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Community Dialogue

An Astute Salute 5th Annual Lavender Pride Awards

One of the undiluted pleasures of living in the Twin Cities is the knowledge that one is surrounded by a numerous and diverse GLBT community—or communities—as many may prefer to think of us.

As we prepare to fete ourselves with the flash and glitter of the Pride Celebration, Lavender’s PRIDE Awards remind us that the season is about more than cheap thrills and expensive beer.

Countless savvy individuals and groups embracing music, art, theater, politics, and finance all take an active role in ensuring that every gay, lesbian, bi, trans, and any other person affiliated with our ever-evolving queer alphabet soup is respected, protected, and given a chance to thrive here in Minnesota.

The problematic part for us at Lavender is the very vastness of the pool of exceptional people, nonprofit organizations, and businesses from which we must choose a mere six on whom to bestow these annual PRIDE Awards.

As in past years, we call on PRIDE as a useful acronym for remembering the phrase “People Rallying Individuality, Diversity, and Equality”—words that most certainly embrace our six honorees and their work.

It is no easy feat to not only put oneself and/or one’s organization on the line for our family, advocating for the civil rights of an oft-scapegoated minority, while striving to maintain the individuality of those for whom one works—all to achieve integration without homogenization, uniqueness without isolation.

Therefore, we salute these six, and tip our hats to them with this well-earned recognition.

We also invite you to join us in a rousing Huzzah! for our 2007 recipients, and in wishing them all good fortune for their continued efforts in the future. At Lavender’s Summer of Pride kickoff party on June 7 they were fêted at Jetset in Minneapolis. For a complete list of summer events, visit www.lavendermagazine.com/summerofpride.

If you know of, or encounter during the coming year, an exceptional someone or group you’d like to nominate for the 2008 PRIDE Awards, e-mail that person’s (organization’s) name and contact information, along with a brief description of what makes that person (organization) a deserving candidate to editor@lavendermagazine.com.





Photo by Rita Nohner/Life Image, LLC
Cheer, Dorothy, Cheer
by Daniel Fink

How do you support the fight against AIDS?

Do you contribute to charities? Wear a red ribbon? Buy your (Product) Red clothes from The Gap? Put on a pleated skirt and cheer for the whole world to hear?

Only six men in the Twin Cities can raise a pompom to that last option, and they do. Cheer, Dorothy, Cheer! has been bringing laughter and awareness about issues of HIV and diversity for over five years.

The group was the brainchild of the blue cheerleader, Dennis Meyers. An HIV-positive man himself, the idea came to him after seeing Bring It On and The Wizard of Oz. “Kind of the idea of turning cheerleading into a musical, and taking the theme of The Wizard of Oz,” Meyers said. “Everyone in our group is a Dorothy in the sense that you’re gay.”

Most of the members of the group are HIV-positive themselves, which makes bringing the message of awareness and acceptance of people with HIV very personal.

“It’s showing role models—that you can be HIV-positive and still be a viable member of society and contribute in a wonderful, entertaining, and hilarious way,” said green cheerleader David Brown.

And hilarious seems to be the key to everyone’s hearts. Providing major entertainment for events such as the Red Ribbon Ride, the Minnesota AIDS walk, Big Hair Mania, and many others, the group has garnered attention and praise from gays and straights alike who love to get the positive message in such an easygoing way.

“But it’s a lot of hard work,” Brown says. The hardest part seems to be keeping members interested. All Dorothies are volunteers, rehearsing every Tuesday night at Park House for 4 hours. Extra rehearsals are scheduled when they have shows.

“This is full-on collegiate style, rehearsed, and fully choreographed work. And when they see it people are like, ‘Oh my God, you guys were phenomenal,’” Brown said.

Cheer, Dorothy, Cheer! has traveled around the country. Booking events such as pride festivals, AIDS organization Fund-raisers, and receiving offers to perform at corporate events all means that their message is getting across loud and clear.

With all the interest in having them perform, the group thought that they’d have a bunch of people clamoring to become cheerleaders themselves. But the interest wasn’t there. And the squad, though the perfect size at six-members strong, would always be welcome to having new Dorothies join the group.

