South Dakota
The Black Hills Pride Festival took place over the weekend, Black Hills Fox reports:

The 6th annual Black Hills Pride Festival took place in Memorial Park Saturday afternoon and it was organizers say it was a great experience for everyone involved.
Michael Hanson, Black Hills Center for Equality president says, “Its a festival so the LGBT community can come together and feel safe and feel welcome as a community.”
The Black Hills Pride Festival started with humble beginnings but has since grown to around 2,500 visitors this year.
Brett Ray, local author says,”There are people here that remember Pride being one table and ten people and now we got thousands and so its a really cool way to see how much we’ve grown over the years.”
There were plenty of vendors and entertainment for their aim of celebrating love and being true to yourself.
Persephone Shakers, Miss Gay Nebraska says, “I was told that there’s not a very big drag community in Rapid City so I’m glad to be able to bring what I do and what I bring back home to Rapid City.”

Iowa
The Associated Press reports that a lawsuit against a former governor about anti-gay discrimination can go forward:

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday that a Democratic appointee can seek damages for alleged political retaliation he suffered under former Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, a decision that will make it easier for state residents to sue government officials who violate their rights.
In a 4-3 decision the court ruled that former Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner Chris Godfrey can bring claims alleging that his property and liberty interests were “violated by the partisan motivation” of Branstad, now-Gov. Kim Reynolds and their aides.
The court said it wasn’t taking a position on the merits of Godfrey’s claims, which will head to trial along with his allegations that the defendants violated the Iowa Civil Rights Act by discriminating against him on the basis of sexual orientation. Godfrey is gay.

Yoga is becoming more inclusive in Northern Iowa, the Gazette reports:

When Morgan Schoon, 25, first considered doing yoga, he was hesitant. As a transgender man, the idea of moving his body in open, vulnerable positions was scary. Wearing a binder to flatten his chest added extra discomfort and removing it in public didn’t feel like an option, either, he said.
“Imagine if you were a trans person,” said Mackenzie “Ken” Appleby, a yoga instructor at Breathing Room Yoga in Cedar Rapids and a friend of Schoon’s.
“Put yourself in the shoes of having gender dysphoria and not knowing who you are,” she continued. Trying new things is scary to begin with, but “for someone not comfortable in their own skin, it’s hard to be vulnerable.”
Still, Appleby, who is gender nonconforming and queer herself, continued to encourage Schoon to try it. She had tried yoga for the first time two years ago and was “immediately hooked,” she said, touting the “amazing impact it had on her life” and her anxiety.
“Without yoga I wouldn’t have the breath work to settle down and relax,” she said. “It gave me tools to take with me to deal with my anxiety.”
To help Schoon feel more comfortable, Appleby invited him into her home where they could practice yoga privately. As Schoon grew more and more comfortable, she saw an opportunity to help others, too.
Since April, Appleby has been offering free trans and queer yoga classes to try to make yoga more accessible to those who might not otherwise try it.

Wisconsin
The Kenosha school district is appealing a decision that found the district discriminated against transgender students, Wisconsin Public Radio reports:

The Kenosha School Board will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether it can legally bar transgender students from using the bathrooms of their gender identities.
The board plans to appeal rulings in a case that had been filed by a transgender student, Ash Whitaker.
The Tremper High School student graduated earlier this month. But the legal issues that sparked his successful lawsuit remain.
Without referring to the suit itself, board member Gary Kunich said at a school board meeting Tuesday night that he’s looking for definitive guidance.
“I really do think it’s important to let this get settled finally once and for all,” he said in response to a retired school counselor who spoke during citizens’ comments.
Gayle Clark-Taylor, a retired school counselor in the district, urged the board Tuesday night to drop the case and form a committee to come up with ways to make life easier for transgender students.
“I think we will end up with a lot of blood on our hands because we are creating a hostile learning environment for students,” she said.

Capitol Times reports that the Wisconsin Legislature stayed silent about Pride month:

June was LGBT Pride Month and while cities, states and countless others made note of it through parades, symposiums, special sections in newspapers and documentaries on television, nary a word was uttered by Wisconsin’s Legislature.
In fact, while legislators routinely and gleefully declare everything from Motorcycle Awareness Month to Polish American Heritage Month, the Republican leadership declined to consider proclaiming June as LGBT Pride Month — strictly a symbolic gesture — even after three of its four openly gay members authored a joint resolution to do so.
State Sen. Tim Carpenter of Milwaukee and state Reps. JoCasta Zamarripa of Milwaukee and Mark Spreitzer of Beloit, all Democrats, were told by leaders of the GOP majority that they were on their side, but didn’t want to take a chance that something embarrassing might happen on the floor of the Legislature.
In other words, most of America, including corporate America — Delta Airlines and Diet Coke sponsored NYC Pride this year — has finally come to accept the equality of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people. The U.S. Supreme Court has declared it illegal to prevent same-sex couples from marrying. But there are still legislators serving our state who would raise a stink if the Legislature recognized that reality.

UW-Green Bay will offer a LGBTQ certificate program, according to anti-LGBTQ organization Campus Reform:

The University of Wisconsin, Green Bay has created a “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Students Certificate Program” in hopes of stemming an outflux of LGBTQ students.
According to an announcement on the school’s website Wednesday, the school has experienced an exodus of students upset by “the lack of LGBTQ+ focused courses or the opportunity to earn a certificate,” even though the university has a favorable Campus Pride Index rating and was named one of the “50 Best Colleges for LGBTQ Students” this year by College Choice.
[RELATED: College offers free certification in ‘social justice work’] In an effort to staunch the hemorrhage, the school created the LGBTQ certificate program in hopes that it would “assist with student retention, recruitment, academic achievement, and leadership growth.”
The certificate program will be open to students in any major and anyone in the community who wants “to think informatively and critically about the lives and contributions of LGBTQ people, to respect the dignity of LGBTQ people, and to understand and interact with a culture that contributes to the diversity of our world.”

A letter to the editor in the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune talks about the welcoming environment one transgender woman has experienced:

We hear a lot these days about the various “phobias” of flyover country, which happens to include our wonderful little slice of America right here. One of those phobias is supposed to relate transgender people, and these parts are said to be dangerous and unfriendly to anyone who is different. I want to dispel that reputation, based upon my own experience. I’m a “mature” person who, after living in the shadows for all these years, has come out and am living, as much as I can, as a woman full time. That means going to the store, the diner, the cable company … even the DNR!
I have to tell you that I have been overwhelmed by the kindness and acceptance shown by everyone I have come across in the Wisconsin Rapids area – not one unpleasant encounter, not one of the redneck bigots we are told populate this area. Nothing but the treatment we are taught as children – treat one another as you would like to be treated.
If I have a regret it is that I waited so long to be myself, and that I lived in fear for so many years. I want to thank everyone who has shown me that the stereotypes are not true, that this is a wonderful place for all of us to live.
Catherine Severine,
Nekoosa

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Andy Birkey

Andy Birkey has written for a number of Minnesota and national publications. He founded Eleventh Avenue South which ran from 2002-2011, wrote for the Minnesota Independent from 2006-2011, the American Independent from 2010-2013. His writing has appeared in The Advocate, The Star Tribune, The Huffington Post, Salon, Cagle News Service, Twin Cities Daily Planet, TheUptake, Vita.mn and much more. His writing on LGBT issues, the religious right and social justice has won awards including Best Beat Reporting by the Online News Association, Best Series by the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and an honorable mention by the Sex-Positive Journalism awards.

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