Friday, May 25, 2018
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Around the Region: WI attorney general attended anti-LGBTQ conference on state dime


Wisconsin’s Attorney General is taking heat for using state funds to attend an anti-LGBTQ conference, WPR reports:

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel came under fire from Democrats on Tuesday for reports he was paid to speak at an anti-LGBT group’s conference last year.
According to state records first reported on by the Associated Press, Schimel spoke at an Alliance Defending Freedom conference in 2017.
Alliance Defending Freedom is known for its opposition to homosexuality and has pushed for legislation that would allow businesses to refuse service to gay customers.
According to the AP report, Schimel was paid more than $4,000 for travel and a daily honorarium for the appearance.
Wisconsin Democrats quickly moved to criticize Schimel’s association with the group.
“Our attorney general should not be associating in any way with hate groups,” said Josh Kaul, who is running against Schimel for the attorney general’s office this fall.

In a statement, One Wisconsin, the state’s LGBTQ advocacy group, demanded transparency about his attendance at the conference:

“Brad Schimel needs to come clean on why, in his official capacity as Attorney General of the state of Wisconsin, he took over $4,100 for first class travel and accommodations to appear before a hate group,” said One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross. “He needs to immediately turn over the records related to his appearance, for which he was paid, and what remarks he delivered at this gathering of rabid homophobes.”

Schimel tried to keep the trip secret, the Post Crescent reports:

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel planned to keep secret a $4,100 trip last year that was funded by a Christian legal organization accused of being a hate group, according to newly released records.
The five-day trip to a southern California resort in July 2017 surfaced this month after Schimel alluded to a conference paid for by the Alliance Defending Freedom in annual financial disclosures.
The Republican attorney general has since faced criticism from Democrats and a national civil rights group. ADF has been previously called an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Schimel appeared on conservative talk radio programs last week to refute the criticisms, saying in one interview that there is “nothing anti-gay” about ADF and he attended the conference to speak on a panel about states’ rights.
“I’ve never gone to a conference where there was frankly so much love,” Schimel said during another interview.
The Southern Poverty Law Center says ADF has supported criminalizing homosexuality, defended state-sanctioned sterilization of transgender people and developed legislation that would deny lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people goods and services on the basis of religion. ADF says it works to preserve freedoms for all Americans.

A gay conservative Republican wants to replace Rep. Paul Ryan, US News reports:

A Republican who describes himself as a “gay Christian conservative” is joining the race to replace House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Brad Boivin announced Thursday that he is running in the 1st Congressional District race in southeast Wisconsin.
Boivin grew up in Janesville and his father worked for the now-closed General Motors plant there. Boivin says he is a Christian, conservative and gay man who has learned to “fiercely” defend his beliefs because of that.

A gay man has been appointed as alderman in West Allis, a suburb of Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:

From a field of nine candidates who were interviewed for an appointment as interim second district alderman, Eric Euteneier was chosen by the common council Tuesday, May 15.
Euteneier, who already serves on the West Allis Board of Appeals and the beautification committee and is a Neighborhood Watch captain, will serve until April 2019. Then he can run for the year remaining on the four-year term of Cathleen Probst, who resigned after moving to Appleton. Several of those who also had applied for the appointment said they would run for the office next April.
In reacting to the council’s appointment, Euteneier said he was “extremely honored” and that his appointment holds a special meaning for him.
“I hope to be a role model to not only the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community of which I am a part, but to all minority groups,” Euteneier said. “Our voices are important and very much have a place within the community, as well as in public service.”

Iowa City is looking to increase LGBTQ inclusivity in the school district but some religious community members are pushing back, the Press Citizen reports:

Reading from the Bible and quoting the definition of gender dysphoria, a handful of community members voiced their opposition to the idea of to introducing more LGBTQ topics into curriculum at Iowa City area schools at Tuesday’s board meeting.
The idea to gradually integrate LGBTQ topics into existing curriculum across all subjects and grade levels in some form or fashion was first presented to the board by a task force this school year. Made up of parents, community members, school district staff and University of Iowa researchers, the task force formed after the 2017 school climate survey showed that a high rate of LGBTQ-identifying students felt unsafe in Iowa City schools. The 2018 survey results presented Tuesday showed similar results.
Their recommendations include bolstering support for LGBTQ student groups and ensuring that LGBTQ students feel comfortable reporting harassment to an adult at their school — preferably to teachers and administrators who have had training on how to respond to such reporting.
The recommendation to infuse LGBTQ curriculum particularly caught Ian Corbin’s attention, because it applied to all grade levels, including some form of curriculum infusion for elementary school students.
The longtime Iowan has children who will attend Iowa City schools when they are older, like he did. He kicked off the backlash during public comment by reading a Bible verse, 1 Corinthians 6:9-12, which says “the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God,” including “men who practice homosexuality.”

LGBTQ students in the district feel unsafe which has prompted the move, KCRG reports:

A 2017 climate survey found that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans-sexual students feel unsafe when it comes to bullying and harassment in the Iowa City School District. A task recommended including more LGBTQ-centered curriculum but not everyone agrees that’s the answer.

