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Southwest Citizen: Monica Meyer

Outfront Minnesota’s executive director talks about her work in community organizing and taking the reins of the state’s LGBT advocacy group at a crucial time.

On a beautiful 70-degree spring day in South Minneapolis, Monica Meyer doesn’t have a lot of time to enjoy the weather. Since moving into the executive director position at Outfront Minnesota last August, her days are packed with meetings, rallies, lobbying efforts and, well, more meetings.

Meyer, who lives in Kingfield with her wife Michelle, runs the organization founded in 1987 by a group of gay and lesbian community leaders. Their mission was to create a freestanding organization to serve the LGBT community. Now 25 years later, Outfront Minnesota is still going strong providing support of all kinds including legal advocacy, anti-bullying efforts, outreach programs, referrals and lobbying on a local and state level.

“We work to make our state a place where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people can be who they are, love who they want to love and live affirmed and vibrant lives,” Meyer said. "So we work to end discrimination, violence and harassment in workplaces, schools, communities and places of worship. We also do educational work to help make those places more affirming and travel the state doing leadership development. We have a real statewide movement that’s working to make equality a reality,” Meyer said.

Meyer grew up in Saint Paul and Blaine, MN. She attended Hamline University as an English major and went on to the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota after working as a grassroots organizer. She then worked as organizing director at the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, or MPIRG. 

“When I got to college I realized pretty quickly that I wanted to work in community organizing," Meyer said. "I saw a lot of posters around asking things like, ‘Do you want to change the world?’ Well, I said yes, and I got really involved. My whole world really opened up in college."

Meyer said what drives her passion for social change is seeing progress happen in incremental ways.

“You get to see small victories every day and it it just feels really good to know you’re a part of it,” Meyer said. “I get to learn from so many courageous people in the realm of LGBT equality. There are so many people who are doing such inspirational work to make our state better. It’s exciting to meet them and hear their stories,” Meyer said.

Meyer began her tenure at Outfront Minnesota in 2001 as policy director.

“I’ve worked on a lot of racial, economic and social justice issues since coming to Outfront Minnesota” Meyer said. “I’m really interested in working on issues that hold our state back from being a place that really does celebrate all people. I wanted to work with people all over the state to make a difference.”

Meyer’s typical day might include meeting with someone who’s preparing to speak at a rally or testify at a hearing, working on press releases, preparing for the Twin Cities Pride Festival, or traveling to the suburbs to meet with faith leaders about the proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

“Just the other night I was in Robbinsdale to prepare for the city council vote on the domestic partner registry proposal,” Meyer said.

Meyer said she feels fortunate to do the work that she does.

“I feel really lucky that I get paid to do a job that gives so much back to me and inspires me every day. But it is challenging when we so see up close the effect some of the state’s policy decisions have on people’s lives,” Meyer said. “We hear from the youth who are bullied in school--petrified to go to school. We hear kids cry because they feel the legislature is saying their families aren’t right. We want to see a Minnesota where all people are celebrated and everyone is inspired to bring their best selves and their whole selves forward.”

So why Minneapolis and Kingfield?

“Well, because we wanted a house where we could have friends and family from all over stay with us,” Meyer said. “My wife Michelle is from Montreal, Canada, where we got married in 2009. We’re really happy here. My family is from Minnesota and her family is from all over, so we keep trying to get everyone to move here and fall in love with it.”

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