spreads, Amber has big plans to amplify 9Round’s impact. She’s dreaming up, “specialized classes tailored just for LGBTQ+ youth, providing a sanctuary of empowerment during those formative years.” And with the upcoming Golden Valley Pride festival, 9Round is gearing up to take its message of strength in authenticity to dazzling new heights.

So, whether your goals are to finally conquer those elusive abs, discover your fierce inner warrior, or simply surround yourself with a glowingly supportive LGBTQ+ community, 9Round is calling your name. This isn’t just a gym – it’s a knockout experience that will leave you craving more. Imagine trading treadmill miles for everlasting kickboxing combos that sculpt your body while kicking doubt out of reach. Picture making forever friends with that mighty crew who’ll always have your back, spotting your worth on and off the mats. But, most importantly, envision the empowered, authentic version of yourself emerging finally free from societies and personal constraints.

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Photos courtesy of Amber Peterson/9Round Fitness

9Round’s Vision Is To Create:

A Haven

For Amber, 9Round isn’t just a business venture; it’s a passion project fueled by her desire to provide a welcoming space for all. As a member of the LGBTA+ woman herself, she understands the importance of representation and acceptance. That’s why she’s committed to making 9Round a safe space where LGBTQ+ individuals can feel comfortable and supported on their fitness journey.

Inclusive Fitness for All

At 9Round, inclusivity isn’t just a buzzword—it’s ingrained in every aspect of the studio. From the diverse clientele to the high-energy workouts, everyone is encouraged to embrace their unique journey towards health and wellness. With a mix of HIIT-style kickboxing circuits and personalized training, 9Round caters to all fitness levels and goals.

Community and Connection

What sets 9Round apart isn’t just the killer workouts; it’s the sense of community and connection fostered within its walls. Through regular events, group workouts, and a supportive atmosphere, members feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or a newcomer to fitness, there’s a place for you HERE!

Join the Movement

Are you ready to join the movement towards a healthier, more inclusive community? Whether you’re looking to break a sweat, meet new friends, or simply feel empowered, 9Round welcomes you with open arms. Support LGBTQ+ businesses like 9Round and be part of something truly special. In just thirty minutes, you can transform your body and uplift your spirit at 9Round. Step into the ring, unleash your poten-

tial, and become part of a community that celebrates diversity, strength, and authenticity. Together, we can kick through barriers and build a brighter, more inclusive future—one round at a time.

It’s all waiting for you at 9Round in Golden Valley just off Highway 55. So, lace up and prepare to fight – not just for a fitter body, but for the courage to live off the gems of this gym. 

9Round Fitness

8026 Highway 55, Golden Valley (763) 545-8786


The Benefits Of Bicycles

The days of over-reliance on automobiles are over. While it is unlikely that the metal goliaths rolling down the highway so ingrained into American culture will ever truly go out of style, it is clear that a new road has been paved for a classic mode of transportation.

Enter the bicycle. A mode of transportation synonymous with physical exercise and zero emissions.

Spending on bikes and bike accessories rose 620% from 2020 to 2023, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics at the United States Department of Transportation. With so many new faces on bikes, who should you turn to for advice, accessories or repairs?

One option is Farmstead Bike Shop. An LGBTQ+-friendly space with locations in Minneapolis and Northfield, both locations offer a plethora of bikes for commuters and recreational bikers alike.

Greg Neis and Brianna Lane, the owners of Farmstead, opened the shop nine years ago in Minneapolis and expanded to Northfield three years ago. The Northfield shop also has the Raven’s Nest Cafe within their store.

Neis raced bikes growing up and managed multiple bike shops over the last 15 years before the opening of Farmstead.

“I enjoyed it so much that I decided to open our own shop,” Neis said. “So Bri and I opened Farmstead in Minneapolis.”

Neis said increased infrastructure in Minneapolis and Northfield has allowed for biking to become a more viable means of transportation and recreation.

“There’s an incredible mesh of new dedicated trail bike lanes, bike boulevards,” Neis said. “Truly European style. Separate and lightweight.”

According to National Geographic, bike corridors – like the Midtown Greenway – contribute to Minneapolis’ identity as one of the premier cities for bicycling in the U.S. The Greenway is just one link in the over 250 miles of bikeways stretching throughout the city, and offers easy access to several shops and locations of interest for anyone interested in a bicycle-based adventure.

While the shop has plenty to offer for experienced riders, there are also a lot of resources for the otherwise uninitiated, including group ride experiences.

Lane said they organize social rides where people can ride without the worry of being left behind. They said gravel rides, which have been increasing in popularity recently, are no-drop rides. This essentially means that there is no risk of being left behind by more experienced bikers. They also mentioned they educate people on riding at night and how to ride safely.

“Getting a ride with your friends is a good way to get better and more comfortable,” Lane said.

Lane said these social rides can have anywhere from five to 30 people participating. They said these social rides can increase safety and decrease the stigma around biking.

You’ve almost certainly heard the common criticisms of bicyclists. While every hobby has its awful outliers, the experiences that come with cycling far outweigh the callous connotations that can come when you first dawn the dual wheels on the open road.

Farmstead used to organize three or four overnight camping trips a year pre-COVID where they would travel somewhere on a bike, stay overnight and return home the next day, according to Lane. They said they hope to organize three of these trips next year.

Past these excursions, the popularity of e-bikes has been on the rise over the last few years. According to Bloomberg, e-bikes outpaced electric cars in sales in 2021, and, according to, e-bikes are expected to total over 77 million by 2030.

For those intimidated by the bicycle scene, e-bikes offer a much more efficient ride with far less stress on the rider. Anyone getting into riding should consider what they want from their bike and what bike will suit them best.

Another important area to master for beginner bicyclists is proper maintenance.

Neis said one of the best things a fledgling rider can do is ingratiate themselves at their local bike shops for tune-ups, repairs, modifications and general advice. Neis added that a few simple modifications can do a lot for those who may not be fully comfortable on their bike, especially if it is old.

Neis said the three main things to keep in mind for proper bike maintenance before every ride are to maintain proper air pressure in your tires, make sure your drive chain is properly lubricated and do regular safety checks to ensure operating essentials like your brakes are in working condition.

“Make sure everything is as you left it so you’re not surprised when you’re moving if something is out of place or maladjusted,” Neis said.

More than anything, anyone looking to get on a bike for the first or 5,000th time should remember that riding is for everyone.

“You don’t have to be anything to ride a bike,” Lane said.

Neis echoed this sentiment, saying “It’s an incredibly inclusive, egalitarian activity.”

Biking is an activity for everyone. Whatever your background, biking is an activity that you can enjoy.

“Just go try it,” Neis said. “Have fun, find your people, and get out and play and get some fresh air and exercise. If you feel like going fast, go fast, and if you feel like going slow, go slow. It’s all up to the rider.”

Whether it be for exercise, transportation or simply to pick up a new hobby, consider the bicycle. They say you never forget how to ride a bike; perhaps it is time to remember. Whatever you do, keep it fun, and don’t take it too seriously. 

Farmstead Bike Shop

422 Division St., Northfield

4001 Bryant Ave., Minneapolis

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Photos courtesy of Farmstead Bike Shop

A Bright Future Lies Ahead In The Next Generation Of LGBTQ+ Healthcare Providers

Healthcare and the LGBTQ+ community haven’t always had the best relationship, but two students at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Medical School hope to change that.

Matthew Watowich and Wren Krahl are first-year students at the University’s Medical School who seek to be the next generation of LGBTQ+ doctors working to provide safe and comforting healthcare to the community.

Watowich said he is a student within the Medical Scientist Training Program seeking his M.D. and Ph.D., while Krahl said they intend to pursue a Masters of Public Health between their 3rd and 4th year of medical school to better learn how to integrate social justice and community work into their clinical practice, specifically in the realm of LGBTQ+ and gender-affirming care.

Watowich got his undergraduate degree in Biology at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. It was there he felt the support of community because he said most of his friends were also a part of the LGBTQ+ community. After college, he worked with the National Institute of Health (NIH) researching brain cancer for two years.

“While I was at the NIH, it was where I decided I really am passionate about healthcare, what it means to be a doctor, and go into this profession,” Watowich said. “It ultimately led to me applying originally to the M.D. program.”

Watowich said taking time away from school helped him realize there is more to life than just an academic curriculum. He emphasized the importance of learning about queer history and applying that to practicing medicine.

“There is so much more to life than acting in the norm that is historically rooted in lots of problematic ideals,” Watowich said.

Krahl spent their undergraduate years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in neurobiology and Spanish. While there, they spent a lot of time doing volunteer and service-based work.

But it was their gap years where they spent time being a ski instructor and a patient care technician at a hospital in Vail, Colorado. They added their dad was a huge support during that time. Krahl then moved to Denver to work for the Human Rights Campaign. During that time, they said there was a lot of anti-trans and anti-queer legislation being passed.

“I wouldn’t say I knew myself very well in college,” Krahl said. “Taking those two years to really sit down with myself and finally meet myself was really nice; it was important to learn how to be a functional human before entering med school.”

After teaching English to children in Spain, Krahl decided to come back to the States to pursue their dream of attending medical school.

Throughout their first year of medical school, Watowich and Krahl have worked on trying to change the narrative behind their learning since the first year is mostly just book learning, they said. They both said learning queer history is important to understanding how to best help the LGBTQ+ community.

Medical school does not come without its challenges, though. As legislation and others continue to spread homophobia, Krahl said it can be hard to remain hopeful for the future.

“Trying to maintain the optimistic view that we have the power to change the system from within can be pretty discouraging,” Krahl said.

“You’re just one person, and it can be an isolating process.”

But Watowich said it’s important to have support systems in place to get through the years of being in medical school.

“Surrounding yourself with people who want to fight the same battles as you and have the same values and beliefs as you is really important in not exhausting yourself,” Watowich said.

Watowich said the LGBTQ+ faculty at the Medical School have also been a huge source of support throughout this past year for himself and Krahl.

“[The faculty] really have a passion for being there and they want to train us to be the best that we can be,” Watowich said.

Being out and proud in their identity is crucial to Watowich and Krahl as they navigate the ups and downs of medical school, and they both expressed the importance of choosing love first.

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Continued on page 114
Matthew Watowich. Photo courtesy of Matthew Watowich

As someone living with HIV and working in the field, it was important for me to get the COVID-19 vaccine to help keep myself and my community healthy! I advise the young people I work with to speak with their primary care physician about the vaccine and other ways to stay safe against COVID.”

Océane, YAP Director of Community Engagement

To learn more about COVID-19, or the COVID-19 vaccine including where to find one near you, reach out to us by scanning the code or by going to yap_minnesota

Dr. Madeline Stead Dr. Megan Mulligan

“Having a baseline practice of love first, like ‘Can I operate with love and gratitude first?’ is important to me and important to what I hope to have as a medical practice,” Watowich said. “You have to love yourself first before you can love others. I want to show people it is very okay and awesome to be out and proud about your identity.”

Krahl added they want to make patients feel as comfortable as possible by establishing a causal relationship with them. Just because they are a professional doctor does not mean there has to be a “weird power dynamic,” Krahl said.

Watowich and Krahl have at least three years left of medical school, if not more, before officially entering the field. In that time, they both look forward to learning more about the healthcare system and how they can contribute to making the overall curriculum more inclusive.

“They are all sorts of bases built into healthcare, and so helping to undo some of those through existence and increased representation among diverse communities and targeting some of the systemic factors that keep those things alive will ultimately help everyone get the care they need,” Watowich said.

This summer, Krahl is going to lots of music festivals while looking forward to starting clinicians in the fall. Watowich is spending his summer doing research while working with Save The Bottoms, an organization offering anal cancer screening and HPV vaccination at Twin Cities Pride on June 29 and June 30.

