Out With Clout

In corporations and churches, in classrooms and capital corridors, these 100 Queers have contributed to the "Good Life" in Minnesota.

If you needed one more reason to be proud of the Twin Cities GLBT community this month, here's 100. As journalists, public officials, artists, playwrights, restaurateurs, and business types, the 100 individuals here have shaped life in the local gay community and life in the wider world. All of them can claim success of some sort: Some measure it in money made, others measure it in battles won. Still others measure it in the number of people whose lives they touch. But all of them have had an impact on the world -- an impact that's only strengthened by being honest and being out.

Kim HInes

What can't this woman do? Multi-talented Kim Hines is a playwright, actress, and director. The 42-year-old Renaissance woman works days as an associate artist at Minneapolis' Illusion Theater, but Hines' commissions have ranged from a piece for the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., to a meditation on Nat King Cole's life and music for the Minnesota Orchestra's upcoming pop series.

But kids too have always occupied a soft spot in Hines' heart: She's collaborated with metro-area youngsters to create "To Know the Heart of a Stranger," a show that dealt with issues of race in the African-American and Jewish communities. The recipient of a prestigious 1997-98 Bush Fellowship, Hines has also reached out to queer youngsters -- mentoring a young lesbian writer and an aspiring lesbian filmmaker. Her play "We're Here, Get Used to It," about homophobia and adolescent coming-out issues, was developed with District 202 in 1995 and eventually taken to area schools.

Dick Senise

In the early '70s, the sins of Spiro Agnew prompted Dick Senise to pen a letter to the Weekly Reader calling for the vice president's resignation. In the sixth grade, the precocious resident of tiny Buhl, Minn., passed around a petition in his class, urging city officials to tear down an abandoned house because it was "really scary." In high school, he joined the student council. "I've always been the sort of person who gets involved," Senise says. "I think politics has a lot to do with people's lives."

Politics certainly plays a role in Senise's life. Since January 1997, the longtime Democrat has served as the head of the Minnesota DFL, a post he hopes to retain during elections at the party's June convention. But Senise, who worked for Sen. Paul Wellstone in Washington before coming out as gay and getting involved with the 1993 It's Time Minnesota campaign, also spends time plumbing the less public depths of human nature. He's a practicing psychologist and an instructor of psychology at St. Olaf College in Northfield. "It's always fascinated me to learn how to understand myself and help other people understand themselves," he says.

Gays and lesbians have always been active within local DFL leadership, Senise notes, but the party still has to work to reach out to all types of constituents: "We want to make sure people understand the issues," he says, "and most important, that they vote."

Val Ulstad

Twenty years ago, Val Ulstad met the love of her life. It was her first day of medical school, and the Edina native fell head over heels for her fellow classmate, Kathy Ogle. Romance, however, quickly gave way to panic. "We thought we were the only two lesbians on earth," Ulstad recalls.

Ten years ago Ulstad, a cardiologist, and Ogle, an oncologist, came out of the closet. "It was basically just 'not editing,'" says Ulstad. "We left pictures on our desk. We crossed that threshold when you suddenly don't know how many people know you're out." Ulstad, 43, has taken "out" one step further, however: She sits on the board of the 1,000-member Gay Lesbian Medical Association and delivers annual lectures on homophobia as a health hazard at the University of Minnesota medical school, where she holds a part-time appointment in the dean's office. Even as a private practitioner, Ulstad sometimes finds good reason to talk about being gay: "I certainly see gay and lesbian patients with heart disease," the doctor says. "I'm careful to ask 'who's important to you?' instead of 'are you married?'"

Medicine remains a largely conservative -- and closeted -- profession, Ulstad says, but Minnesota physicians are, in some sense, leading the way: There's still a lot that needs to change. But we've also come a long way."

Edd Lee

Edd Lee sees things differently -- and it's not just those specs. The gay son of second-generation Korean immigrants, he's been aware of the challenges queer men of color face in the Twin Cities since he first came out and moved to Minneapolis from the suburbs at 17. A year ago, munching Green Mill pizza, Lee and a friend cooked up a plan to create a social group for guys like themselves: The result was Minnesota Men of Color.

That ability to change abstract vision into concrete reality also serves Lee well at his day job as a health educator for the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans. Since May 1997, he's been developing a plan to research the effects of HIV/AIDS on Asian and Pacific Islander populations in the state -- no easy task, given the diversity (and sometimes homophobia) that exists amid those cultures. But Lee, who once marched with the Queer Street Patrol and has served on the youth board of directors for District 202, says organizing, fundraising, and recruiting have always come easily to him: "My work came naturally with the path of my life," the 23-year-old says. Godspeed, godspeed.

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