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Community Gathers at Minneapolis Church to Discuss Transgender Issues

By Judy Myers, Extension Educator -- Children, Youth & Family Consortium

On Tuesday, February 28, nearly 200 community members gathered in Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis to learn about transgender youth research and practice experts.

Registration for this third event in the Children, Youth & Family Consortium (CYFC) 2017 Lessons from the Field series, "Meeting the Needs of Transgender Youth," was so high that we had to arrange a last-minute venue change. Our fear that the move to a church sanctuary would keep participants from attending were not realized: Plymouth Congregational Church is an openly welcoming and affirming community and several participants who identified as GLBT expressed their appreciation for the large rainbow flag at the church building entrance.

Similar to the inaugural event, Extension SNAP-Ed Educator Nathan Hesse provided participants with an overview of health and nutrition risks for transgender youth who are often homeless and food insecure. Cari Michaels, Extension educator in CYFC, talked about mental health risks and mediators for transgender youth.

New for this event, Vanessa Lacey, health and education manager at Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI), joined CYFC Scholar in Residence Jenifer McGuire, PhD, to speak about their shared research with transgender people and their families, particularly ambiguous loss, i.e., unresolved grief experienced by families.

two women at the front of a church sanctuary
Vanessa Lacey (left) and Jenifer McGuire (right) at Plymouth Congregational Church.

Participants were also able to hear from John Reinan, a father of a young person who identifies as gender fluid, Anita Arenson, an elementary school social worker who has worked with a young transgender youth and his parents, and Mary Clark Hoelscher, an educator with Out for Equity, a Saint Paul Public School District program.

four panelists at a table
L to R: Mary Clark Hoelscher, John Reinan, Anita Arneson, and Vanessa Lacey.

We heard many positive comments from people throughout the day and after the event. Here are some of the comments from participants:
  • "It felt really powerful to be here all day with fellow allies and LGBTQ+ folks, given the political climate."
  • "It was actually the BEST presentation I’ve seen on this topic! I loved that Jenifer qualified that it was not opinion and it was based off of research."
  • "I loved that food insecurity was included – it is not talked about enough."

Four events are scheduled for this spring in Morris, St. Cloud, Grand Rapids, and Rochester. Find dates, locations, and registration here: Please note that several sites have already reached capacity and closed registration. If you are interested in attending an event and are unable to register, please contact me at We are trying to accommodate as many interested people as possible.

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