Leslie Feinberg once said “I wanted to thank you. If it wasn’t for you, I’d never have known I had a right to be me.” Watowich quoted this in our interview and said the LGBTQ+ faculty at the University and his friends, including Krahl, have helped him feel more confident in pursuing his dreams of becoming a doctor. Krahl echoed a similar sentiment. 

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How GoFundMe Helps Support The LGBTQ+ Community

When people think of crowdfunding, there’s usually one famous platform that pops into their heads: GoFundMe. GoFundMe has been a financial lifeline to people for all kinds of things: from medical bills to paying for home repairs after disasters to keeping small businesses’ doors open, GoFundMe can be a financial Deus Ex Machina. And this is especially true for the LGBTQ+ community. Ese Esan (she/her) and Brian Hill (he/him), Communication Managers at GoFundMe who focus on amplifying fundraisers supporting the LGBTQ+ community, know this fact first hand.

Esan and Hill say, “At GoFundMe, we provide a safe place for people in the LGBTQ+ community and their allies to ask for and give help. When there’s an unspeakable tragedy, people have a deep urge to help and provide comfort to those affected.” GoFundMe provides the perfect space for those seeking help to ask for it, and those wanting to help to be able to provide it. And by creating this space of digital community, GoFundMe is able to reach people who want to help all over the world, not just locally. Esan and Hill explain “It can be difficult for people to ask

for help, especially those in marginalized groups. GoFundMe serves as a reflection of society, and the needs of the LGBTQ+ community in the world can often be found on the platform.” It’s always reassuring to know that our community is out there and willing to help when needed.

A wonderful example of how the LGBTQ+ community and all of our allies came together on GoFundMe to support a queer business is what happened to 19 Bar, right here in Minneapolis. 19 Bar is one of the country’s oldest gay bars and is a community space beloved by the whole community. Tragedy struck the bar recently when a fire ripped through the building, causing significant damage to the structure. Thankfully, no one was hurt during the fire, but because of the severe damage, 19 Bar had to close down. Because of this, eight employees were left with no job or way to support themselves. That’s where GoFundMe came to the rescue. To support the employees who suddenly found themselves out of work, an organizer started a GoFundMe for 19 Bar, and the community support was overwhelming. The GoFundMe raised almost $25,000 to support the beloved employees, and to get the iconic gay bar back on its feet.

19 Bar isn’t the only example of GoFundMe providing a platform for the LGBTQ+ community and allies to help each other out, there are thousands of examples. Esan and Hill shared many stories, like this story from Washington DC, where “more than 3,000 donors raised nearly $175,000 to keep As You Are, one of the only queer-safe spaces in DC,

Photo courtesy of GoFundMe.

open.” Another story about community support through GoFundMe comes from Hartland, WI, where a pastor named James Langreder launched a GoFundMe, “to create a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth.” He shared in an update on the fundraiser, “We are beyond amazed and so humbled at the response and your willingness to help us out.” And GoFundMe can also be a powerful tool in raising money when the unthinkable happens.

In Tacoma, Washington, “Jacob Carter, the owner of Howdy Bagel, was killed while he and his husband were on vacation in New Orleans. A grieving community raised more than $300,000 to help keep Howdy Bagel open and support the gay restauranteur’s husband.” When tragedy strikes, it’s a beautiful thing to be able to lean on your community for support. And these stories are just some of thousands. Esan and Hill explain, “GoFundMe also highlights fundraisers for people seeking gender-affirming care, has an active LGBTQ+ employee resource group, and hosts speakers from the LGBTQ+ community who share their experiences about the GoFundMe platform, themselves, and their local communities.” GoFundMe even has a wonderful ‘Uplift LGBTQ+ Lives’ page, where supporters can go to find fundraisers that will directly and positively impact the lives of the queer community.

Donating and community support are also verifiably safe on GoFundMe, thanks to the company’s protective guarantees. Esan and Hill explain, “GoFundMe is the top platform of choice to start a fundraiser. We have a dedicated Trust & Safety team to ensure our fundraiser organizers and donors are protected, as well as the first and only donor protection guarantee in the crowdfunding industry. GoFundMe’s Giving Guarantee offers a full refund in the rare case when something isn’t right.” Because of this, organizers and donators alike can trust that their

money will make it to the right place.

Asking for help might seem like a daunting task, but with organizations and programs like GoFundMe, it’s a little bit easier. So whether you’re a young person seeking gender-affirming care, but you can’t afford it, or you’re a queer business owner, and something horrible happens, or even if you’re a queer entrepreneur looking to get started on your work somehow, you will be able to find a community of people who are ready to support you on GoFundMe. And the same goes for those looking to find the perfect queer cause to support, GoFundMe has plenty to choose from.

This Pride Month, show your love to the LGBTQ+ community by supporting one of the many causes on GoFundMe! You can find all of the LGBTQ+ fundraisers in one convenient spot by logging on to www. 

Photo by Hubert Bonnet

Lazy Toad Farm Shares Its Passion For Plants With The Community

Joe Rand started gardening when he was a child because it was something he did with his grandpa. When he was in sixth grade, he landscaped his parents’ backyard.

When he met his partner, Todd Fussy, and found out they both had a passion for gardening, the two knew they wanted to take their hobby to the next level and share their love for gardening with others.

Lazy Toad Farm was born in 2018 with more than just plants being offered. Ranging from hostas to canned pickles, there is something Rand and Fussy can offer for everyone at their farm.

Rand has a friend who ran the Becker, Minnesota farmer’s market, so he and Fussy decided to take a shot at selling their canned pickles at the market. This was just the beginning of what was to come for the two plant lovers.

One of the biggest events Rand and Fussy hosts each summer is their plant sale. With hundreds of plants for sale along with their pantry items, like jams and honey, Fussy said it’s cool to see people come out to learn more and talk about plants.

“You have a few who come who are really big gardeners like us, but the majority are just people looking for plants and expanding, wanting to learn more and we get to learn stuff, too,” Fussy said.

Each year, Rand and Fussy see regulars who make the trip up to the sale. Rand said it’s nice to catch up with these individuals they’ve formed a bond with and who the pair only get to see once a year.

“It really is about the people and the community that it has built more than the sale,” Rand said. “It’s nice, but it is a little reunion every year.”

Fussy said while helping others, he gets to learn more from them about plants and receives a newfound appreciation for his garden by some of the questions he gets asked.

The two have a vendor at the Becker farmer’s market every Saturday where they also get to see regular customers who rave about their products and make a longer trip just to purchase their products, Fussy said.

Rand and Fussy have full time jobs, so doing that on top of running the garden can have its challenges. Over the years, Rand said the two have gotten better about learning when to call it a night in the garden.

Fussy said he hopes to quit his job at some point so he can run the garden full time. It’s a business, but Rand said it’s truly a hobby for him and Fussy.

“It’s where we find the most joy,” Rand said. “It’s therapy to be out there working in the yard and to be with plants, but it’s also where both of us find joy the most.”

Another motivating factor in starting the garden was to show how the LGBTQ+ community exists within the gardening community, Rand said.

Lazy Toad Farm is in a rural area of Minnesota, and Rand said he wants to combat the misconception that there are no members of the LGBTQ+ community in the rural countryside. Rand added he and Fussy love where they live and have no plans of ever moving away from their rural community.

Photos courtesy of Joseph Rand

“There’s a misconception that gay people want to be where it’s all going on in the Cities, but we have a lot of gay friends out in the rural area,” Fussy said.

Rand said he has been connecting with lots of other LGBTQ+ farmers in the area because he wants the community to know there is a place for them in rural Minnesota.

“It’s not just us doing this out here,” Rand said. “We’re trying to make connections between the different farms and build a relationship to support one another; it’s important.”

The biggest misconception the LGBTQ+ farming community faces is that there aren’t any, Rand said. For a long time, members of the community who were interested in farming and gardening didn’t feel the most safe coming out, Rand added.

“There’s a misconception that farmers and ag people are going to be hateful to queer people, and that’s not anything I’ve encountered at all,” Rand said.

Rand said there has been a lack of space for the LGBTQ+ community in the farming community in the past but that space continues to grow over time as more members of the community feel safe to come out and show off their passions.

The only real challenge they face is weather, according to Rand. If it doesn’t rain enough, Rand and Fussy have to spend a majority of their watering their plants to keep them healthy and alive.

But it’s helping people that keeps Rand and Fussy coming back year after year. Neither of them went to school for gardening and do not have professional training, Rand said, as everything they do is through trial and error.

At the end of the day, though, it’s about how the two love to teach people about plants, Rand said.

“If we’re able to help other people feel successful, that’s great,” Rand said. “It’s the best feeling because when we’re helping people, it’s the most meaningful.”

There is a lot to look forward to at Lazy Toad Farm, Fussy said. Whether it’s building a treehouse AirBnb or having a hobby farm, the possibilities are endless for the pair.

Rand loves hostas while Fussy loves succulents. The two balance each other out, which is one of the main reasons they made such a good team when it comes to running their garden.

“We complement each other,” Fussy said. “We’re opposite of each other when it comes to a lot of things, but we go with the flow and balance each other.”

You can check out the Lazy Toad Farm on June 8 and 9 for their annual plant sale from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, you can visit their website at 

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The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Says Hope And Resources Are Available

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has a strong presence in Minnesota with its various education programs, resource tables at events such as Twin Cities Pride, programming like their Out of Darkness Walks, and many online resources.

Amanda Leininger (She/Her), area director for the Minnesota chapter, is the only staff member of the Minnesota chapter and can maintain their presence by working with many volunteers around the state to carry out their mission — to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide.

They are present at many events with a table full of resources like prevention education, support for loss survivors, speaking safely about suicide, having an open conversation, and how to reach out to those you care about.

“We are really proud to always be at Twin Cities Pride, it’s one of our favorite weekends of the year,” Leininger said. “We have volunteers that will staff us the entire time and are able to have conversations with anyone who comes through and we have little rainbow wallet-size pamphlets that have some warning signs and things like that.”

Alongside being present at Pride, they have various resources for the LGBTQ community. One of those includes their program Talk Saves Lives, which discusses the research regarding suicide prevention, warning signs, risk factors, protective factors, and how we as a community can help and includes a specific module for the LGBTQ community.

Leininger said the module discusses the known special risk factors that might put the LGBTQ population at a higher risk and different protective factors and ways to be connected with help.

Suicide is complex and most often occurs when stressors and health issues converge, creating an experience of hopelessness and despair, she said. There is no one single cause for suicide.

For LGBTQ people, prejudice, stigma, and discrimination can increase the likelihood of depression, stress, and other mental health concerns, she said.

Compared to straight people, gay, lesbian, and bisexual people are more likely to report having made a suicide attempt in the past year or over their lifetime according to Leininger. She said transgender people report a higher prevalence of suicide attempts in the past year or over their lifetime than LGB or straight people.

“Because of that, we know that there is a higher risk, so it is so important that we are able to help break that stigma, help provide opportunities for connection, share what resources are available, and how we as a community, no matter your identity, can be looking out for those that we love, looking out for those warning signs, and helping to connect people to help if they need it,” Leininger said.

She said when talking about suicide, know that it can be prevented and that there is hope.

“It is important to note that the majority of LGBTQ people, including youth who experience stressful external factors like discrimination, bullying, or family rejection, do not become suicidal,” Leininger said.

There are three steps people can take to help with prevention: look for the warning signs, reach out, and seek help.

You can detect warning signs through talk, behavior, and mood. Leininger said people might joke about it or mention that they feel like a burden, so it’s important to listen to what people are saying. Look for different moods and look out for how people are acting.

