OutFront aims to strengthen outstate ties

Hoping to extend both its political clout and the scope of its services in greater Minnesota, the state's largest GLBT organization has hired a statewide community organizer. OutFront Minnesota, formerly the Gay and Lesbian Community Action Council, has hired Scott Fearing to coordinate the nonprofit agency's activities in cities and towns outside the Twin Cities.

Fearing, who left the organization last fall after serving three years as an educator and a trainer, says he returned to the agency in late May to take the new position. He's already met with several GLBT individuals and groups in rural areas. "One of the things we hear that people face outside of the metro area, and even sometimes within the metro area, is invisibility," Fearing says. "What I'll be trying to do is bring people together and empower them no matter where they live."

In many larger outstate cities, such as Rochester, Duluth, and St. Cloud, strong GLBT networks have existed for many years, Fearing says. OutFront will continue to provide support and services to these groups, as well as facilitate communication among the various queer outposts in the state. He plans to set up regional meetings, as well as meet with individuals one on one. A meeting for residents of the St. Croix River Valley has been slated for Aug. 25, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Stillwater Public Library.

Additionally, Fearing hopes to facilitate meetings between legislators and their GLBT constituents in greater Minnesota. "One of the things we hear time and time again from political leaders is that they don't hear from members of our community," he explains. "They don't believe that they have constituents or community members who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender."

OutFront Minnesota has been a statewide organization since its inception, according to executive director Ann DeGroot. As the agency prepares to tackle issues such as sodomy laws and same-sex marriage in the upcoming legislative cycle, she says, galvanizing the entire state population becomes increasingly important.

Still, Fearing is careful to point out that OutFront intends to tap into existing outstate organizations, not create new ones. "We don't want to take on the role of organizing the entire state," he says. "We'd rather help people organize themselves."

For further information about the Stillwater community meeting or to contact Fearing at OutFront Minnesota, call 822-0127, ext. 111, or from outside the Twin Cities, 800-800-0350.

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