At the most recent Iowa City School board meeting, the issue of adding LGBTQ content to classrooms drew complaints, mostly from parents on religious grounds. The district said the discussion is about more than just curriculum; it’s culture.
“I feel like comments that focus on just one part of what we’re trying to do is not understanding the bigger picture in that we’re trying to shift a system,” said Iowa City Community School District Equity Director Kingsley Botchway.
That shift is one reason Iowa City Pride was at the same board meeting. They donated LGBTQ-friendly books to elementary school students.
“The book are meant to help them understand some things that their parents might not understand even,” said Chris Hawe of Iowa City Pride.

North Dakota
The Red River Rainbow Seniors got a profile in North Dakota newspapers last week:

Lee Clarens walked into the room with a big smile on her face and an even bigger exclamation.
“I brought popcorn!” she said as she placed the big blue bag of cheddar and caramel popcorn on the table.
While Clarens and her friends in the Red River Rainbow Seniors weren’t here for a party, it still kind of felt like it as they sat on the old white couches surrounded by books, rainbow flags and plenty of laughter. A group of LGBTQ people over the age of 50 living Fargo-Moorhead, the Red River Rainbow Seniors offer a place for socializing, education and advocacy.
On this recent night, they gathered for a business meeting at the Pride Collective and Community Center, 1105 1st Ave. S., North Dakota’s only brick-and-mortar gathering space for the LGBTQ community. Other nights, the group meets at restaurants or bars for happy hours or goes to a member’s house to watch movies.
“As people age, they tend to isolate themselves and that can be especially true for us,” said Ella Huwe. “We wanted to create a community so they don’t have to do that.”

Policy and Laughter Blend Beautifully With The Theater of Public Policy


If you’ve never been to a show at the Theater of Public Policy, you should go–soon. This part Town Hall, party comedy show brings conversations about government, policy, and reform to Bryant-Lake Bowl audiences in an accessible and fun format. The theater invites experts in a field related to government, policy, or social justice to the stage to speak on their area of interest, and then the improv cast performs a set based on that. In the first half of the show, the host facilitates a conversation about policy and other important topics between the panelists. The improv cast then takes the stage and creates a set loosely based on that conversation. The second half of the show gives audience members a chance to ask those panelists questions. After some back and forth between the experts and the audience, the improv team goes at it again.

The Theater of Public Policy show I attended was, of course, their LGBTQ+ show entitled We’re Here, We’re Queer, We’re Going to Use a Hashtag. The guest speakers were Councilmember Phillipe Cunningham and Mossier Social Action Program Manager Charlie Rounds. I mention this to give credit to these notable speakers, but the guests do change every week depending on the topic. The night was marketed as an intergenerational conversation, and the improv cast reflected that as well. Topics covered in future weeks are climate change, our national economy, and the death with dignity movement.

I expected some rough spots in the conversation during We’re Here, We’re Queer, We’re Going to Use a Hashtag. Intergenerational conversations are not easy, nor are conversations about any of the topics the Theatre of Public Policy is presenting this May. I don’t think everyone in the audience was as prepared as I was though, and that’s actually a good thing. There needs to be a place where people like Cunningham can openly call out white supremacy and economic privilege in our movement and community. There needs to be a place that we call into question or our privilege and experiences. There needs to be a place where queer youth can learn about the history and ongoing struggles of our movement and community. I also think it’s important that those things happen in an arts environment, where we know we are safe and we know the laughter is coming. A lot of people will check out of a more intense setting, or just not show up at all, and the Theater of Public Policy doesn’t leave room for either of those options

It is likely that upcoming conversations will get less tense less often. That’s also fine; the primary point of the panel portion of this show is education. Both Cunningham and Rounds taught me some facts and stats that even I didn’t know about our rights movements, and I’m pretty well-versed in all things queer. The Theater of Public Policy also strikes me as a necessary meeting ground and community space for politicos and policy nerds to mingle with the arts community that is consistently doing radical work and vice-versa.

The show itself is a stroke of genius. We need to be educated on these issues and this format really “goes there”, but with the promise of some of the best improvisers in the Twin Cities hitting the stage we never check out. This type of show is ushering in conversations and creating comedy sets that are urgent, now more than ever. The promise of events like this is why I do art in the first place.

Cast member Denzel Belin has some feelings during the improv team’s set.

Moving into the art of this series, I am always pleasantly surprised when an improv show is not just funny and cathartic but also polished and professional. This show hits all of those marks. The cast rotates out each week, so rather than go into everyone I saw, here’s a link to their larger cast. The cast played beautifully together creating a consistent sense of joviality throughout the show–a difficult thing to do when tackling such intense material. I was impressed with how social justice oriented the improv set stayed too. This cast stayed very conscientious about queer identities and who might be in attendance for the whole show without ever sacrificing the humor we came to the show for. Note to the improv and comedy scenes: it is absolutely, for sure possible to be both hilarious and respectful of marginalized people. The Theater of Public Policy hits it out of the park. As a side note, I am personally a huge fan of musical improv and comedy and this show had no less than three show-stopping numbers created on the spot for us.

It is both difficult and necessary to have events like the Theatre of Public Policy. There aren’t a ton of resources that break down policy for laypeople that those laypeople will show up to. Furthermore, laughter is absolutely critical for navigating difficult things and times. Finding a balance between the two is challenging, but this group does a stellar job.

The Theater of Public Policy is running shows every Monday through the end of May at Bryant-Lake Bowl in Minneapolis. The shows are at 7:00 pm and are done by 8:30. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. The Theater of Public Policy also has a podcast that promises to be really wonderful too. You can find out more about this great group (including the cast), their upcoming shows, how to get tickets, and the aforementioned podcast at their website.