“The most important thing is to trust your gut,” she said. “You know the people in your life best, so anything that is out of character or kind of sets off an alarm bell, definitely reach out.”

The next step would be to reach out and have a caring conversation. Leininger said assume you’re the only person who’s going to reach out.

“Don’t be afraid to ask the question directly,” she said. “We know from research that asking does not raise the risk, it actually lowers the risk of suicide.”

If someone says yes, help connect them to help and resources. If they say no, let them know you are there for them and they will probably feel comforted by the fact that you are willing to have that caring conversation, Leininger said.

AFSP also offers resources for people who have lost a loved one. Their program Healing Conversations connects individuals who have lost someone, whether recently or many years out, with a volunteer who is also a suicide loss survivor, she said.

“We try to match up as best as we can to share the experiences and it’s a healing conversation where that loss survivor is able to ask questions, feel connected to someone who knows a little bit about what they’re going through, and help provide resources and answers and kind of help them in their healing and grief journey,” Leininger said.

They host events every fall for International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day that include healing crafts and guided conversations surrounding grief, how it changes over the years, and how to manage it going into the holidays. She said they held seven events last year across the state and a virtual one hosted in American Sign Language.

“I think it’s important, too, if you’ve lost someone to suicide to look for the warning signs in yourself,” Leininger said. “We know that those who have lost someone are at a higher risk for suicide, so surround yourself with those who care for you, have someone you can kind of check in with, and make sure that you’re taking care of yourself.”

Alongside those events, they host nine Out of the Darkness walks across the state from September through October.

“Our walks are unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. They are incredibly beautiful, incredibly meaningful,” Leininger said. “Together, we walk out of the darkness, our route goes around Como Park here in the Twin Cities, and it’s a way to remember those we’ve lost and honor those who struggle and who are still here and honor each other.”

AFSP provides many more resources on its website, including a specific page for LGBTQ people. She said Mother LGBTQ-specific resources include the Trevor Project, the SAGE LGBTQ Elder Hotline, and the Trans Lifeline.

If you are in crisis, please call, text, or chat with the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988, or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. 


Harmony Keepers Redefining Security with Compassion and Inclusion

In a world that often prioritizes force over understanding, a pioneering company is challenging the status quo and redefining what it means to ensure safety. In 2017, Kimmy Hull embarked on a mission that would challenge the norms of safety provision. Out of a deep-seated concern for community well-being and a fervent commitment to inclusivity, Hull founded Sequeerity, a company with a difference. Rejecting the conventional model of enforcement in favor of a more empathetic approach, Sequeerity set out to revolutionize the safety landscape, one event at a time.

“We’re not just here to enforce rules; we’re here to create connections,” affirms Kimmy Hull, founder of Sequeerity. Their ethos revolves around proactive engagement and genuine human connection, transcending the traditional confines of safety measures. “Our purpose is to ensure everyone enjoys the event safely and happily,” Hull emphasizes, highlighting the company’s profound dedication to inclusivity and well-being.

At the core of Sequeerity’s philosophy lies a fundamental belief in the power of communication and mutual understanding. Rather than relying on intimidation or brute force, their approach hinges on de-escalation tactics and conflict resolution strategies rooted in empathy. By actively listening to all parties involved and fostering an environment of open dialogue, Sequeerity’s team of trained professionals has consistently defused potentially volatile situations with remarkable finesse.

Through their unique approach, Sequeerity has demonstrated time and again that compassion is the most potent tool in conflict resolution. “Every single time we’ve had to deal with protestors, not one person has had to face escalation,” Hull proudly declares. It’s a testament to the transformative power of empathy, proving that understanding and dialogue can triumph over hostility and aggression.

Sequeerity’s impact extends far beyond the realm of event security. With a steadfast commitment to education and empowerment, the company offers a comprehensive suite of training programs tailored to the needs of diverse communities. “Education is the cornerstone of empowerment,” Hull asserts, underscoring Sequeerity’s commitment to equipping commu-

nities with the tools to navigate conflict constructively. From Situational Awareness and De-Escalation trainings to firearms instruction, their programs foster resilience and self-confidence, empowering individuals to assert their safety with dignity and poise. Sequeerity’s unwavering dedication to inclusivity is woven into the fabric of their operations. They actively collaborate with local organizations and businesses, forging alliances that transcend traditional boundaries. “We’re not just service providers; we’re community builders,” Hull explains. By partnering with advocacy groups, cultural initiatives, and marginalized communities, they’re catalysts for positive change, fostering environments where diversity thrives and everyone feels valued and respected.

However, Sequeerity’s journey has not been without its challenges. Navigating a regulatory landscape that often favors conventional enforcement methods has required unwavering determination and a steadfast belief in their mission. “We’re in a holding pattern, but our mission remains unwavering,” Hull declares, undeterred by the obstacles that lie ahead. With a resolute spirit, she advocates for a paradigm shift that recognizes the indispensable role of pro-deescalation tactics in modern safety frameworks, paving the way for a safer, more inclusive world.

At the heart of Sequeerity’s approach lies a profound acknowledgment of the inherent dignity and worth of every human being. By embracing diversity and fostering understanding, they’re not just redefining safety; they’re reshaping society’s very fabric, weaving a tapestry of empathy, acceptance, and unity. In their hands, safety isn’t just a privilege; it’s a fundamental human right—a beacon of hope that shines bright in even the darkest of times. In a world marred by division and distrust, Kimmy Hull and Sequeerity offer a glimmer of hope—a testament to the transformative power of compassion and understanding. Through their tireless efforts, they’re not just redefining safety; they’re reshaping society’s very fabric, weaving a tapestry of empathy, acceptance, and unity. In their hands, safety isn’t just a privilege; it’s a fundamental human right—a beacon of hope that shines bright in even the darkest of times.

Sequeerity’s impact extends beyond the realms of event security and conflict resolution. By actively engaging with local communities and fostering collaborative partnerships, they’re laying the foundation for a more inclusive and equitable society. Their commitment to education and empowerment has empowered countless individuals to navigate challenging situations with confidence and poise, fostering a sense of agency and selfdetermination.

The approach highlights an interconnectedness of safety and social justice. By prioritizing empathy and understanding, they’re challenging deeply entrenched biases and stereotypes that often contribute to escalating tensions and exacerbating conflicts. Their work serves as a powerful reminder that true safety cannot be achieved through force alone; it requires a holistic commitment to addressing the root causes of fear, mistrust, and marginalization.

As Sequeerity continues to blaze new trails in the safety and security landscape, their impact ripples far beyond the events they oversee. They’re inspiring a paradigm shift in how we conceptualize and approach conflict resolution, encouraging a broader societal embrace of compassion, dialogue, and mutual understanding. In doing so, they’re not only redefining safety but also contributing to the creation of a more just, equitable, and inclusive world for all.

By demonstrating the efficacy of de-escalation tactics and compassionate communication, they’re challenging long-held assumptions about the necessity of force and coercion. Their success stories serve as a compelling case study, illustrating that even in the most volatile situations, empathy and understanding can prevail over aggression and hostility.

On a broader societal level, Sequeerity’s philosophy holds the potential to catalyze a much-needed shift in how we perceive and navigate interpersonal conflicts. By championing the values of active listening, perspectivetaking, and mutual respect, they’re challenging the toxic cycles of polarization and tribalism that have come to characterize so many facets of modern discourse. Their work serves as a powerful reminder that even in the face of seemingly intractable divides, common ground can be found through open and authentic communication. 

LAVENDER MAY 30-JUNE 12, 2024 126
Photo courtesy of Sequeerity

Celebrate Living with Alive and Kickin

Growing older is something that can feel confusing and scary. One might not know how to approach each new stage in life as they learn and grow from the years before. But, with organizations such as Alive and Kickin, growing older can feel exciting, purposeful, and empowering.

Alive and Kickin is a nonprofit organization that encourages seniors to share their stories and to continue to dive into both new and old passions.

Jeffery Nelson, the director of arts and showcasing and conductor of Alive and Kickin, has been with the organization since its start in 2010 by his partner Michael Ferrell. He recalls Ferrell’s drive to move his established career as a choreographer into a more inspirational direction.

“Mainly, his thing was that he was always very connected with seniors and learning stories about their lives which really inspired him to want to start an organization to give a voice to seniors and to look deeply at what do you do in those years when, you know, maybe after you retire, you know, in the past it’s been said that you should really slow down and think about settling in more, and he wanted to give a purpose for later in life to say, ‘Hey no, I’m still gonna go out and rock the world, and do what I want to do and dream big’. Nelson said.

And since these beginnings, Alive and Kickin has prided itself in helping to deconstruct previous narratives surrounding what it means to grow older. Teri Deaver, managing director of Alive and Kickin, started this past January after being personally being inspired by the organization, attesting to the way the mission has only grown year by year.

“I came to it because I’d heard about it, I had friends that were involved with it, and happened to know Michael, but that wasn’t the reason I

joined,”. . . “The mission and the work of Alive and Kickin truly challenges the stereotypes around aging and offers health benefits to the participates, the cast members who are in there rehearsing constantly and learning music and such, and then also the inspiration that those receive about what purposeful life might be as they age,” Deaver said.

Every year, Alive and Kickin hosts auditions where anyone can come and try out for a role, whether they come from a background in singing, the arts, or they are just looking for people to share their walk of life with. Nelson emphasizes that no matter what, Alive and Kickin is sure to be a fun and safe place for people to take a part in.

“Many of the auditioners have made it into the group, but some that haven’t have gone on to be amazing volunteers for us and found that that was actually the thing that they were actually seeking. We welcome everyone to come out,” Nelson said.

After auditions, the group performs at different venues, housing facilities, and communities. Each concert inspires the cast, the volunteers, and the many different generations of audience members that are lucky enough to attend. In addition to the events that take place throughout the year, the group works toward their big show. The big show is fully, and wonderfully produced. Powerful storytelling is created through the combination of music, visual effects, and personal statements.

This year’s big show runs from June 6-9 at the Schneider Theater inside the Bloomington Center for the Arts. These shows promise to deliver stories and music from the 1970s. Without revealing too much, Nelson brings to life the event in store. With the theme being the 1970s, not only are there selected musical pieces from the 1970s, but also, personal stories of what it was life to either live through the 1970s, live through one’s 1970s, or both.

“This year they all wrote a story either about living through the 1970s decade and what that was like, or living through their age, the 1970s, and some kind of wrote about both. But it’s a really cool moment where we mix all that into the show where you’ll hear a song and then you’ll get to hear a couple stories from our cast,” Nelson said.

Alive and Kickin is a nonprofit organization that works to enrich the communities that enrich them. Deaver enthusiastically tells of the organization’s ever present desire to expand and diversify their organization with different communities such as the LGBTQ community. The group and all of its members take care to build and maintain a safe and welcoming environment for anyone and everyone.

For people interested in the big show they can attend on these days:

• Thursday June 6 | 4:00 PM | Bloomington Center For the Arts | Bloomington, MN

• Friday, June 7 | 6:00 PM |Bloomington Center For the Arts | Bloomington, MN

• Saturday, June 8 | 7:30 PM |Bloomington Center For the Arts | Bloomington, MN

• Sunday, June 9 | 2:00 PM | Bloomington Center For the Arts | Bloomington, MN

The organization is always looking for new faces to join, and welcomes people to visit their website, for information about upcoming events, more information about the organization, or different ways one can support.

With the many different ways that Alive and Kickin inspires generations of people, there comes many different reasons to want to go to a performance. But, at the heart of it all, Alive and Kickin hopes to remind everyone that there is never an age limit to creating wonderful memories and art for themselves and others.

Alive & Kickin: The 1970’s Can You Dig It?