Now that the group is established and loved, Meyers wants to take the Dorothies in a different direction. “I think the hardest part is convincing the guys to take a leap. Now that we have more defined roles on the squad, I have a little more guts to be bold with it. Dorothy should be on an adventure by now, she should be in trouble, she should have been in prison for two years.” He laughs as he thinks of everyone in the group as their cast characters in the Wizard of Oz story, and all the fun that could happen when you take the cast out of Oz.

One big change for Cheer, Dorothy, Cheer! this year was becoming a nonprofit. The status has helped to formalize the group and give them a direction and a mission statement. It also helps give credibility and validation to the group that what they are doing really helps the community. And it also reassures people donating to the group, that their money is going to help spread the message. And of course, a portion of all proceeds go to other HIV/AIDS nonprofit groups like the Red Ribbon Ride or Park House. Now, isn’t that something worth cheering for?

For more information on these friends of Dorothy, visit www.cheerdorothycheer.com.





Photo by Mike Hnida
Lee Haugee
by Todd Park

If you were to pass Lee Haugee on the street, you might not remember her. But once you’d met, you wouldn’t forget her. She’s the self-described “Bingo Babe” at the irreverent convocation in the Incarnation Church basement, more commonly known as Bingo A-Go-Go…and she’s the only one who trumps the sharp-tongued Miss Richfield 1981. Seeing Lee in action proves she is no newcomer to keeping on task, and people will tell you she does it with the tough love akin to that of a mama bear.

Lee has been an active volunteer since her children were little. With her work at the YMCA and the Children’s Theatre, is it any wonder she loves the gay community so completely?  She jokes that her stint as an Avon lady gave her a love for drag queens. During a particular stretch of performing one of her many odd jobs, she crossed paths with someone who was dying of AIDS. It was something she couldn’t forget, but it wasn’t until 1996 that her volunteerism steered specifically toward HIV/AIDS work.

The change came when she embarked on a bike ride from the Twin Cities to Chicago. She recalled responding to a newspaper ad for the event as if it were a challenge. “I didn’t know it was for AIDS,” she said with a touch of chagrin. Finding that the ride benefited a number of agencies, she immediately signed up and volunteered. “I did it! I rode my bike to Chicago and I met the most amazing, courageous people.”

Her experience during the ride changed everything. When she became physically exhausted, she would whine, asking herself why she was doing this crazy thing, daydreaming about the aches and pains going away and how much better she’d feel with a bath when she got back. That was when she had an epiphany of sorts: so many of those she was riding for would never get better.

When she returned, she wanted to continue in the work. Lee became the first employee of Samaritan House, a foster home for people living with AIDS. She threw herself into the work, practically living at the home herself, and learning everything she could. Chuckling, she said, “I flunked every science course I took, but I learned everything about this disease. It’s about the people.” There she saw the GLBT and faith communities intertwine to care for people in need.

Today, Lee is the Events and Volunteer Manager for Clare Housing, a project like Samaritan House. She still spends a lot of time at work, which now takes her all over. She does a lot of public speaking, educating the public about Clare Housing and HIV/AIDS with the fervor of an evangelist. “As long as I can continue to talk to different groups, I can keep that excitement alive,” she says. But now it’s the younger crowd that has captured her attention.

She feels today’s youth is at particular risk, with their mentality of immortality, thinking "it will never happen to me." Because they didn’t live through the horrors of the initial AIDS outbreak, much of today’s youth assumes that AIDS is cured with a pill. Lee holds the media culture especially responsible for this false notion. “They look at Magic Johnson and think he’s healed.” She adds flatly, “Well, he’s not. He has access to medication. They look at me with mouths open, ‘I thought AIDS was over.’ The fact of the matter is that every 29 hours in Minnesota, someone becomes HIV positive, every 8 seconds globally.” She adds sternly that despite great strides in managing the disease, it is still lethal.  By no means is this a white gay man’s affliction. The other factor for youth’s risk is idealism. Lee beams in adding, “I’m so excited when I can talk to them and they want to do something.”

With a waiting list of more than 50 people, Clare Housing is showing an optimistic trend. More people are living with HIV/AIDS than dying of it. Health and housing go hand-in-hand, and with Lee Haugee’s energetic work, Clare Housing is adapting to the changing needs of this segment of our community.

For more information on Clare Housing, visit www.clarehousing.org.  