Queering the Tarot: The Four of Pentacles


The Four of Pentacles denotes success, but it’s one I’ve always had a hard time connecting with. The figure pictured in a traditional Rider Waite tarot deck is holding on to his coins tightly, refusing to let anyone else touch them–and refusing to take chances or move forward in his own life for fear of losing them. This then is a card about conservatism, and worse yet, stinginess or miserliness. It’s a card that leads to loneliness, and it’s a card that creates a wildly unpleasant, if technically successful, life. This card shows up when someone is overly concerned with the financial part of a career they don’t love, but the most common manifestation I see in clients and friends is more of a metaphor. If this card is about being ungenerous, that doesn’t always just mean money. Most people getting tarot readings are not money-centric to a fault the way that this card indicates, though it has had the traditional applications when querents were asking about their boss, a parent, or a partner where things were turning sour. Most often though, this is a card of holding your hand to close to your chest and refusing to let go of information people close to you may need about your inner workings. It’s very often a card of not being generous of heart or spirit and can indicate a seeker who wants to open their heart but can’t. Much like the traditional figure holds his coins close to his body, if this card is showing up as you or an energy you’re putting out there, it’s showing you that you are holding your mysteries, secrets, or capacity for love too tightly and keeping them too internal.

As LGBTQ+ people, it’s a really common temptation to fall into. We get messages and coding from society around us all the time that the way we love or even the way we are isn’t “right.” After enough messages become internalized, we don’t trust when love (in any form) crosses our path. We hold our hearts tightly in our own hands no matter what your queer community or a potential partner does to earn us opening up a little bit. The nature of this card running through my veins is one of my greatest weaknesses as a human. So I know, and I get it. That fear of being hurt, and not only losing someone we could have loved but proving this hurtful world right about us seeps into how we treat the people who are actually worth our hearts. This card shows up mostly as a warning. “This is what you’re doing. Please stop.” or sometimes more politely “It’s okay to let your guard down now.”

Alternatively, this card often indicates that this is what someone (who isn’t you) in your life is doing or going through. It may not be personal, and if anything they may be desperately trying to let you in. Yet they grip themselves so tightly that you can not find your way; this is not your fault. Unfortunately though, it may not change. You have to decide if those pieces of themselves they are clutching are precious enough to wait for. They may be–but the reality is it may be time to walk away. You’re not a friend or partner’s therapist. This is not your job. You are dealing with someone who likely has years or decades of holding too tightly under their belt, and sometimes it’s better to walk away and work through your own stuff.

I don’t want to overlook the elements of control in the Four of Pentacles and how they can manifest negatively in our lives too. Sometimes people hold on to themselves too tightly, but sometimes they hold on to others too tightly. There are times when this is okay. You want someone in your life who’s going to fight for you and your love, but this card isn’t that. There are times when our cards about control become fun explorations into BDSM and kink, but this card isn’t that either. This card is someone who may need to know your every move and who may need to control every facet of how the relationship is going. This card is someone who ultimately wants to control you in an overbearing, abrasive, and abusive way. Abuse is not uncommon in queer relationships, and it’s unfortunately all too common for bisexual and transgender people to be abused by their partners. Furthermore, there often aren’t resources on where to turn to leave those relationships. As a community, we are even more scared than mainstream society to call out abuse. We don’t want people looking at our relationships as bad or our identity as reason for abuse. So we keep quiet, and we don’t call out. That is, to put it mildly, a mistake. I digress a bit–other cards will let us know when it’s time to take a stand publicly. The Four of Pentacles’ job is to urge us to leave that partner/friend/family member. Immediately.

The Four of Pentacles is a card that I’ve seen straight, cisgender readers read positively. In a spiritual community, this has always confused me. Materialism is, generally speaking, not good. I’m not someone who doesn’t value my work, and I absolutely see spiritual work as real work. Yet if we’re hustling for the money to the point that we lose our hearts, what’s the point? Why take a spiritual path at all? I love money–but it’s not why I do what I do. As an LGBTQ+ person, I’ve tried to put a spin on it regarding resource building and sharing, but it still comes up negative. Specifically, it comes up as someone who has the resources to lift our community up but won’t share or contribute. Remember why we’re even queering the tarot though. As marginalized people, our point of view is going to be much different than someone else’s. Plus my whole thesis as a tarot reader is that every card is different to every person. If you can’t turn the wealth yet stinginess, the success yet coldness of the Four of Pentacles into something good, don’t. Question the things we place on pedestals as a society, and know that for every strictly negative card in the deck, there’s seven more cards ready to promise you healing and adventure.