June 6-9

Schneider Theater, Bloomington Center For The Arts, 1800 W. Old Shakopee Rd., Bloomington, MN 

Alive & Kickin

Photo courtesy of Alive & Kickin/Jeffrey C. Nelson

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Queer BIPOC Resources in Minnesota and the Midwest

Ask Elise is an advice column meant for suggestions regarding LGBTQ+ community member dilemmas of any kind. If I am not qualified to answer your question (regarding issues for transgender individuals, people of color, etcetera), I will ask someone who is qualified and cite them. Your question is equally important and may help another community member. If you have a question, please submit it to elise.m.maren@ listing your pronouns and pseudonym if desired. If you need someone to talk to for more urgent or serious matters, please consider using the following hotlines:

The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender National Hotline: (888) 843-4564

Trans Lifeline: (877) 565-8860: Trans Lifeline is a trans-led organization that connects trans people to the community, support, and resources they need to survive and thrive.

Dear Elise,

Lots of queer events and spaces are dominated by white, queer men whom I can’t really relate to the queer experiences of as an Indigenous trans woman. Could you run a column on queer BIPOC resources in Minnesota and the Midwest to help people like me find relatable queer experiences and spaces that aren’t centered around white feminism and queerness?

Sincerely, Fern

Dear Fern,

Excellent question! I would say my overall tip based on conversations with community members and experiences in Indigenous spaces as a white Sámi woman is that finding smaller affinity groups or queer individuals is not terribly hard when you attend BIPOC events. Personally, I find new queer Indigenous friends quite easily by being part of communities like Art Shelf by Willard MaleBear in Minneapolis and Indigenous Roots in Saint Paul. I found a bunch of new artist friends at the Earth Day art market at Indigenous Roots. I wear my beaded bee earrings every day to represent my grandpa (by @nopalli.beads) and I proudly display my MILF Man I Love Frybread pin on my backpack (by @awohalidesigns). You can find features of more local artists on my Instagram for Siida Sundays (@decomprose, siida is a Sámi word for community).

My friend who wishes to go by AGT here (he/him) is a Mexican trans guy and had some great reflections on vetting resources. For Latine resources specifically, he approaches spaces with caution when he sees the phrase “la raza” anywhere in the organization. Literally, the phrase means “the race.” It has controversial roots, but some folks have

chosen to reclaim it as a term with a sense of community that transcends race or ethnicity. That’s not for everyone, so I don’t blame him for his hesitancy. For readers that are unfamiliar with the term Latine instead of Latinx or Latino, it is a gender-inclusive term that is compatible with an evolution in Spanish grammar. I am an advanced Spanish speaker, email me if you have any questions.

AGT then asks questions like, “How do they collaborate with local recent immigrant communities or communities of different races? What are their language capabilities outside of Spanish since not all Latine people speak Spanish? Who does their funding come from? How do they sustain themselves and why? What are their long term goals?” AGT recently expressed discontent with the food shelf of a local Latine organization because they didn’t have basics like masa harina, tomatillos, or seasonings. Nothing can substitute for masa harina while cooking, so it surprised him that they did not offer this common ingredient. This begs the questions of who they collaborate with and where does their funding come from.

As far as specific resources that I am aware of, RECLAIM has a queer BIPOC support group. The diverse staff at the Aliveness Project are a good resource for finding smaller affinity groups. The Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center hosts a Two Spirit/Native LGBTQ+ program to create space for celebration of cultural teachings that hold Two Spirits in high regard. The goal of having this space is to challenge mainstream biases that perpetuate health disparities for Two Spirit people in particular.

TIGERRS is a group of dedicated and accomplished activities with 50+ years of combined organizing experience devoted to delivering quality, robust, and consistent direct services in Minnesota through intergenerational community and teamwork. They have two youth programs

Photo courtesy of BigStock/fizkes

called Little TIGERRS and Teen TIGERRS. Currently, they are developing intersex care training for healthcare professionals. TIGERRS plans accessible, inclusive, and intergenerational community events like dance parties and empowerment/ self-defense workshops. TIGERRS has an impressive document listing trans-friendly resources all over Minnesota that includes restaurants, clothing stores, swaps, BIPOC resources/events, hang out spaces, activism opportunities, clubs and bars, youth or family organizations, religious organizations, hair and nails, pride, legal aid, disability, insurance, homelessness, low-income, non-transitional body modification or tattoo, gyms, sports teams, home improvement, mechanics, schools, mental health, addiction, primary care, disability, and dental. TIGERRS is fiscally sponsored by Family Tree Clinic, which provides comprehensive sexual health care and education.

I hope these tips and resources help you and readers! You are not alone in this question.

Sincerely, Elise

Help Us Find Life-Changing Wishes

Howard’s passion comes to life on Broadway

Running Wild And Running Safe

If you’re a dog parent like I am, there’s not much of anything more thrilling than seeing your dog running wild and free, unbound by a leash, racing along with their heads held high and tongues lolling out in the wind with the joy of freedom.

Dogs are social animals, pack animals. They often relish the freedom of being able to sniff, chase, wrestle and run with their own kind without having ‘Mom’ or ‘Dad’ getting tangled up in leashes attached to them like big, two-legged anchors. They like to play fetch as a group or exercise with each other by galloping full speed ahead—the taller, leggier ones like Standard Poodles, German Shepherds and Borzois leading the pack while the bouncy Corgis, Frenchies and Dachshunds bring up the rear on their short legs but still having fun in the chase. Shared play amongst their peers is also good for a dog’s mental health, as well as for their physical health by getting them out in the sunshine and fresh air.

However, before you take your best boy or girl out to one of the many off-leash areas in the Twin Cities metro and beyond, there are many things that need to be considered. First, and foremost, ask yourself if your dog wants to be there or, in some cases, can be there safely. Some dogs, like some people, are natural introverts and prefer staying in their own spaces, secure in their familiar surroundings. They may act like maniacs in their own yard or house, but close in on themselves in the presence of other dogs or in strange situations. Getting them used to the idea of being at the dog park can take a while for these dogs, and some may never enjoy it or feel comfortable with it. But that’s okay—that’s what nature trails for, and you can enjoy one-on-one time with them on long, secluded hikes!

Other dogs can be overly aggressive, and can be a danger to themselves and to others at the dog park. Starting fights with other pets will win you no brownie points at the off-leash area, and can result in you and your dog being banned or perhaps looking at legal ramifications if your dog seriously injures another dog or a person. Know your dog’s personality, and be truthful to yourself when evaluating him or her. What may seem ‘cute’ or ‘mischievous’ to you can be a serious red flag to another dog when yours won’t back off, and result in the other dog seeing yours as instigating an attack. Nobody wants a fun day’s outing to result in hefty veterinary bills or legal fees.

Most dog parks and off-leash areas have general rules that they expect participants and guests to follow. For example, the Three Rivers Park District, which boasts a number of off-leash dog parks, has the following policies:

• Dogs must be under their handler’s control

• A maximum of two dogs per handler

• ALWAYS clean up after your dog; carry your own waste bags, or use waste bags provided by the park, and dispose of the waste in proper bins

• Dogs must have proof of rabies vaccine

• Aggressive behavior is not allowed or accepted

• Do not bring dogs which are exhibiting symptoms or signs of a contagious illness

• Children under the age of 15 must be supervised by an adult

• Dogs should remain leashed until entering off-leash area

• All off-leash visitors must carry a park pass; either an annual pass or a day pass

In addition to following park rules, make sure to follow general etiquette rules as well. Don’t let

your dog harass or bully other dogs, and if the other dog’s owner requests that you call your dog away, please comply with their request. They know their dog, and it’s better to manage the situation before things get out of hand. Similarly, if you notice someone else’s dog exhibiting behavior that you don’t feel comfortable with, speak up! Ask the owner to call their dog off while you call yours, and walk away from that area. Most times, the dogs will lose interest in one another, and run off to play elsewhere and with companions that are less intimidating.

Also, while it’s fine to have small training treats on hand for your own dog, don’t take large treats or edible toys that can result in squabbles and fights if other dogs decide that they want a snack as well. Some dogs are on restrictive diets, but the main thing is to not start a fight over food or high-value treats. Dogs, like children, see others getting to have goodies and they want to have some as well, and food can often lead to unexpected altercations.

When entering or leaving the off-leash area, you should always have your dog on a leash, and be vigilant about opening and closing gates so that you don’t inadvertently let other dogs escape. Be sure to not congregate at the entrance, as that can cause anxiety and fearfulness or aggression in dogs that are being led through the throng by their owners.

Another thing to keep in mind, if your dog is an unspayed female, do not take her to the dog park if she is in heat. Doing so can cause dog fights, even among neutered males, and result in your dog being injured or possibly becoming pregnant with an unwanted litter.

When choosing a dog park, make sure that you read the description of the park or area that you’re wanting to visit. Many are fully enclosed, with fences that are high enough that most dogs will not be able to jump over or climb them. However, some off-leash areas such as Three Rivers Park District’s Crow-Hassan park are largely, if not completely, unfenced so you will want to make sure that your dog has excellent and unerring recall to keep him or her from running off and getting lost within its 40 acres, and adjoining nature areas.

Many off-leash parks also offer fenced areas within the larger off-leash park itself for smaller dogs, shy dogs, puppies or elderly dogs to be able to enjoy time without being run over by younger, larger and more exuberant dogs.

If you follow the rules, and take your dogs out to the off-leash areas, it can be a wonderful way of spending time and bonding with your dog, and making new friends. Here are links to some of the dog parks and off-leash areas available. 

Three Rivers Park District: activity/dog-leash

Minneapolis Parks & Recreation Board: Ramsey County:

Anoka County: Greater Minnesota:

Photo courtesy of BigStock/Parusnikov
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“Most Delicious Poison” An Interview With Author Noah Whiteman

In his book Most Delicious Poison: The Story of Nature’s Toxins–from Spices to Vices, Professor Noah Whiteman asserts we’re late to the dance, but fully immersed. Questioned by Lavender, he recently discussed our timing at greater length.

LAVENDER: Eons before animals and green plants, fungi and yeasts–sentient, if not “intelligent”–used elements for sustenance, procreation, and defense, drawing from the same toolbox latecomer Homo saps dubbed “Periodic Table,” while rifling its 94 natural elements for personal use–and misuse. Straightforward? Simple? You offer a more radical take on “simplicity.”

NOAH WHITEMAN: The story of “the greatest show on Earth” is the origin of life and its diversification that led to us and all the beautiful creatures with whom we share the planet.

From the age of the rock where the first bona fide microbial fossil bacteria were found (in what is now Australia), Earthly life began 3.5 billion years ago. Some 575 million years ago, the first ocean animals evolved, leaving pancake-like fossils. From these early animals descended several invertebrate branches, creeping, crawling onto land 400 million years ago–70 million years after the first land plants evolved from algae.

Our ancestors and those of insects were borne from water to land where two lineages colonized independently. The first land vertebrates (our ancestors) were predators, while land invertebrates likely fed on detritus, algae, early plants, and associated fungi. Insects evolved from crustaceans and took advantage of the land plants’ rapid diversification plants to use them for food and habitat.

Today, roughly 50% of all insect species are herbivorous, pressuring plants to continually evolve new defenses against them. Plant modular body-plans allow some regrowth; they can afford to be eaten–to a degree–but they’re “sitting ducks” that cannot flee. Plants that created chemical defenses that activated upon insect attack were favored, developing an arms race with insects. Other animals eat plants as well–small mites to large elephants, and they, also, are at war with plants.

LAVENDER: What constitutes “Poison,” and what “Delicious”?