Photo by Mike Hnida
Joe Ward
by Michael Davis

Joseph Ward describes himself as a “work in progress.” For him, life isn’t about maintaining the status quo. “I am always looking at myself and thinking ‘How can I make a difference? How can I make the world a better place for my community?’”

Fortunately, Ward found some pretty good answers to those questions. Five years ago, he became a founding member and the president of Minnesota Soul Essence, an organization dedicated to building unity, and empowering African-Americans in the GLBT community. “Being African American and gay, I know how difficult it can be to not feel good about yourself,” he shares. “I struggled with it for years–not feeling comfortable with myself and not really knowing who I was. It really bothered me.”

The idea for Soul Essence emerged as Ward and fellow associates discussed their disappointment with the 2002 Black Pride Celebration. They decided that working together, they could present a much more enriching African-American Pride celebration. Officially a group that fall, they changed the name of the Black Pride Celebration, traditionally held in August, to the Soul Essence Pride Celebration.

“‘Black Pride’ had become too generic,” says Ward. “We wanted to make sure that our pride celebration reflected more of who we are as people and not be defined by race or color. We welcome all races and cultures to join in the celebration with us.” Ward honed his leadership skills with 15 years of management experience at organizations like American Express Financial Advisors and the Star Tribune Company. He is not only the current director of Soul Essence, but also the only person to serve as head of the organization. 

Howard Ellis has known Ward for nearly 10 years and is another founding member of Soul Essence. “Joe is a great motivator,” he says. “He’s very good at getting people involved. People are encouraged to cooperate with him because they see his sincerity.”

Under Ward’s leadership, Soul Essence, which has gained the support of PFund, Rainbow Families, PFLAG and OutFront Minnesota, among others, has presented workshops on health and wellness, history and spirituality, and has put on talent shows, poetry slams, dances, parties, skate jams, family gatherings, and soul food meals. Last year, at the Hyatt Regency, 250 people attended the Opening Ceremonies, the upscale affair kicking off the weekend event.

“I have worked with Joe Ward since 2000 when I worked at Minnesota Men of Color,” says Nick Metcalf of the African American AIDS Task Force. “Joe works as a bridge builder, intracultural communicator, and negotiator on many different projects he is associated with.”

Despite a demanding and long-term commitment to community, Ward doesn’t let his work interfere with his personal life. “I am a very serious-minded, no-nonsense kind of guy, committed to myself first, community second.” He credits his partner of eight years with helping him balance responsibilities and personal life. “Dean is there to support my work with Soul Essence every day and the board of Soul Essence will testify to that. He actually helps me with planning the events and doing the work.”

Among the things he’s most proud of, Ward’s parents are number one. “Not a day went by while I was growing up that I didn’t know I was loved,” he says. Next are the good friends in his life. “Talk about a great support system. WOW!” And then there is Soul Essence.

“Pride for me is feeling good about who you are and not being ashamed of what you are,” he says. “That means if you are gay, lesbian, transgender, or if you are black, Latino, Asian, or a combination of several things. Respect yourself first and role model that to your family, friends, and wherever you go.”

For more information on Soul Essence, visit www.soulessenceminnesota.org.





Photo by Sophia Hantzes
Anne Phibbs
by Michael Davis

Anne Phibbs is always starting something.

Whether it’s laying the groundwork for a new GLBT student services office or calling the initial meeting for a statewide academic organization, Phibbs knows how to draw on the talents of people with diverse backgrounds and make things happen. “We have this idea about leaders, but in fact, we’re all leaders,” she says. “Everyone has gifts. And in that way, everybody gets to inspire you. What a neat idea that you can constantly be inspired.”

While serving as an academic advisor at Metropolitan State University, Phibbs was instrumental in creating the Director of GLBT Student Services position in which she served for eight years. She also served as advisor for Lavender Bridge, the GLBT student organization, and taught several classes including Feminist Theory, GLBT Film, and Business Ethics. She played a substantial role in the development of the university’s active GLBT presence on campus and in the process, won the Student Advisor Award, the Elizabeth Shippee Award for Service to Women, and received a tile in the library skyway in her honor.