Spotlight On the Arts: Catherine Charles Hammond

Photo by Jason Bucklin for Mixed Blood Theater.
Queer art for queer people really stands out, even in a beautifully artistically saturated area like the Twin Cities. There is something so unique about the voice that comes through when you hand someone a microphone and let them tell their own stories. For this reason (among others), the music and performances of Catherine Charles Hammond have always stood out to me. I was elated when they agreed to interview for our “Spotlight on the Arts” column so I could learn more about their process and the art itself.
Hello! Welcome to “Spotlight on the Arts”. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi Cassandra! My name is Catherine Charles Hammond and I prefer they, she or he pronouns. I’m a writer, musician, and performer.
What draws you to such a variety of art forms? What inspires you to write and perform?
I’ve always loved art that tells some kind of story – hence songwriting, storytelling, theatre, and video. Within those forms, I gravitate toward work that involves an element of “pop” – art that’s intentionally entertaining, pleasurable, fun. I think the most accessible and magical stuff happens when art sets out to connect with its audience while raising meaningful questions and saying something worth saying.
A lot is changing locally  in the queer arts community (and the larger arts community). A lot of companies are shuttering but some really interesting new stuff is popping up. What iss your hope as a queer artist for this community as we move forward?
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the relationship between the various sizes of arts organizations – how the big, established, relatively securely funded organizations and the folks doing work on a smaller, grassroots scale can coexist, share talent and resources, and support each others’ well being. With the recent loss of several organizations who were actively making space for new, raw, nontraditional, marginal work, I’m curious and hopeful about what new spaces and contexts might start to see that work seeping in. Because new work can’t be suppressed. People will not stop telling stories and expressing themselves and sharing with each other. People who feel that urgency to share and create and gather together will find ways and places to do it. I hope that established artists and producers will also do their part to foster a healthy local arts ecosystem by getting creative and seeking new methods and avenues for providing training, resources, and platforms to emerging creators.
Photo by Darin Kamnetz for Daddy MPLS
Talk to us a little bit about your music! I really love what you’re doing.
I’m currently working on an album called whats a boy like you doin in a place like this. The songs come from a few different places in terms of sound and genre, but I think they all have that very direct approach of pop music and they all have a common theme, which I’d sum up as “misadventures in sex and gender.”

My big goal is to make good, fun songs that are also just very, deeply gay. For me and for many queers I know, engaging with existing pop music has always involved some kind of adaptation. To sing anything authentically, we always have to change a song’s lyrics, or pronouns, or octave, or tease out a hidden subtext. Writing my own songs is a joy because I finally get to have music that’s made for my voice, my body, my perspective. There are enough songs about sex and attraction between feminine women and masculine men. I want to make music that could never make sense within that dynamic – songs that are fundamentally, audibly gay.
You’re in a play at Mixed Blood! Tell us about that. What’s the show? What’s it about? What has that process been like?

I am! It’s a new musical called Mermaid Hour: ReMixed and it’s been a ton of fun. It’s about two parents figuring out how to show up for each other and for their daughter, who’s 12 years old and trans.

I love this play because it feels totally honest about this family’s struggles, but is very kind and gentle in its telling. Also, unlike many “trans plays” (and books and movies), this piece isn’t centered around a trans character’s coming out, or transition, or suffering, or a cis character’s journey toward acceptance. Which is so very refreshing since cisgender writers and audiences have a tendency to fixate on those particular themes.

On a personal level, this is my first time performing in a traditional-format play with a professional company. I never thought I’d be able to work in this realm without crushing dysphoria, so getting to play a character whose gender I can identify with, and feeling seen and cared for by the creative team throughout the process, has been a really lovely surprise.
Where and how can we support you and your work further?
You’ve got a few more chances to come see Mermaid Hour – we run through April 29 and it really is a lovely story. (Ed. note: Mixed Blood’s website is here if you want details on this show.)  For my personal music, check out my Bandcamp page where my album will be available to stream and download soon. I’m also hoping to put together an album release event of some kind, which I’ll announce on Bandcamp. One of these days I’ll should really get an up-to-date artist presence going on Facebook and Instagram too. Probably not Twitter. Twitter stresses me out.
Thanks so much Catherine Charles! 

Uprising Theatre Company’s Twisted Deaths Tackles Death Head-on


“I just want to live my life and die my death.” -Ryan Brown in Twisted Deaths

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll start by saying that I’m a deathworker. Part of my spiritual work is helping people prepare, both emotionally and administratively, for their own and their beloveds’ deaths. Honest conversations about death, in art and in life, especially where those conversations intersect with marginalized identities, are squarely in my wheelhouse. So I was probably inclined to enjoy Uprising Theatre Company’s world premiere of Twisted Deaths, written by Uprising founder and Artistic Director Shannon TL Kearns and directed by Ashley Hovell, even if it had sucked. Spoiler alert: it definitely doesn’t suck.

Twisted Deaths has a fairly straightforward premise: Ryan (Anthony Neuman), a young trans man, and Pam (Holly Windle), an older, conservative cis woman, form an unexpected friendship after they both receive terminal cancer diagnoses. Complications arise when those diagnoses—and the decisions Ryan and Pam make in regards to them—butt up against the rest of the world. Pam, stubborn and isolated, despite her insistence otherwise, immediately begins chemo and radiation and then has to live with the consequences of undergoing such severe treatments with a flimsy support network. Ryan, weighing quality of life against quantity, considers not undergoing treatment, to the extreme consternation of his wife Melissa (Jamila Joiner) and best friend Jason (Jeff A Miller).

As you can guess even from that brief synopsis, this play delves into very charged and weighty themes. These are characters in literal life-or-death situations. Trans activism, bodily autonomy, family estrangement, Right to Die legislation, Christianity, and the profoundly broken and transphobic US healthcare system all get at least a foot in the door. Fortunately, Hovell’s deft direction, the cast’s emotionally engaging performances, and the script’s flashes of humor keep the play from feeling heavy or draggy, even when dialogue inches toward screed territory.