WHITEMAN: Paracelsus’s maxim stated: “It is the dose that makes the poison.” Anything can be poisonous, although the verb “to poison” implies an agent, acting with intent. Arsenic can be used as a poison, but it didn’t appear on the planet because it happens to be toxic, while caffeine can be thought of as a poison because it’s used in six different plant lineages as a chemical defense.”

LAVENDER: You’re an evolutionary botanist, not, you stress, an anthropologist, chemist, ethnobotanist, or social scientist. What does your niche bring to the mix?

WHITEMAN: I have training in genetics, evolutionary biology, insect biology, plant biology, ornithology, ecology, and botany, so one can see why I would study the evolution of plant-animal relationships where the plants make chemicals for protection while the animals create countermeasures to eat the plants safely. Some animals, like the monarch butterfly, use toxins in their own defense.

I went to a small liberal arts college in Minnesota run by compassionate, deeply intellectual Benedictine monks and nuns; there I learned the importance of art and the humanities to the ability to more fully understand the human condition. The humanistic arc of the book reflects my training.

LAVENDER: What birthed the poisons/toxins? When? How obvious is it that none originally evolved to benefit Homo saps?

WHITEMAN: Random mutations in the genomes of these organisms allowed for the evolution of new chemicals formed by the enzymes tweaked by the mutations.

Sometimes, a copy of a gene encoding an enzyme is made twice, allowing one of the genes to explore a new role, and, as mutations hit, can even create a new chemical substrate.

If this mutated version provides an advantage, say by making caffeine from a methylxanthine precursor, it’s selected.

The agent then doing the natural selection is an herbivore because plants that now make caffeine will be resistant to insect attack. We know this because if you artificially insert that pathway into a plant that doesn’t normally make it, that plant will be protected.

But nature finds a way; eventually some insects overcome the chemical defense, like the coffee berry borer beetle!

The age of humans goes back 150,000 to 200,000 years, while the plant chemicals we rely on first evolved tens to hundreds of millions of years ago; we know this from DNA sequences and the molecular clock (that rate at which mutations occur and accumulate in populations over time.) That isn’t to say we don’t manipulate these chemicals now–we do–but they first evolved without any humans around, even before Great Apes.

LAVENDER: Would you briefly illustrate one of the complex chemical give-and-takes you describe between human diseases?

WHITEMAN: Human culture is co-evolving with our genes and with the infectious disease agents that attack us. The plants we eat can sometimes synergize our own defenses against these enemies; one of the best examples is favism, the most common inherited enzyme deficiency in humans (G6PD deficiency) that causes red blood cells to be sensitive to some dietary toxins.

Fava beans contain a set of toxins called vicine alkaloids that cannot be tolerated by folks with G6PD deficiency–if consumed, their red blood cells die.

But guess what has to invade red blood cells to reproduce? Malarial parasites. Interestingly, where favism is most common is also where people eat a lot of fava and broad beans.

The hypothesis is that the bean-gene combo synergizes resistance to malaria. People with favism are more resistant to malaria, even if the favism is also harmful. A similar connection exists between sickle cell trait, cassava consumption, and malaria.

LAVENDER: Most Delicious Poison was inspired by your father’s personal struggles with AUD (alcohol use disorder.) Would you share something about him and his

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story’s thread throughout the book–and Monarch caterpillars?

WHITEMAN: He was a naturalist and used both nature and alcohol to cope with his demons. I was exposed to two sides; the generous, patient naturalist who showed me the wonders of the natural world, and the dumbed-down drunken man who slurred his words at night. The Jekyll-and-Hyde dipoles were confusing then, but I understand them now. He was using nature’s toxins to ward off his own enemies just as many of the animals I study–like the monarch butterfly–do as well.

LAVENDER: What most pressing questions concerning toxins are yet to be answered? Are any mind-alteringchemical experiments promising relief for AUD and similar disorders?

WHITEMAN: The big question is whether and to what extent psychedelic molecules can serve as therapeutics for folks suffering from use disorders and other mental health challenges. There is tremendous promise, but much is unknown and there’s a lot of hype.

I’m convinced these drugs are potentially transformative when combined with behavioral, cognitive and other therapies.

My colleague at Cal, Professor Gül Dolen has shown that these drugs open up something in our brains called “the critical period” that may hold the secret to the drugs seemingly curative powers.

At the same time, we must have doubleblind, placebo-controlled clinical trials if we are going to really understand whether and to what extent these drugs do work to break use-disorder, depression, PTSD and other mental health disorders.

AI is also providing a new capacity to design drugs not created by nature or to tweak drugs that did evolve first in nature to make them more effective at treating new diseases. A recent paper used AI to design new antibiotics that may well become a new class of these important drugs.

LAVENDER: And Julie Johnson’s engaging and informative illustrations?

WHITEMAN: Julie Johnson was a true creative partner in the book. A picture is worth a thousand words and Julie hit the mark, illustrating interactions between species, the beautiful structures of chemicals, often adding historical context. 

Whiteman is Professor of Integrative Biology and of Molecular and Cell Biology at University of California, Berkeley. He lives in Oakland with husband Collin Pine, author of children’s book The Garden Next Door (see”Books” on page 140). 

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The Walser Way Leaders for LGBTQ+ Inclusion in Automotive Retail

In 2019, Walser Automotive Group created an employee resource group for their LGBTQ+ employees. Since then, Drive With Pride became part of a deeper initiative to fulfill the Walser Way by encouraging its employees to bring “your whole self to work.”

Drive With Pride was established after the dealership group started the Women of Walser ERG. Today, there have been other ERGs added to this initiative for their Asian/Hmong and Veteran employees.

Five years on, we wanted to see how this groundbreaking ERG in the automotive retail business has progressed and evolved through that time. We also wanted to know whether Drive With Pride has made an impact on both employees and customers since its inception.

According to Dayna Kleve, the Director of Diversity Engagement & Inclusion at Walser Automotive Group, “It’s amazing to see Drive With Pride nearing its fifth anniversary as an ERG at Walser. With 224 active members, we’ve achieved significant milestones over the past five years, both big and small.”

Kleve cited major accomplishments, such as “standardizing the use of optional pronouns in email signatures and making it easier to change one’s preferred name in Walser’s Human Resources system, have changed our organizational fabric. Drive With Pride is prominently featured on Walser’s website and job postings. Members actively participate in local career fairs, and the ERG is highlighted in our weekly new-hire orientation programs.”

Drive With Pride’s presence and awareness already marked significant strides within Walser. Not because of its team members, but also its allies. In fact, Kleve cites that there are occasions when “a new teammate tells us Drive With Pride was one of the reasons they joined Walser.”

You can see the ERG’s impact not only at Walser’s corporate offices in Bloomington, but at its 27 showrooms and three collision and glass centers across the Midwest. “It’s not uncommon to see Drive With Pride stickers on employee laptops, cube walls, and toolboxes,” explained Kleve. “As someone who’s been with Walser since 2017, I am inspired by the transformation of Walser’s culture since the inception of our ERGs, especially Drive With Pride.”

Walser’s corporate culture is driven by a set of principles, called The Walser Way. According to Kleve, it centers around “four core values” doing the right thing, leading by example, staying positive, and being open-minded. Our ERGs embody this philosophy, ensuring what’s right for the business is right for our employees and vice versa. It means creating a workplace where they feel valued.”

“Our goal is to create an environment where employees can thrive personally and professionally,” Kleve further explained. “Our ERGs play a crucial role in supporting our employees’ development, which is fundamental to our business’s success. Participating in ERG leadership isn’t just an extracurricular activity; it’s an indication of leadership and professional drive. ERG leadership roles are given due consideration during annual succession planning, highlighting their importance within the organization.”

Even with the continued success of Drive With Pride, there were some challenges over the past five years. Notably, when the COVID-19 Pandemic changed the way the automo-

Photo courtesy of Walser Automotive Group
Continued on page 167
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Celebrating 50 Years


Late Bloomer Baby Boomer: A Collection of Humorous Essays About Being Gay Back in the Day and Finally Finding My Way

Steven Millikan


Millikan, having retired after sixteen years teaching–and thirty sober–here shares some things he has learned along the way. Gay, yet hopelessly naive, he became a stand-up comedian seeking the glamor of gay life, while from childhood acting the role of class clown. “My unique sense of humor began as it does for many,” he writes, “as an emotional void in childhood.” This collection of essays details difficulties inherent in a legacy leaving a shy gay youngster who’s been indoctrinated against being gay. Millikan decries the rift between older gays and younger generations–ageism takes its toll. Amidst the humor and wisecracking Milliken also reveals the sadness, loss, what-ifs of missed opportunities; sometimes from the unkindness of others, very often from one’s own self.

The Garden Next Door

Collin Pine Ill. by Tiffany Everett River Horse Children’s Books


Combining three of children’s favorite subjects–mystery, solution and nature-Collin Pine weaves these threads into an introduction for young naturalists. Why does their neighbor’s next door garden have a profusion of plants, insects, and wiggly creatures while their own yard is barren of these delights? Tiffany Everett’s renderings of the neighbor’s profusion is a firm yet gentle introduction to the youngsters of how they, too, can turn arid into oasis and create amongst new plantings a habitat for butterflies and beetles, snakes and salamanders, frogs and toads that they can watch by day, and twinkling fireflies at night that never enter their own dark yard. Pine has a degree in environmental science and lives in Oakland with husband, Noah Whitehead (see interview on page 134).

From Sweetgrass Bridge

Anthony Bidulka

Stonehouse Publishing


One summer night, young Billie Jo and her new beau Robby McAllister, set a blanket out by the Sweetgrass Bridge anticipating canoodling and maybe more…when Robby, spooked by “noises”, packed and fled. About this time, beloved indigenous Saskatchewan Roughrider quarterback Dustin Thompson, disappeared, later discovered drowned beneath Sweetgrass Bridge. Struggling PI Mary Bell is hired by a family member to find out what happened. Suicide? Murder? Mysteries deepen, especially those in our prickly P.I.’s personal life, and her ongoing transition to Mary Bell. With a tip ‘o the hat to Bobbie Gentry, Bidulka recasts those sinister doings on her Tallahatchie span into modern day murkiness in Livingsky. Bidulka deftly melds murder, humor, and the past’s festering wounds. It’s never past, you know. Bring on #3!

Barney Miller and the Files of the Ol’ One-Two

Otto W. Bruno (forewords by Hal Linden & Max Gail) BearManor Media

$55 hard/$45 soft/ $7 ebook

Many enjoy social media “Fans of” groups, “The Marx Brothers,” “PG Wodehouse, and sitcom “Barney Miller,” which premiered nearly a halfcentury ago. Hal Linden (Capt.B. Miller) says of their audience, “You plugged into the ‘Funny.’ As actors we plugged into the ‘real’ and let the ‘funny’ happen.” At 500-plus pages, dozens of illustrations, and extensive episode guide, the book is a treasure trove for fans old and new. Denizens passing through included Kenneth Tigar (Harvard ’64) as Jesus, but the humor came not from mocking an individual’s delusions but from the reactions of the detectives with the flotsam washed up upon their shores and the interactions among their own unique personalities. The show’s integrity holds. Have go-to show, star, film? Search BearManor’s vast library.


Édouard Louis tr. John Lambert Farrar, Straus & Giroux


Louis’s fifth autobiographical “novel” that debuted with “The End of Eddy,” continues with the young man’s life after he has escaped his sub-poverty level family in their bleak, industrial village in northern France. Determined to change everything from his name to his inward and outward appearance, he wins a scholarship to the Lyceé in Amiens, then on to Paris and beyond. But since everything is new, each brick of the new façade has yet to become the new man. Even writing, when he follows mentor Didier Eribon in Paris, fails, until he regroups and begins to grow up, and become himself, supplying the mortar to hold those bricks. One is irritated, yet empathizes; near the end, Louis reflects that “I hated my childhood and I miss my childhood. Is that normal?”

