North Star – Creating a Constellation of Services to Support Refugees in Minnesota

Dorian Ferguson


On April 27, 2023, against a backdrop of anti-trans legislation being considered and adopted in several neighboring states, Governor Tim Walz signed legislation enshrining the state as a sanctuary for transgender youth seeking support their home states deny them. As the adolescents and their families move to Minnesota to escape toxic environments, it has become increasingly important to identify the services that Minnesotan organizations currently provide and what resources will be needed to increase capacity. This paper reports the results of interviews with eight Minnesotan organizations offering services to LGBTQIA+ individuals, with a focus on organizations that aid trans youth. The surveyed organizations include: TIGERRS, QUEERSPACE Collective, Queermunity, Rainbow Health, Family Tree Clinic, Transforming Families, Mossier, and Avenues for Youth. Publicly available information on each website was also examined.

The survey found a strong existing foundation with numerous successful programs past and present, a promising future community center through Queermunity, and increased communication between organizations. Yet, these organizations will not be able to fully meet the needs of incoming refugees. Staffing and funding levels will need to be increased for Minnesota to reach its full potential as a Sanctuary State.

Changing Legal Landscape 

It has scarcely been eight years since the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, but recent legislation has dramatically changed LGBTQIA+ rights for the worse, particularly for transgender youth. According to Amnesty International USA, “In the first four months of 2023, state legislatures introduced more than 470 anti-LGBTQI+ bills — most targeting transgender youth. That’s more bills attacking LGBTQI+ rights than in all of 2022. In 2023 alone, 560 anti-trans bills have been proposed, 85 have passed, 123 have failed and 352 are still active. Among the proposed bills, 45 are from Minnesota’s neighboring states, which together have passed almost twenty percent of all adopted bills. At the federal level 27 have been introduced that attack transgender rights, including one that the House of Representatives passed that requires schools to inform parents if their minor child attempts to change any gender markers, pronouns, or bathroom use. 

In addition to bills designed to out” trans adolescents, many others focus on requiring athletes to play sports according to their biological sex or denying youth access to gender affirming treatments. In response to this wave of legislation, Minnesota passed legislation preventing out-of-state extradition, arrest warrants, subpoenas, or removal of children from parents due to the child receiving gender affirming care. 

For the full report, click here.

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