Photo credit Hillary Olson featuring Kendra Alaura, Jeff A. Miller, Julia Alvarez, and Jamila Joiner

Performances are solid all around. All of the cast members offer us a clear sense of what their characters want and a wide range of deeply believable human reactions when they can’t get it. The play works best when characters are allowed to lay down their Big Ideas for a moment and connect to each other and/or the audience on a personal level. Standout moments for me were: hospital chaplain Heather (Kendra Alaura) and her oncologist wife Jen (Julia Alvarez) who’ve been deeply at odds throughout the play about coming out to patients and colleagues finally talking to each other, rather than across each other; Pam hitting (literal) bottom and finding herself fixated not on Life’s Big Questions but on the minutiae that usually slides past us; and Melissa finally being able to say, “You’re dying” as she falls apart in Ryan’s arms.

I wanted to shake every character at least once. This is great news, because it means that 1) the script handles complicated themes with a lot of nuance; and 2) the actors show us characters we care enough about to want them to do better by each other. No character is always right or always wrong. They all have their stances and opinions, some of which had me nodding along, some of which had me tearing my hair out, and many of which they have a heart-rendingly difficult time articulating. They screw up. They say terrible things to each other. It’s sad, infuriating, and, as I think most of us have experienced, absolutely representative of how we respond when death is knocking at a loved one’s door—or our own.

I can’t review a play where a queer character dies without addressing the fact that, well, a queer character dies. I understand and respect that some folks just cannot handle another dying LGBTQ+ character. However, Twisted Deaths (unsurprisingly, given that the playwright is trans) makes very clear that Ryan’s cancer is in no way a “punishment” for being trans, nor is it done for the shock value of creating a queer character just to kill them off. Ryan’s death, like Pam’s, is simply the price he pays for living, as do we all. The play’s disapprobation is saved for the transphobic, bottom-line-driven medical establishment that prevented Ryan from receiving competent medical care that could have saved his life.

I don’t often stay for post-show talkbacks, but because death is so central to my life I was curious to see what reactions Twisted Deaths elicited from viewers. I was thrilled to see how many audience members expressed a willingness to more actively engage themselves and their loved ones in addressing hard questions about death and dying. The post-show call to action is an integral part of Uprising’s mission, and I’m heartened to see it turned toward the one truly universal, but still woefully underdiscussed, human experience.

Twisted Deaths is a difficult play, because it’s about difficult topics, but rest assured that you will be in good hands the whole way through. 

Twisted Deaths runs through Saturday, April 28, at the Phoenix Theater. Times, dates, and tickets available via the Uprising website.

Around the Region: Chippewa Valley is becoming more LGBTQ friendly


BluGold Media takes a look at LGBTQ climate in the Chippewa Valley:

In the past year, the Chippewa Valley has made strides in its efforts to strengthen the LGBTQIA+ friendliness in the community.
The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire ranked No. 3 in the country on the list of best colleges for LGBTQIA+ students, while recent community efforts have revolved around the opening of a new LGBTQIA+ community center, sponsoring Queer Prom and planning the annual Pride Days that’s expected to draw its biggest crowds yet.
But, what does this mean for students on campus and members across the Chippewa Valley who identify somewhere along the sexuality and gender identity spectrum?

An anti-gay activist has been fired by the Iowa Senate, KCCI reports:

A legislative clerk in the Iowa Senate has been fired over sexual harassment allegations, Secretary of the Senate Charlie Smithson confirmed to KCCI.
Smithson said in a brief statement Saturday afternoon that “a credible complaint of sexual harassment was made” against Jake Dagel, who clerked for state Sen. Waylon Brown, a Republican from Iowa’s 26th District.
“Upon acknowledging the conduct in question, Mr. Dagel was immediately terminated under the Senate’s strict policy prohibiting harassment in the workplace,” Smithson said.
KCCI interviewed Dagel regarding an incident in September in which he sued the city of Des Moines over traffic cameras.
In 2013, Des Moines Area Community College paid nearly $14,000 to settle a free-speech lawsuit filed by Dagel, who was barred from distributing fliers criticizing a conference on gay youth.

One Iowa is marking 9 years of marriage equality, North Iowa Today reports:

A leading Iowa lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) organization is celebrating 9 years of marriage equality.
Nine years ago today on April 3, 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously decided to uphold Iowa’s legacy of equality and make Iowa the third state in the nation to establish marriage equality (Varnum v. Brien). Six brave plaintiff couples and families raised their voices, shared their stories, and stood up to intense public scrutiny in order to advance equality for same-sex couples statewide. Varnum v. Brien was a watershed moment for the nationwide LGBTQ rights movement that proved marriage equality could be achieved not just on the coasts, but in the heartland as well.
“One Iowa was founded as a marriage equality organization in 2005, and Varnum v. Brien was an incredible victory not only for our organization, but LGBTQ people throughout the state,” One Iowa Executive Director Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel said. “We’ve moved on to other important work, but One Iowa will never forget the Courageous Six and their contribution to LGBTQ equality in Iowa. We would not be where we are today without them, and I personally would not have had the privilege of marrying my husband Charles in 2010.”