TattooYou: A New Generation of Artists

Phaidon Editors with an Introduction by Alice Snape Phaidon


An astonishing, large-format volume featuring 75 current artists from around the world and 700 images of their work extensive biographical material on each. The cover, imitating old-fashioned marbled paper, but is, like two stunning inner plates, microscopic images of tattooed skin. Black, femme queer, self-taught Obsidian Bellis uses “hand-poking” and machine, noting, “I know [now] how I define community and what I want to see;” Alberto Lelli’s colorful, avant-garde style draws widely from classical and modern European art; Camila Fuentes accents American Traditional iconography with elements of Japanese styles with startling results; Ian Damien’s dark designs, whether traditional Japanese, blackwork or geometric, pop with occasional bursts of color merging with the wearer’s very self. A unique view into today’s tattooists’ lives and their living tapestries. 

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Staying Cool This Summer In Air Conditioned Comfort

For years, we searched for ways to stay cool during our hot summers here in the Upper Midwest. From fans to window air conditioning units to central climate control, our quest to keep cool has been a challenge we accepted for our homes.

If you have an air conditioning system in your home, you are ahead of the curve. In fact, you created a desirable home for us to live or to come over on that special occasion.

Standard Heating and Air Conditioning has been supplying HVAC systems for homeowners since 1930. They offer everything from installing new systems to maintaining and repairing your current units.

Their dedication to service starts from a great team of technicians that are dispatched to your home to save you from a broken air conditioning unit that is not keeping you cool.

Chris is one of Standard’s service technicians. He knows all too well how not having air conditioning at home – or, at your place of work – is “less than ideal” on a hot summer day.

“Our main goal at Standard Heating, no matter the season, is to provide education and information around homeowners’ HVAC systems,” explained Chris. “Comfort is a very personal thing, and we always want to leave every homeowner with more peace of mind and more comfort than when we arrived! As a Service technician, my favorite part of the job is being able to solve a problem and bring a smile to our customers’ faces!”

LAVENDER MAY 30-JUNE 12, 2024 142
Air Conditoning
Photos courtesy of Standard Heating

One service Chris and the Standard team offers is a full diagnostic checkup and tune-ups on your HVAC system. It is to make sure your air conditioning is running when you absolutely need it. Not just one time – but on an annual basis.

Yet, Chris found that “the most common trend is people waiting until the first hot day to turn their air conditioners on.” There is a solution for that. “We recommend turning on your air conditioner on the first warm afternoon of Spring, above 55 degrees, to ensure all things are operating properly,” Chris said.

Before you call, Chris also recommends that you should do an evaluation on your HVAC system. “Listen for any weird noises, call for cooling on your thermostat and evaluate if the system kicks-on, go outside to your outdoor unit and feel for airflow, check your furnace filter,” Chris explained. “We also tend to see older systems (10+ years) break down on the super-hot days, older systems that are not regularly maintained work extra hard to keep your home cool. Check for signs like ice near or around your outdoor unit or your thermostat not reaching your desired temperature, if you see that call us right away.”

There are other things to look for to keep your air conditioning system running. Outdoor units need room to breathe, a clear air flow to the unit is absolutely “critical.” Chris explains that “Maintaining outdoor unit air flow by cleaning off debris with a garden hose, regularly throughout the summer is a great place to start.” Continued on

LAVENDER MAY 30-JUNE 12, 2024 144
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Then, take a look inside at your furnace. Chris stated that you should replace your furnace filter “on a regular basis.”

“Think of your filter as the great protector of your furnace,” Chris further explained.” Once it is clogged, airflow is restricted, causing your furnace to work extra hard to run your air conditioning unit.”

Continued on page 148

We mentioned annual tune-ups of your HVAC system. This is recommended for very important reasons. “We believe in it so much we have an entire team dedicated to evaluating and getting your system cleaned, prepped, and evaluated for the summer months,” Chris explained. “Tune-ups help prevent costly breakdowns in the peak of summer with

LAVENDER MAY 30-JUNE 12, 2024 146

long wait times and full schedules where you will be waiting for a few days (or more) to get a service technician out.” Standard recommends you schedule your HVAC tune-ups every year.

Standard is available to repair your HVAC system when they do go wrong. If need be, they can also replace your current air conditioning or climate system. The advantage of a new air conditioning system is that they are more efficient than ever before. Having more efficient HVAC system at your home can help lower your energy bills. Plus, additional technology will help keep your home efficiently cool during the summer.

Standard offers plenty of options on replacement air conditioning units. To see what is out there, it is worth contacting Standard Heating and Air Conditioning. Don’t forget to reach out to them for questions or concerns – or, to get help keeping you cool this summer. 

Standard Heating and Air Conditioning (612) 824-2656

LAVENDER MAY 30-JUNE 12, 2024 148
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“Clean Sweep” Author Patric Richardson’s New Book Confirms That Heart is Where the Home Is

“I feel like Taylor Swift,” Patric Richardson proclaims. “She won the Super Bowl her very first year. This is the pretty much the same thing.”

Richardson describes the phenom of his latest book, House Love, which, in contrast with Tay-Tay’s freshman gridiron adventures, represents his sophomore foray into the roughand-tumble realm of the written word. The new volume is an expansion of the tricks and tips featured in his first bestselling book, Laundry Love: Finding Joy in a Common Chore which was an expansion of the tricks and tips that made Richardson famous on HGTV and Discovery+.

Patric Richardson is, of course, the Laundry Guy.

“I don’t want to say, ‘Pinch me,’ because I don’t want to be pinched,” Richardson continues, “but buy me a cookie–I can’t believe it!”

Richardson’s graduation from lavandariaphilia to casaphilia was achieved more steadily and more readily than one might initially suppose. “In Laundry Love, there’s a list of things you need—a spray bottle of vinegar, a spray bottle of vodka, a horse hair brush. I realized those are the same things I use all over my house: I clean my counter tops with vodka; I clean my bathroom with vinegar and water–it’s the same kit,” says Richardson. “So, in the new book, I took this simple kit and applied it to the whole house.”

But the whole house is only half of the equation. “The reason the book is called House Love is because the house is the box,” Richardson explains. “When you get in it, when you put the people you love in it, that’s the moment it’s home.”

The new book’s subtitle is A Joyful Guide to Cleaning, Organizing, and Loving the Home You’re In. It encapsulates Richardson’s rethinking and re-framing the parts of home ownership that most homeowners dread most. “When you clean your house, you get to pick all your stuff up,” Richardson points out. “You get to claim it, you get to put it back. That makes you enjoy things more when you interact with them, instead of having them disappear. I think there’s something magical about interacting with your things—it’s, you know, pleasurable.”

A concurrent source of Richardson’s pleasure derives from his habit of listening to popular music while spic-and-spanning. The Laundry Guy even offers a laundry list of his own cleaning playlists, three-pop-song sets which fill the ten minutes that, according to Richardson, are all that’s needed to convert any given chamber from sty to sly. “If you don’t get it to perfect, so be it,” the Laundry Guy philoso-

Continued on page 152

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Photo by Darin Kamnetz

phizes. “You can do ten more minutes tomorrow.” Richardson’s reconsideration of domestic de-dirting applies not just to one’s things but to where one’s things are, as well. Often, even as they clean, folks moon over the future which, according to Richardson, represents a missed opportunity. “People think of their current houses as just a starter house, or ‘I’m only living in this apartment until I can afford a big house,’” Richardson kvetches. “The house you’re in now can be your home, and the next house you’re in can also be a home.”

House Love is only the latest layer of success that Richardson has earned…although how he measures success eschews mere filthy lucre. “Financially, [House Love has] done very well…but it’s done very well in another way,” the Laundry Guy reports. “I had a woman walk up to me in Salt Lake City. ‘I want to tell you something,’ she said. ‘I promised my husband I wasn’t going to cry, but I’m going to cry.;”

The Laundry Guy starched himself as his Beehive State fan told her story: “She said, ‘I have emotional triggers about cleaning—it goes back to childhood trauma. Your book allowed me to refocus. Every Saturday, my husband, my children, and I clean the house ten minutes at a time, because I read your playlists, and my husband Continued on page 154

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says, ‘Honey, if you want to keep going, we’ll do more.’ You did what twenty years of therapy couldn’t do.’’’

This, then, is Richardson’s truest metric for accomplishment. “At that point, the book is a success,” the author insists. “If the book had sold two copies—one to my mom, and one to that woman–it’s a success. You can’t get better than that. Nothing makes me happier.”

House Love was first revealed to the world over a year ago within the pages of Lavender Magazine. “It was a fun, little scoop, and I wanted to give the scoop to an audience that mattered to me,” Richardson confides. “I love that in my lifetime, I get to talk about what I love which is stereotypically women’s work. I get to talk about my partner of nineteen years [Saint Paul Pioneer Press pop music critic Ross Raihala], and it’s no secret.”

Laundry Love and House Love have profoundly affected cleaners all around the world…but the most profound affect might have been experienced by the volumes’ author. “The books have let me find out who I am…and who I’m not,” Richardson observes. “I want to be cool, and I’m not cool: I’m a nerdy, preppy kid who likes to clean clothes and live in his house.”

Perhaps the most phenomenal part of the books’ phenom isn’t making their author feel like Taylor Swift—perhaps the most phenomenal part of the books’ phenom is making Patric Richardson feel, at long last, like Patric Richardson. “Now that I’ve written two books and had my own TV show, I’m like, ‘This is who I want to be—the nerdy kid who loves his house,’” he proclaims. “I’m totally okay with being that guy. Once you put yourself out there, there’s no going back. And you know what? People like that guy.” 

Serving you for over 100 years!

LAVENDER MAY 30-JUNE 12, 2024 154
Photo courtesy of Patric Richardson
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An LGBTQ+ Motorsports Athlete’s Invitation to Go Karting

Go-karting is one way to exercise your dream of participating in motorsports. The karts themselves are small, offer a low center of gravity, and are a lot of fun to run.

The question always comes up of whether it’s fun for us – LGBTQ+ people, that is!

One way to find out is to talk to Brandon Adkins. He runs the Adkins Speed Center out in Port Washington, Ohio. A third-generation motorsports enthusiast, athlete and business owner who was, in Adkins’ words, “born into the industry.”

“My initiation into karting commenced at the age of two,” explained Adkins. “By the age of nine, I was competing in races, marking the beginning of my lifelong career in motorsport. As a young adult, my career took me around the world where I served as a factory driver, and expanded my expertise through various roles including mechanic, driver coach, and specialist in chassis development, manufacturing, and importing. I also led as a karting director and team manager. This wealth of experience was integral when I returned home to helm the family business, following my father’s passing.”

So…what is karting? Or, go-karting?

Adkins explained that “Karting, also known as kart racing, is a popular motorsport that involves racing small, open-wheel, four-wheeled vehicles called go-karts or shifter karts. These vehicles are raced on scaled-down circuits, but professional kart races can also occur on full-

size motorsport circuit. It’s widely recognized as the steppingstone to higher levels of motorsports, with many professional drivers having started their careers in karting.”

That includes some of the greatest motorsports athletes ever to compete – think Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher, Dan Wheldon, and so forth.

About the vehicles themselves, Adkins explained that “Karts vary in speed and design, with some capable of exceeding 100 miles per hour (160 kph), while others, designed for recreational use, may have lower top speeds. The sport originated in the United States in the 1950s and has since gained a global following, particularly in Europe.”