“Anne Phibbs is the kind of person who will believe in you even when you don’t believe in yourself,” said Anne Hodson, a recent MSU graduate who served as president of Lavender Bridge for two-and-a-half years. “There were times when I didn’t believe in myself and Anne really talked me through.”

In January 2006, Phibbs was appointed Director of the GLBTA Programs Office at the University of Minnesota. As director, she is responsible for GLBTA programs on all five University of Minnesota campuses.

According to Geoffrey Maruyama, who served as Interim Associate Vice President of the Office for Multicultural and Academic Affairs last year and was the hiring authority for Phibbs’s position, she “hit the ground running.”

“She is a great bridge builder, engaging people on all UM campuses and hosting campus events that brought together GLBT faculty, staff, and students as well as allies,” he said. “She worked also to create and support campus conversations on a full range of diversity issues, including race/ethnicity, gender, and disability.” Just three months into her tenure, Phibbs started the Minnesota GLBTA Campus Alliance, a coalition of students, faculty and staff from college campuses all across Minnesota.

“Anne Phibbs is an amazing GLBT leader and a mentor for me,” says Sidney Smith, who recently took over for Phibbs as GLBT Student Services Coordinator at MSU, and is also one of the cochairs for the MN GLBTA Campus Alliance. “I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to work with her.”

Phibbs is a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Massachusetts-Boston where she received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and women’s studies. She also has a doctorate in philosophy with a feminist studies minor from the University of Minnesota.

Phibbs’s number one source of pride is her family. she and her partner of nearly 24 years, Deb, have two children whom they coparent with the children’s father and his gay partner. In July of 2000, the couple enjoyed a civil commitment ceremony in Vermont.

Phibbs admits that balancing her job, which sometimes demands 15-hour workdays, and her family is not always easy. But she genuinely enjoys what she does and says it helps keep her going.

“The work I do is work, but it feeds me so fundamentally,” she says. “I have so much fun with the people I work with. At the GLBTA Programs Office, I have the best staff in the whole world. Not only do they work really, really hard, but they’re really fun and they’re really smart. That makes it a lot easier.”

Her enthusiasm is contagious.

For more information about the GLBTA Programs Office, visit http://www.glbta.umn.edu.





Photo by Mike Hnida
Doctor Hanan Rosenstein
by Daniel Fink

Health is always on the mind of the gay community. And the health of the gay community is always on the mind of Dr. Hanan Rosenstein. For over 35 years, Rosenstein has been working with GLBT patients to ensure that everyone is getting the same opportunities as far as health care goes.

“I really saw so much bad medicine given to gays and lesbians,” Rosenstein recalls. “So much bigotry, it was unbelievable in the field of medicine.” Luckily, he’s seen vast improvements in the treatment of the queer community in major metropolitan areas.

But there’s still room for improvement. “I still see the problems in the rural areas, where the numbers of gays and lesbians are smaller and people don’t come into contact with them,” Rosenstein said. “Occasional patients that come in from the rural areas say they just can’t get good health care because the doctors say, ‘well, we really don’t know anything about that.’ And I’m not talking about HIV, I’m talking about general health care.”

The 68-year-old doctor was born and raised here in Minneapolis. He went to the University of Minnesota for undergraduate work and for medical school as well. “I couldn’t afford anything else,” Rosenstein said with a smile on his face.

After graduating from med school in 1964, he did a two-year stint in the Air Force.

As an openly gay doctor, he sometimes had to deal with the homophobia of his colleagues. “I would hear it indirectly from other people,” Rosenstein said. “Some people that I knew were friends would tell me what was being said. They were the typical homophobic remarks like, ‘Oh, he’s light in his loafers.’”

Leading by example, Rosenstein and his then medical partner, Dr. John Weiser, improved the way gay and lesbian patients were being treated by Minneapolis doctors.

After seeing his first AIDS patient in 1981, Rosenstein took up HIV/AIDS as a cause because of the initial impact it had on the gay community. Although it didn’t remain an exclusively gay disease, Rosenstein stayed at the forefront of HIV and AIDS research. Rosenstein was on the HIV subcommittee for the Minnesota Medical Association’s Health committee. He’s been on the board of Park House, a place where HIV afflicted patients can get help increasing their health, both mentally and physically.