The American Legion has reversed course and will allow a transgender boy to participate in youth programs, the Des Moines Register reports:

A transgender Iowa boy will be allowed to attend Boys State, an American Legion’s high school program, after the state board first denied himacceptance into the program.
Emmet Cummings, a transgender high school student from Center Point, said he was denied by the organization’s state board of directors March 19 after he was nominated by his local post in November to attend the weeklong governmental educational program.
Michael Etzel, president of the American Legion Hawkeye Boys State board, said they announced they were going to make an exception for Emmet on March 26. He referred questions regarding the exception back to the American Legion of Iowa headquarters.
Daniel McClure, one of six members of the legion’s board of directors, previously told the Register that the board was reinforcing its decades-old rules when it emphasized: You must be a biological male to attend Boys State.

A Different Kind of Intimacy Comes to the Walker


Many of us remember the ‘80s and ‘90s as being a time of hilariously bad (but comforting) clothes, music, and TV shows. It’s easy to forget through rose colored nostalgia glasses that these were also incredibly charged and polarized times socially and politically. Conservative lawmaking tried to push marginalized people even further into the margins, but the ensuing Culture Wars made sure we were here to stay visible. This conflict and the truly stunning and subversive artwork that emerged from the queer artists of the time are the focus of the Walker Art Center’s A Different Kind of Intimacy: Queer and Radical Performance At The Walker 1990-1995 .

A Different Kind of Intimacy is full of ephemera, videos, and photographs and includes groundbreaking queer artists like Karen Finley (who’s book of essays, stories, photos and more lends this exhibit it’s name), Ishmael Houston-Jones, and the Twin Cities’ own Patrick Scully. In addition to being rooted in queer ideas and interests, artwork being created in this time fought against racism and pushed boundaries all around. A Different Kind of Intimacy reflects that, offering a well-rounded collection in the small Best Buy Aperture at the Walker. The small space, which is free for visitors to explore in the main corridor of the Herzog building, is a great fit for the intimacy many of these artists sought to portray with their classic works. It also forces us as patrons to get up close and personal and face off with the ugliness of the racism, AIDS epidemic, and rampant sexism and queerphobia of the time.

All of the artists featured in A Different Kind of Intimacy have been featured at the Walker before, making this a comfortable homecoming for a number of important LGBTQ+ artists. Gwyneth Shanks, from the Walker’s Visual Art department adds “My desire to work at the Walker was closely linked to my long-held respect for the work the Walker has done, and continues to do. This show is quite personal in that regard, and it has been a pleasure to spend time in the Walker’s archives, unearthing this history in more detail. It has also been an absolute pleasure to meet artists like Patrick Scully and activists and curators like Eleanore Savage, both still based in the Twin Cities. They feature in the exhibit, and spending time with each of them and learning more about the queer landscape of the Twin Cities in the early ’90s and their own activist and artistic practices has been enriching.”

I asked Shanks about some of the pieces on display in this exhibit. She was most excited to talk about costume and set pieces from Ron Vawter’s Roy Cohn/Jack Smith. Vawter was an actor across film, stage, and experimental theater, and Roy Cohn/Jack Smith was the last solo theatre piece he developed before he passed away from HIV/AIDS in 1994. The Walker was gifted the set and costume for the piece a few years after his passing, as the art center had played a key role in supporting Ron’s work. The costume and set, as visitors will see, are made up of lush, colorful fabrics, kitchy gold props, and costume jewelry. It’s really a delight to look at, belying, in many ways, the more serious themes Ron explored in the work. This is also the first time since Ron’s last performance and his death that his costume will be on display. The display for me is both a celebration of his work and a poignant reflection on his death and the deaths of so many artists of the time from HIV/AIDS.”

A Different Kind of Intimacy: Queer and Radical Performance At The Walker 1990-1995 is currently on display at the Best Buy Aperture in the Herzog building of the Walker Arts Center. You can walk in and take a look around at no charge. This space was meant to welcome people in for intimate exhibits, and A Different Kind of Intimacy is a great exhibit to fill that space. Find out more at the Walker’s website, or plan a full trip.

Minneapolist St. Paul International Film Festival Brings Queer Content to the Big Screen

A still from “Disobedience” starring Rachel Weisz & Rachel McAdams

The Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival (MSPIFF) does a wonderful job annually of bringing the best and brightest in independent and foreign film to the Twin Cities, right at St. Anthony Main in the heart of Minneapolis. There are always some “must sees” for the LGBTQ+ crowd, and this year MSPIFF has included seven films in their “LGBT Currents” section. These films run the gamut from fictional love stories to documentaries, and stories come (as you can tell by the name of the Festival) from all over the world.

One film that does take place here in the US is The Blessing, a documentary that documents a Navajo family’s struggle to find their footing after the coal mining industry devastates their town. The film focuses on a coal miner who’s guilt is crushing him as he tries to raise and connect with his daughter. This project is directed by the Emmy winning filmmaking duo Jordan Fein and Hunter Baker, who will be here for this film’s showings.

Press image for Pam Colby’s “Not In My Lifetime”

Another US based documentary is Not In My Lifetime, which is a Pam Colby project highlighting the fight for marriage equality from the baby boomers in our community. I’m really interested in the uplifting approach this film takes, choosing to focus on the love romantic couples share and the bonds activists form. Colby will be attending MSPIFF as well.