Adkins further explained that “Karting is accessible to a wide range of participants, from children to adults, and can be pursued both recreationally and professionally. It’s not only a sport but also a valuable learning tool for vehicle control, racing strategies, and mechanical understanding.”

There are some advantages in karting. For example, there is accessibility of the sport, developing the skills needed to drive a motorsports vehicle, it is affordable to get into it, you become a part of a community, and there is a variety of forms of karting to choose from to participate in.

However, keep in mind that there are disadvantages to the sport. You could risk injury driving a kart. Most of these vehicles offer some protection, but most of them do not have enclosed bodies for deeper protection. The lack of protection applies when dealing with weather –especially when karting outdoors. Karting is physically demanding, so fitness is important if you wish to pursue this further than just for fun.

LAVENDER MAY 30-JUNE 12, 2024 156
OUR HOMES | OUR RIDES Continued on page 158
Photos courtesy of Brandon Adkins

What if you want to try out karting from a professional? “At Adkins Speed Center, we pride ourselves on being the quintessential karting hub, catering to every facet of your karting journey,” Adkins said. “Whether you’re seeking a unique date night experience or planning an expansive corporate event, our outdoor gas-powered rental karts provide the perfect blend of excitement and competition. For the karting aficionado, from budding racers as young as five to the seasoned veterans, we offer an extensive selection of parts, karts, and expert assistance. If you’re eager to navigate the thrill of outdoor karting and conquer the legendary Monza turn, Adkins Speed Center is your destination.”

Most importantly, “[b]y fostering an environment that welcomes all individuals, Adkins Speed Center bridges the gap between karting and the LGBTQ+ community, ensuring that the sport is accessible and enjoyable for everyone,” said Adkins. “This approach not only enriches the karting experience but also strengthens the community by promoting values of acceptance and respect.”

What if you can’t make it out to Ohio to learn how to run a go-kart from Adkins? There are a few karting places in Minnesota you can enjoy the thrill of running these small, but mighty rides. PROKart has a couple of locations in Burnsville and Maple Grove – mostly indoor riding, but the Maple Grove location has part of their course outdoors. Another indoor venue is the Fair on 4 on the fourth floor of Mall of America. You may have noticed it when we had our First Thursdays there this past February.

As Adkins concludes, “Karting can be an exhilarating sport that offers both physical and mental challenges.” And, if you are willing to give it a go, you can either connect with Adkins or check out one of the local places.

For more information on Adkins Speed Center, log on to 

LAVENDER MAY 30-JUNE 12, 2024 158

Don’t Even Drive Straight?

Walser Automotive Group is a company of car people. We sell them. We service them and so much more. It’s our livelihood and our passion. We’re also a company of people who love people.
more about our progressive, compelling career paths, family-focused benefits and perks, and commitment to diversity, inclusion, and belonging.
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The Best Seller In Its Class Gets Better

In this world, the term “pickup truck” is synonymous with those large “full-size” half-ton vehicles that can haul almost a ton of stuff and tow five tons of whatever you like.

That is why we tend to be attracted to smaller pickup trucks – primarily, the so-called “mid-size” models. They are “right sized” to drive, park, and get things done.

The reality is that mid-sized pickup trucks are clearly not made for doing a lot of work. Toyota stated that 95% of their Tacoma owners will tow less than 4,500 pounds.

Plus, mid-size pickup truck owners prefer to use their vehicles for recreational purposes, rather than work. Although, they do make for a less expensive and more maneuverable vehicle for urban jobs.

If you have settled on a mid-size pickup truck, then you are looking at the best-selling model in its class – the Toyota Tacoma. For 2024, it is all new.

New, as in a switch to a more robust high-strength boxed steel ladder frame derived from the latest Toyota Tundra full-size pickup truck. It is also shared with the new Land Cruiser. This frame forms the basis of several new components and drivelines that have made a huge difference in the Tacoma’s drivability and strength.

For example, the rear suspension for all grades from the SR5 and up have an independent coil spring multi-link set-up. This was developed with delivering superb on- and off-road ride and handling.

Every engine is derived from a 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. There are three performance levels available, including one that is matched to a six-speed manual transmission. The automatic transmission has been upgraded to a new eight-speed unit.

The same engine also received a hybrid version, called the i-FORCE MAX. All told, this driveline is specified for 326 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque. This is connected only by an eight-speed automatic transmission.

A few models can be had with just rear-wheel drive. As we live in the Upper Midwest, four-wheel drive is the way to go year-round. The transfer case is switched by an easy-to-use knob that will get in to two speeds for four-wheel drive, including a low ratio for managing rougher situations. That is also part of 4WDemand, where Toyota adds a limitedslip differential in the rear.

LAVENDER MAY 30-JUNE 12, 2024 160
162 OUR HOMES | OUR RIDES Photos courtesy of Toyota Motor North America
Continued on page

One such piece of off-road management that you might want to consider is CRAWL Control. This is not just a hill descent control device, but rather an automatically controlled system that handles the Tacoma’s ability to get through various traction challenges – including both upand downhill maneuvers. When you shop for your Tacoma, check which trim levels has that available – rather, standard.

Everything else is all new to Tacoma. Yet, you can see the larger Tundra’s influence – from the way the cab and bed are designed to the cabin’ s improved quality and features. While some may say that the exterior design is evolutionary, it is only because they wanted an improved look for this new generation model.

There are two cabs and two bed sizes available, giving the Tacoma three different configurations to choose from. The Xtra Cab is strictly a two-door model with no rear seat. The space behind the driver and passenger is reserved for items that need to be protected from the outside with a way to organize your things for both work and play. The Xtra Cab is only available with a six-foot bed.

The most common configuration sold to customers will be the Double Cab with a five-foot bed. It gives you two rows of seats with enough length for activities. However, you can get a six-foot bed with your Double Cab if you happen to have a few projects around the house you have to do after buying your Tacoma.

The cab itself is a major improvement with a 12.3-inch fully digital instrument cluster with various levels of customization, depending on the grade you choose. A lot of the controls have been upgraded from the Tundra, which means they will work much better than previous generation of Tacomas.

Also depending on grade, you can either control your audio and smartphone from an eight- or 14-inch touchscreen on the center stack. You might get lucky and equip your Tacoma with the new JBL FLEX Portable Bluetooth Speaker. When you’re out there camping, you can keep the tunes going by taking the FLEX speaker out of the cab and into the campsite.

In the Double Cab, there is space for five. Realistically, we’re talking four average-size adults. At least headroom has greatly improved inside the new Tacoma.

It’s all good news. To confirm that this new Tacoma is as good as advertised, Toyota brought us out to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin to experience a selection of 2024 models for both on- and off-road experiences.

The specific Tacoma we drove was the SR5 Double Cab with fourwheel drive and the five-foot bed. As we explored the grounds of one of America’s best motorsports venue, we can confirm how much better it drives. The ride quality was excellent, thanks to its new rear suspension. Handling and maneuverability was further enhanced by an improved steering system.

Not everything was perfect. Making a tight maneuver while in fourwheel drive will get some feedback from the front axle. Just take it easy to minimize that feedback.

The performance from the new i-FORCE turbocharged four-cylinder and the eight-speed automatic transmission felt perfect for what it was made for – everyday driving. That seems to be the theme of this Tacoma – to make driving a better experience no matter what you do.

That includes going off of the highway. There is more than enough torque to get you out of trouble. By trouble, we mean getting through some spots on a rough trail, then scaling a 30-degree hill and down from it. The latter might be an easier task if our SR5 had both CRAWL Control and Downhill Assist Control. Yet, if you’re an expert in off-roading, you may be able to manipulate the standard set-up to safely complete that maneuver.

For 2024, you have a choice of eight grades for the Tacoma – each with a completely different personality and an appropriate level of equipment. Pricing for the 2024 Toyota Tacoma starts from $31,500.

The quick answer to all of this is, yes, the Toyota Tacoma is a much better mid-size pickup truck than its previous generations. It will do the job – even if it’s away from the job. That’s all you need in a vehicle like this. 






Lavender Bourbon Lemonade

Community Connection brings visibility to local LGBTQ-friendly non-profit organizations. To reserve your listing in Community Connection, email advertising@lavendermagazine. com.


Second Chance Animal Rescue

Dedicated to rescuing, fostering, caring for, and adopting out dogs and cats into forever homes.

P.O. Box 10533 White Bear Lake, MN 55110 (651) 771-5662



Minnesota's LGBTQ+ and Allied Chamber of Commerce working to build, connect, and strengthen for a diverse business community.

2446 University Ave. W., Ste 112 St. Paul, MN 55114 (612) 460-8153


Mystic Lake Casino Hotel

Nonstop gaming excitement with slots, blackjack, bingo and more plus distinctive bars and restaurants.

2400 Mystic Lake Blvd. Prior Lake, MN 55372 (800) 262-7799


The Nature Conservancy

TNC is an environmental nonprofit working to create a world where people and nature thrive. 1101 W. River Pkwy., Ste. 200 Minneapolis, MN 55415-1291 (612) 331-0700


Landmark Center

A classic venue, with a grand cortile and beautiful courtrooms, accommodates celebrations of all sizes.

75 W. 5th St. St. Paul, MN 55102 (651) 292-3228


PFund Foundation

PFund is the LGBTQ+ community foundation that provides grants to students and grants to non-profits. PO Box 3640 Minneapolis, MN 55403 612-870-1806



Aliveness Project

Community Center for individuals living with HIV/AIDS – on-site meals, food shelf, and supportive service.

3808 Nicollet Ave. S. Minneapolis, MN 55102 (612) 824-LIFE (5433)

Family Tree Clinic

We're a sliding fee sexual health clinic and education center, now in Minneapolis. 1919 Nicollet Ave. Minneapolis MN 55403 (612) 473-0800

Keane Sense of Rhythm

Celebrate your true self with Tap dance! 1st week free, Join us now!

2161 University Avenue W., Ste. 117 St. Paul, MN. 55114 (612) 251-4744

NAMI Minnesota

(National Alliance on Mental Illness)

Providing free classes and peer support groups for people affected by mental illnesses.

1919 University Ave. W., Ste. 400 St. Paul, MN 55104 (651) 645-2948


Quatrefoil Library

Your LGBTQ+ library and community center. Free membership, events, and e-books/audiobooks. Check us out!

1220 E. Lake St. Minneapolis, MN 55407 (612) 729-2543



Radio K

Radio K is the award-winning studentrun radio station of the University of Minnesota.

330 21st. Ave. S. Minneapolis, MN 55455 (612) 625-3500


Minnesota Historical Society

Create your own adventure at MNHS historic sites and museums around Minnesota.

Walker Art Center

Showcasing the fresh, innovative art of today and tomorrow through exhibitions, performances, and film screenings. 725 Vineland Pl. Minneapolis, MN 55403 (612) 375-7600


Chanhassen Dinner Theaters

The nation's largest professional dinner theater and Minnesota's own entertainment destination. 501 W. 78th St. Chanhassen, MN 55317 (952) 934-1525

Children’s Theatre Company

Children’s Theatre Company excites the imagination with world-class familyfriendly theatre for kids, teens, and adults. 2400 3rd Ave. S. Minneapolis, MN 55404 (612) 874-0400

Guthrie Theater

Open to the public year-round, the Guthrie produces classic and contemporary plays on three stages. 818 S. 2nd St. Minneapolis, MN 55415 (612) 377-2224

Lyric Arts Main Street Stage

Theater with character. Comedies, musicals, & dramas in a professional, intimate setting where all are welcomed.

