Friday, June 09, 2017

Land o’Lakes • Minnesota

Written by  David Placher
Pedestrianfriendly neighborhoods Pedestrianfriendly neighborhoods

The wise old saying, “in order to have a friend, you have to be a friend” guided my answer when I was asked to join a friend in her journey to Minnesota. The trip included us having an official song – Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” – along with some hiccups of mutual impatience, and personal growth. Most people know that “LGBT” stands for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender,” but some of us also include “queer,” “intersex,” and “asexual,” resulting in the abbreviation “LGBTQIA.” My trip with my friend was a learning experience about both intersex and Minnesota.

Intersex people are born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. They often face stigmatization and discrimination as a result. In some countries, this may include infanticide, abandonment, and the stigmatization of families. My friend was born with XY chromosomes but undeveloped external genital, so due to the complexity of the condition, the doctors advised her family to raise her as a female and she went into plastic reconstructive surgery to feminize the genital area. Born in the Middle East where sexual minorities are not much recognized, she struggled with her biological development, her sexual attraction toward women, and her social place in her community. Although her parents provided her with great opportunities, they never revealed the truth to her until after she discovered her status later in life. Then shetalked with them to uncover the secret. Her career journey put her in the medical field and took her to Minnesota, a place very friendly toward the LGBTQIA community.

The cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, known jointly as the Twin Cities, have a vibrant scene, with annual pride events, community centers, nightclubs, and support groups of all flavors. The entire region known as the Minneapolis–St. Paul area, extends into Wisconsin, and has a population of almost 3.9 million, making it the 14th largest U.S. metropolitan area. There are numerous lakes in the region and a very extensive park system for recreation. Those parks are well used, and the area’s population is ranked as the most physically fit in the country.

The Twin Cities has some of the best gay night clubs in the Midwest. The Gay 90s is a large club that has awesome drag shows, great food, and drink specials. It has six bars and three dance floors with awesome colored lights, each playing different energizing music. The Saloon provides an energizing atmosphere, thumping music for dancers to get wild on the dancefloors and numerous bars. The EagleBoltbar, formerly known as the Minneapolis Eagle, is lively and offers the best happy hour deals in town, such as three-for-one Friday happy hour and a Sunday “Beer Bust and Show Tunes.” The Lush, known for its fun and entertaining drag brunch, provides a homemade breakfast buffet and bottomless mimosas. Jetset Bar has DJs and karaoke nights with specialty cocktails during the late hours.

Although the number of gay bars decreases outside the Twin Cities, annual pride events are held in large cities such as Duluth, Moorhead, St.Cloud, and Rochester. In Rochester, there’s no gay bar, but it is known as one of the best places to live in for LGBTQIA people. It is home to the Mayo Clinic, which is ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the best hospitals in the world, and has a major IBM outpost. Rochester is a small city of around 100,000, located on the Zumbro River’s south fork. It is Minnesota’s third-largest city and the largest outside of the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington metro areas. One of the favorite meeting places is Cafe Steam, a little coffee shop with unique coffees and a stage for artists to perform.

In addition to the cities, Minnesota is a great place for LGBTQIA people to start a family. It allows a single member of a same-sex couple to petition to adopt children and there is no specific prohibition against joint same-sex couple adoption petitions or step-parent petitions for same-sex couples. Minnesota Adoption Resource Network, the state’s organization dedicated to finding families for Minnesota’s children, allows same-sex partners to adopt just like singles and opposite-sex partners. In 1989, Minnesota passed a law that protects people from hate crimes on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation, and in 1993, sexual orientation was expanded to include the category of gender identity.

For the parks, the lakes, the cool culture and political vibe, consider this summer taking a long weekend trip to Minnesota!


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