I’m really happy to see Mr. Gay Syria included in this year’s lineup. Mr. Gay Syria is a documentary in Arabic with English subtitles. This film is being marketed as a “celebration of expression and identity,” but does hit hard when showing the bigotry and institutionalized homophobia that the LGBTQ+ Syrian refugees living in Istanbul face against the backdrop of preparation for the Mr. Gay World pageant in 2016.  

All of the films being showcased in the LGBT Currents program at MSPIFF are crushingly relevant right now, but that’s especially true of the documentary TransMilitary. Though there are over 16,000 transgender troops in the Armed Forces right now, they face constant discrimination and now, threats to their livelihood. This documentary showcases four transgender troops and highlights their struggles and determination to change the system.

Three fictional films round out this year’s LGBT Currents program, all focusing on connection among queer people, even if that need for connection is wrapped up in love stories. Like most queer women I know, I’ve been chomping at the bit for Disobedience to hit a local theater. This love story between a woman returning to a strict religious community that once shunned her and a childhood friend she reconnects with stars Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams as the two lovers. Honestly this film could go either way, but I’ll probably love it regardless.

Love and loss both feature heavily in The Cakemaker, a story of a closeted love affair told through the eyes of a grieving partner. This one sounds like it has everything I love in foreign and independent film: sweeping shots of foreign-to-me countries (Israel and Germany in this case), deep love between characters, and a sense of loss and grief that somehow makes us feel full. This one is in Hebrew but does have English subtitles.

A still from “A Moment in the Reeds”

Finally we’ve got A Moment in the Reeds, a Finnish film about a Syrian refugee and a Finnish literature student connecting over house renovations and shared experiences. Director Mikko Makela will be on hand to answer questions. This one is in Finnish and English and has English subtitles.

All of these films are being show between April 12th and 28th as part of the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival at St. Anthony Main. Their website is the best place to get information and tickets for these showings (as well as the specific dates and times). Generally speaking, tickets are $14 to the general public, $11 for Film Society members, and $8 if you’re under 25 or have a current student ID.

Queering the Tarot: The Three of Pentacles


The Three of Pentacles is a tarot card that show up to assure us that step by step methods of gain pay off. It’s a card where collaboration is queen. It’s a card where slow and steady really, really does win the race. After an Ace of sudden news and opportunity and a Two where things look a little less steady, this Three promises that the effort you put in after the Ace pays off. Working with others is also well-aspected, and long time dreams of collaboration often come to fruition. In The Spiral Tarot, one of my oldest and dearest decks, we see a ballerina being applauded and praised for their work. I’ve internalized this card as also meaning then that the right people are paying attention, and that’s what will lead to your day in the spotlight. Ballet is tedious, hard work and it’s easy for dancers to feel disheartened or discouraged. Yet here one is, with every bit of that work paying off because someone saw enough in them to grant them a role where a whole room full of people would stand up and applaud. It’s a beautiful card, and one I’ve cried upon receiving. This work might feel thankless, but your loved ones, your superiors at work, your favorite diety–they’re watching, and you’re going to be so thrilled that you took all the right steps to get here.

As an LGBTQ+ person, this card does lend itself to the activist collective in spite of the microcosmic nature of the Pentacles suit. Brick by brick we are building a better world. Little by little, the people in charge are noticing. Piece by piece we are covering up the scars that our kyriarchy has left on it’s individuals. That’s magical. It’s also logical. Along this line, when we’re talking about resource building and giving back to our community, this card urges us not to get discouraged so easily. Maybe no one hears about your space or opportunity at first, but a Three of Pentacles tells you stick with it. The right people will hear about it, and you will end up giving back and making your mark in your community.

Because this suit is so personal, I have seen mountains be moved in client’s families of origin with this card. There are clients who get a lot of pushback on their identity from their family but who don’t want to give up or disown those people. No one HAS to make that choice, but it is a totally valid (and totally human) one to make. The Three of Pentacles does promise those querents that the work of trying to open those hearts and minds will pay off, and better yet, assures us that you have allies in the situation even if you didn’t know that.

The Three of Pentacles is one that really does almost always show up regarding career. It has definitely had those other manifestations I’ve talked about, but nine times out of ten, this is a career card. Many of us who are LGBTQ+ have our identities built into our career or branding, or are professional policy makers and activists. This card essentially promises that those were worthwhile chances to take. We see the right clients coming to us, the right supervisors paying attention, and we see that other people’s identities or allyship come to our rescue and push us from where we are to the next step. This is a card where I urge people not to hide in their careers. It’s a card of assets, and trusting that the assets we are using will bring about the conclusion we desire. We are our own greatest asset though, and the Three of Pentacles promises we can put our whole queer selves in the spotlight and come out with the stability and career growth we crave.

Around the Region: Milwaukee bans conversion therapy



Milwaukee has become the first city in Wisconsin to ban conversion therapy, Wisconsin Public Radio reports:

Milwaukee officials sent the mayor a proposal to prohibit therapists and counselors from trying to change a minor’s sexual orientation.
The vote Tuesday came amid a charged environment in city hall as supporters of the ban applauded and waved a rainbow-colored flag while opponents yelled “evil” at Common Council members. Two of the 15 council members voted no.
Mayor Tom Barrett has until April 7 to sign the ordinance and he plans to do so.