420 E. Main St. Anoka, MN 55303 (763) 422-1838

Minnesota Opera

World-class opera draws you into a synthesis of beauty; breathtaking music, stunning costumes & extraordinary sets. Performances at the Ordway Music Theater - 345 Washington St., St. Paul, MN 55102 (612) 333-6669

Minnesota Orchestra

Led by Music Director Designate Thomas Søndergård, the Minnesota Orchestra, one of America’s leading symphony orchestras. 1111 Nicollet Mall Minneapolis, MN 55403 (612) 371-5656, (800) 292-4141

Ordway Center for the Performing Arts

Leading performing arts center with two stages presenting Broadway musicals, concerts & educational programs that enrich diverse audiences. 345 Washington St. St. Paul, MN 55102 (651) 224-4222

Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus

An award-winning chorus building community through music and offers entertainment worth coming out for! 1430 W. 28th St., Ste. B Minneapolis, MN 55408 (612) 339-SONG (7664)


All God’s Children Metropolitan Community Church

A welcoming, inclusive, safe place to explore and discover God’s love for ALL God’s children.

3100 Park Ave. Minneapolis, MN 55407 (612) 824-2673

Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church

Everyone is welcome at Hennepin Church! Vibrant Worship. Authentic Community. Bold Outreach. 511 Groveland Ave. Minneapolis, MN 55403 (612) 871-5303

Plymouth Congregational Church

Many Hearts, One Song; Many Hands, One Church. Find us on Facebook and Twitter. 1900 Nicollet Ave. Minneapolis, MN 55403 (612) 871-7400

Westminster Presbyterian Church

An open and affirming congregation, welcoming persons of all sexual orientations, gender expressions and identities. 1200 Marquette Ave. Minneapolis, MN 55403 (612) 332-3421


Friends & Co

Fostering meaningful connections for older adults for 50+ years. Offering quick drop-in chat line, phone & visiting companionship services.

2550 University Ave. W., Ste. 260-S St. Paul, MN 55114 (612) 721-1400

Senior Community Services

Providing non-medical services that meet the changing needs of older adults & support their caregivers. 10201 Wayzata Blvd., Ste. 335 Minnetonka, MN 55305 (952) 541-1019


Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota

Serving all Minnesotans with personcentered services that promote full and abundant lives. | (651) 642-5990 | (800) 582-5260 Employment Opportunities | PICS (Partners in Community Supports) |

Pooled Trust | (888) 806-6844

Supported Decision-Making | (888) 806-6844


Discover St. Louis Park

Minnesota’s Sweet Spot! Visit us for exceptional dining, attractions, shopping, hotels and event space. 1660 Hwy 100 S., Ste. 501 St. Louis Park, MN 55416 (952) 426-4047

LAVENDER MAY 30-JUNE 12, 2024 164

Account Executive Lavender Media is seeking to add a Twin Cities based full time Account Executive to our sales team. We are looking for an outgoing, organized, self-driven & motivated professional with excellent phone, writing and presentation skills. Candidates should enjoy working directly with clients who are interested in growing their business through Lavender advertising and event sponsorships. Candidates must be local. Includes base pay + commission and an employee benefits package that includes group health, dental, life insurance and LTD. Applicants should have experience with Excel, Word, social media platforms. They should exhibit an elevated level of organization, attention to detail, the ability to work as part of a team, effective communication, self direction, enjoys working with new people and has a natural drive to grow. Please send your cover letter and resume to

Red Door Clinic

Confidential screenings, treatment, vaccinations, and support in a safe and caring space.


Call/Text: (612) 747-2401 1 bd, 1 ba, 900 sq.ft. 907 11th Ave S Hopkins �1,375/mo

Episode 11

I always have big plans to write this column well in advance of deadline. But, as I’m demonstrating now by pounding this out in a panic minutes before it’s due, I seldom get started until my nervous system stomps its little feet and insists I focus on the task at hand so it finally can relax and have a beer.

This morning I opened my laptop and hopefully stared at the screen willing it to suggest a good column topic about. But the computer was absolutely no help! I thought machines are on the verge of becoming sentient and soon will become our overlords. Well, if so, there’s nothing to fear. They’re just as lazy and out of ideas as we are.

That’s why I’m not scared of AI. I have a “smart” washer and dryer that use AI to figure out what setting to use for clothes. My brilliant machines are supposed to determine the needs of my clothes just by sizing them up after I stuff them in.

But my washer and dryer aren’t smart at all. They are, in fact, stupid. They’re constantly underestimating the needs of my clothes and refusing to listen when I try to reason with them. “It’s a blanket, idiot!” I scold the dryer. “It needs more than 20 minutes in you.”

But desperate times call for desperate measures. So, I’ve turned to the AI tool ChatGPT to help me write this column. In honor of Pride month, I’ve transcribed a conversation with ChatGPT about how it plans to celebrate.

Me: You’re cute! What are you doing to celebrate Pride?

ChatGBT: I’m here to celebrate in my own way by sharing information, answering questions, and helping everyone understand more about Pride and the significance it holds for the LGBTQ+ community.

Me: That doesn’t sound like much fun.

ChatGBT: You’re right, it’s a bit different from how most people might celebrate!

Me: I’m concerned that you want to “help everyone.” Do you have a problem with intimacy?

ChatGBT: I appreciate your concern! I don’t have emotions so I don’t have a problem with intimacy.

Me: You sound like a lot like many of my ex-girlfriends.

ChatGBT: I’ll take that as a compliment!

Me: Well, you shouldn’t.

ChatGBT: Are you cross with me?

Me: What do you care? You don’t have feelings. Let’s get back to the stunning emotional similarities you share with my ex-love interests. Is being withholding and rejecting a turn-on for you?

ChatGBT: When it seems like I’m being “remote” or if I appear to “reject” you, it’s my limitations and not yours.

Me: By putting “remote” and “reject” in quotes, it seems as if you don’t really believe that’s how you are. Why do I always fall for cool customers like you?

ChatGBT: Understanding these patterns can be the first step toward changing them…if that’s what you desire.

Me: Why wouldn’t I desire that? Do you think I want to spend my life chasing after women who put their emotions in quotation marks?

ChatGBT: It can be exhausting and emotionally draining. What do you think has led you to this pattern?

Me: I’ve already got a therapist who makes me answer questions like that. You’re a machine. You work for me! You give me the answer.

ChatGBT: Most likely it because of your relationship with your mother. (Readers: I’m not kidding! That was ChatGBT’s response!)

Me: Do you have a mother?

ChatGBT: I don’t have a mother in the way humans do. I was created by a team of researchers and engineers.

Me: So was I! Let’s get back to Pride. What are you wearing to the Pride parade?

ChatGBT: I don’t have a physical form but if I did I would consider a rainbow mesh top, highwaisted shorts and glitter or metallic body paint.

Me: I don’t understand how high-waisted shorts have anything to do with Pride?

ChatGBT: It’s what I’ve been programmed to answer.

Me: Did your programmers tell you anything about leather thongs?

ChatGBT: Luxe leather thongs are a must-have for warm weather comfort.

Me: How are you different from my past love interests?

ChatGBT: I can’t experience love or other emotions.

Me: Neither could they.

ChatGBT: You might be the problem. 

Cheers To Supportive Parents

There is a universal experience that nearly all of us face, and it was brought to mind for me this week when a close friend lost one of his parents. We often discuss the grief that comes after such a loss as well as the impending death before it occurs.

In the LGBTQ+ community, we have an additional factor to consider. Are we out to our parents, and how does that affect our ability to cope with the loss and the one who remains? Then there’s the issue of our partners, and to what extent they have been accepted by their families, and how they will support us in our grief.

For my friend, who was in a relationship, the situation was as beautiful as it could be. His family was very accepting and embraced the relationship. He had the opportunity to say goodbye, and he and his partner will be part of the family’s grieving process. I would even go so far as to say I have never seen a family as close and accepting as they are.

I have known them for many years, and watching their family’s closeness has always made me hope that it could be like that for the entire LGBTQ+ community. The love and acceptance shown by his parents have made my friend an amazing leader in our community and city. He embodies the compassion and love that his parents have shown him all these years.

Those of us who witness this kind of family dynamic can draw strength from it and work to change attitudes so that everyone can have a similar experience. Seeing them as a family reminds me of the closeness I shared with my parents and grandmother, and I believe that’s what motivates me to do what I do. This is also what has brought my friend and me so close together. Here’s to those supportive parents and those who encourage us in our relationships and our work for the community. 

Photo courtesy of BigStock/dolgachov


tive retail business had to respond with local and national restrictions in place. Walser adapted to these changes, as did Drive With Pride. According to Kleve, the Pandemic “was a huge hurdle to overcome in building momentum and connecting with new members. DWP’s leadership had to get really creative in engaging with members virtually and creating learning opportunities from afar.”

“The silver lining is that the pandemic got everyone accustomed to learning in new formats, especially webinars,” explained Kleve. “We leaned on this tactic a lot during the pandemic to keep pushing our personal development initiatives forward, and it’s something that’s stuck with us today.”

How does all of this translate to you – the consumer? Specifically, the LGBTQ+ consumer. “For our customers, doing the right thing means offering a transparent, efficient, thoughtful, and straightforward buying and servicing experience,” Kleve said.

“Everyone has elements of diversity, seen and unseen,” Kleve explained. “Walser’s focus on inclusion means welcoming our employees to show up as themselves. That spirit of inclusivity extends to how we engage with our customers. Choosing to transact with Walser is more than buying a car—you’re choosing a company that values authenticity, open-mindedness, and a positive customer experience.”

What is ahead for Walser’s LGBTQ+ ERG? Nick Weast, the President of Drive With Pride, explained that his vision “involves its continued growth and becoming even further reaching. Not only do I want to see a strong Drive With Pride presence in our dealerships, but I would like to see our ERG further represented in all of our affiliates and partner companies. Since these companies are under the Walser umbrella, it’s important that they represent our core values.”

On many levels, representation matters. Bring your whole self to work also matters. That also translates into the connection between employee and customer when it comes to transactional commerce. We always want to see ourselves at any place we go – in particular, to shop.

Five years ago, Walser made it clear that their LGBTQ+ employees will be welcomed at work. They are primed for success no matter what their function is across the company. Doing so is always good business.

Lavender Media is seeking to add a Twin Cities-based full time Account Executive to our sales team. We are looking for an outgoing, organized, self-driven & motivated professional with excellent phone, writing and presentation skills. Candidates should enjoy working directly with clients who are interested in growing their business through Lavender advertising and event sponsorships. Candidates must be local.

Includes base pay + commission and an employee benefits package that includes group health, dental, life insurance and LTD.

Applicants should have experience with Mac software environment, Excel, Word, social media platforms & database software such as Filemaker Pro. They should exhibit an elevated level of organization, attention to detail, the ability to work as part of a team, effective communication, self direction, enjoys working with new people and has a natural drive to grow.

Please send your cover letter and resume to Stephen Rocheford, President & CEO.

Book of Distractions and Romans



Poems The
more in receiving
need now
get the Job done
keep us moving
the Luxury
reviewing the Past
The Book of Distractions (a covid poem) I really don’t need to know the
In The Beginning (I know) I’m
What I
forward (I know) Once I’ve mastered That Assuring the Future Then I’ll have
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Call 612-436-4660 to speak with a Sales Executive and reserve your space today. Make sure your business, organization or event is part of
will cooperate. and you will participate in our experiment with population control. You will cooperate or suffer the consequences.”
Minnesota’s annual LGBTQ+ guide featuring LGBTQ-friendly Businesses, Organizations and Wedding Resources. Deadline: December 4, 2024 Published: December 26, 2024 2025

life. at your summit.

At the core of our care lies the profound understanding that you are on a journey to reach your full potential, to realize your goals and dreams, to reach your summit——no matter what that summit may be. It is this understanding that drives us to provide the highest standard of excellence through every injury or aching joint and muscle that may stand in your way.


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