He is particularly proud of helping to start Clinic 42 in 1987. This clinic not only addresses the needs of patients and tries to help them regain their physical and emotional health, but at the same time has programs in place to conduct in-house research to continue learning about HIV/AIDS. Clinic 42 is also where he teaches medical students for the University of Minnesota’s Family Medicine department.

Unfortunately, Rosenstein has seen the attitudes towards HIV/AIDS change for the worse in younger generations. “The current generation of gay men underestimate what this disease can do to them, even with medication,” Rosenstein said. “I stopped counting how many friends and patients of mine died from the epidemic years ago. And I remember what an awful death those patients went through.”

Funding for AIDS research has also taken that same attitude. There are no big deaths in the headlines. “When people were dying, everybody wanted to help, and wanted to give money,” he notes. “And now the federal government has backed off on research dollars in the United States. They’re spending the same amount of money, but they’re now funneling it over to Africa to do research over there.”

Without doctors like Hanan Rosenstein, the simple act of getting a check-up or getting proper HIV treatment for anyone in the gay community could still be an arduous task. But thanks to Rosenstein, medicine is still about helping people, and not about fostering discrimination.





Photo by Mike Hnida
Wells Fargo
by Todd Park

Wells Fargo may be the fifth largest financial services company in the US, but it’s clear from its corporate philosophy that big business bureaucracy is not what drives the behemoth bank. Wells Fargo got to “the next stage” by investing in its people rather than simply kowtowing to stockholder demand for ever-increasing dividends. It’s also clear the 115,000 people that comprise its work force agree. Not only did Wells Fargo score a perfect 100 on the Human Rights Campaign [HRC] “Best Places To Work” Index, the company is recognized nationally for its leadership by Diversity, Inc. (ranked 17th nationally), and placed in the Working Mother and Hispanic magazine top 100 companies.

But good marks from authoritative sources are just the tip of the iceberg. Their support base for success is a thriving network of 53 diversity councils and 92 member resource groups who have worked with the company to create a respectful and comfortable environment that embraces inclusive values. Wells Fargo got the message long ago that diversity is good for the bottom line. Company leadership recognized diversity as a tremendous opportunity, and it infused their business model with creativity, perspective, and the human element.

Tamara Peterson came to Wells Fargo in 2003, specifically because of the “wonderful embracing employee network and Wells Fargo’s stance on diversity.” Today, she heads up the PRIDE team member resource group in the Twin Cities, one of 22 chapters across the country. Although her work with PRIDE is a collateral function of her work with Wells Fargo, she finds herself volunteering a lot of time to PRIDE. In addition to corporate sponsorship, PRIDE has extended Wells Fargo’s presence into the community by participating in the Minnesota AIDS Walk, the Twin Cities Pride Festival, the Minnesota Red Ribbon Ride, and the annual HRC Gala.

Within the organization, PRIDE has made great strides in furthering equality, leading the way for Wells Fargo to be one of the very first companies to amend its nondiscrimination policy to include gender identity. Wells Fargo executives get the more meaningful message of diversity as well: Diversity is about mutual respect and is, quite simply, the right thing to do in corporate leadership and philosophy. Peterson indicated that the leadership reaches out to executives of other companies to emphasize the importance of diversity for good business.

Not only has Wells Fargo been a longtime national sponsor and partner of HRC, it has supported the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force since the late 1990s. Wells Fargo is the only financial services company to be a national corporate sponsor of the NGLTF. More recently, Wells Fargo became the first-ever Presenting Sponsor for the National Center for Lesbian Rights Anniversary Gala in 2002 and now participates annually in the event.

The investment in the GLBT community is not limited to humanitarian and social services. It extends into local businesses and customers. Wells Fargo is a founding sponsor of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and is both contributor and participant to the Twin Cities GLBTA Chamber, Quorum.

Being the number-one lender to small businesses nationwide in loans under $100,000, Wells Fargo is in prime position to partner with business owners to help them succeed. Locally, the company conducted a series of business development workshops, that was so well received, another series is in the works for the fall of 2007. Focusing on individual customers, Wells Fargo offers Wealth Building Seminars to help GLBT consumers better understand homeownership, entrepreneurship, and investments; its GLBT Mortgage Seminar helps same-sex couples protect their property interests.

Wells Fargo is proud of the fact that “our commitment to diversity began when we opened our doors in 1852.”

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