A new drop-in center for Milwaukee’s LGBTQ youth has opened, NBC reports:

Courage House, which is expected to open its doors in November, will be Wisconsin’s first group home and drop-in center specifically for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth.
“I would love to say that it makes me feel amazing, but it makes me sad I have to do it at the same time,” Brad Schlaikowski, co-founder of Courage House, told NBC News.
Together with his husband and co-founder, Nick, Brad has spent the last two years raising money to open the eight-bedroom home in Milwaukee. It will be the one place these teens can go without fear of rejection, he said, noting that LGBTQ foster and homeless youth are rejected more often than their straight peers.

LGBTQ students in Wisconsin report feeling less safe at school than their peers, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:

Students of color, students with disabilities, and students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender feel less safe and supported at school than their peers, according to a new state analysis of student survey data.
Students from marginalized groups also are more likely to feel anxious and suicidal.
It’s the first of many reports state officials are releasing in the deepest look they’ve ever taken at disparities and mental health based on data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
The 2017 survey collected data from over 2,000 high school students in 43 schools around the state. It is conducted every two years in coordination with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An Iowa Republican is pushing back against Trump’s ban of transgender troops, The Hill reports:

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) on Sunday broke with President Trump over his new ban on transgender Americans serving in the military.
In an interview on “Face the Nation,” Ernst told CBS News’s Margaret Brennan that she supports allowing transgender people to serve in the military as long as they fit the physical and mental standards required.
“I have asked transgenders myself, if you are willing to lay down your life beside mine, I would welcome you into our military,” she said.
“We do want to make sure that they meet physical requirements,” Ernst said. “We can’t waive that. That is true across any demographic within our military, making sure that they are physically fit and they meet the mental standard.”
Trump issued a memo late Friday effectively banning most transgender people from serving in the military, “except under limited circumstances.”

The American Legion is taking criticism for denying a transgender boy from participating in its youth program, the Des Moines Register reports:

A transgender Iowa boy has been denied acceptance to an American Legion’s high school program despite support from his local chapter, his family says.
Emmet Cummings, a transgender high school student from Center Point, said he was denied by the organization’s state board of directors Monday after he was nominated by his local post in November to attend the weeklong governmental educational program.
In interviews with the Register, Emmet and his mother, Halane Cummings, expressed frustration that he could not participate. The Center Point-Urbana High School junior, a 17-year-old twin, was born a female and has been transitioning to male for three years.
“It’s kind of heartbreaking,” Emmet said, “especially knowing there could be more transgendered people who are interested in government because (the board) does not want transgendered people.”
Daniel McClure, one of six members of the legion’s Hawkeye Boys State board of directors, said the board was reinforcing its decades-old rules when it emphasized: You must be a biological male to attend Boys State.
“You must be male if you’re going to participate,” McClure, who also serves as a state chaplain for the legion, told the Register. “You must be a boy.”

LGBTQ groups are warning that a school voucher plan could exacerbate anti-LGBTQ discrimination, the Des Moines Register reports:

Iowa tax dollars could go to schools that deny admission to gay and lesbian students if lawmakers move forward with legislation allowing education savings accounts for K-12 students, according to LGBTQ advocates.
Iowa lawmakers are considering Senate Study Bill 3206, which would allow students enrolling in private schools to be eligible for about $4,000 a year in state money.
Proponents of the school choice legislation say it would likely help families who don’t qualify for financial assistance, but who can’t afford private school tuition.
The Iowa Catholic Conference, the Iowa Association of Christian Schools and the Family Leader, a conservative Christian advocacy group, are among those backing the measure.
But One Iowa Action, a group that works to advance the rights of LGBTQ Iowans, says tax dollars should not support schools that discriminate against students based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Some private school policies say they will refuse admission based on a homosexuality, the group says.
“This cannot be allowed to stand,” said Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel, One Iowa’s executive director.

Orange City has changed its policies on LGBTQ books after outcry from conservative Christian parents, the Sioux City Journal reports:

Amid a call from some community members to segregate library materials containing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning — or LBGTQ — themes, the Orange City Public Library’s Board of Trustees plans to experiment with a new way of classifying books.
The new method, which is used in some other Iowa libraries, would group books by subjects and subcategories rather than solely in alphabetical order by author’s name.
Also, in response to any concern from the community over individual librarians pushing an agenda, the library may have more staff members review the acquisition of new materials.
The proposed changes, discussed Tuesday during the board’s monthly meeting, come a month after community members presented a petition with more than 340 signatures to specially label and separate books with LGBTQ themes from the library’s main collection and to halt any new acquisitions of such materials without public input.
The board also on Tuesday voted unanimously to keep a pair of challenged children’s books — one accused by a community member of trying to “indoctrinate” youth into “transgender normalization” — in the library’s collection despite statements of concern brought forward by community members.

The University of Iowa has more LGBTQ groups than ever, the Press Citizen reports:

With hate graffiti sprouting up on its unity walls, and a near-brush with proposed legislation many say would have legalized LGBT discrimination, the University of Iowa’s heritage of diversity and openness might seem a little fragile right now.

But behind the scenes — especially at the LGBTQ Resource Center, a quaint building just off the infamous “roundabout” at the end of Grand Avenue — the UI’s long tradition of LGBT-friendliness is thriving stronger than ever.

A total of nine LGBTQ+ groups now exist to provide moral and networking support to students. That’s more than ever before in the university’s history.