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Building civic engagement and LGBTQ2IA+ leadership in Minnesota and across the US.


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Civic Engagement

If all politics are local, then queer politics are local. And we need to be informed, engaged, and active.

City councils, school boards, and every level of government beyond, have significant impacts on the daily lives of the LGBTQ2IA+ community and QEI wants to make sure all of our community members are ready to participate.

Photo: The Gender Spectrum Collection

Leigh Finke speaking into handheld microphone

Empowering Queer Leaders

Our society has constructed numerous barriers to decrease participation in social, civic, and cultural engagement for LGBTQ2IA+ people, especially queer BIPOC, and queer people with disabilities.

QEI is creating a diverse network of queer leaders who want to make our democracy a more equitable place for all. By empowering queer leaders with resources and networking opportunities with those directly impacting public policy, we can break down both the visible and invisible barriers to engagement in civic and political processes.

Photo courtesy of QEI

Members of QEI board meeting in a library, sitting around a table.

Educational Programming

We're developing education programming to support queer leadership in building greater inclusivity and equity within society.

There is simply too much hate in this world for politics alone to tackle. If we want to break this hatred, we must work together and in good faith across all venues of change: art, culture, media, business, social engagement, and more.

Photo courtesy of QEI

girl friends hands piled together

Fellowship Program

The QEI fellowship awards are given to LGBTQ2IA+ community members who are ready to lead, but lack financial, institutional, and social capital to achieve their goals.

We provide $10,000 fellowships in four categories: Civic Engagement, Community Empowerment, Arts & Media, Business Development.

Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash



Leigh Finke

Executive Director

Leigh Finke (she/her) represents district 66A in the Minnesota House of Representatives. She is the chair of the Queer Caucus, and the first transgender official elected to the legislature. In March, she was named Woman of the Year for the state of Minnesota by USA Today.

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In addition to politics, Leigh is an activist, artist, and documentary filmmaker. She has worked for ACLU of Minnesota as a Multimedia Storyteller, 1517 Media as Sr. Producer of Multimedia Resources, and is the creator of Totally Gay Productions. She has a decade of experience in journalism, covering the intersection of justice, pop culture, and social movements.

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Ravyn Gibbs

Board Chair

Ravyn Gibbs (she/her) is Anishinaabe. As an enrolled member of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa with family ties to the Red Lake Nation, she serves to uplift the voices of Native communities and is passionate about eliminating health inequities and social injustices.

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She is a public health social worker who has built her career in public policy. Most recently, Ravyn focused on federal policy related to Native and Tribal affairs in the US Senate. Ravyn holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in criminology from the University of Minnesota Duluth. She completed her Master of Social Work and Master of Public Health from the University of Minnesota with a focus in community practice and community health promotion.

Ravyn is currently in the Doctor in Public Health program at Johns Hopkins University, focusing on health policy. Using an intersectional lens, Ravyn works to uphold and expand the rights of those who have been historically disenfranchised and marginalized, particularly focusing on Indigenous rights.

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Jason Bucklin

Board Member

Jason Bucklin (he/him) has worked with LGBTQ youth and adults for 19 years in the Twin Cities and is currently the first LGBTQ Education Specialist at the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE). Prior to MDE Jason was the LGBTQ Program Coordinator...

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... at Minneapolis Public Schools and worked to create some of the first Gender Inclusive school policies in the nation as well as helped the development of the Minnesota Department of Education Transgender Toolkit. With a passion for racial equity and gender justice, Jason hopes that his work can positively impact the LGBTQ community. Outside of his work at MDE, Jason is a photographer with a focus on highlighting the LGTBQ community.

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Steve Cohen

Board Member

Steve Cohen (he/him) has decades of experience in politics, non-profits, and business. Steve currently sits on the Board at Mt. Zion Synagogue. He was formerly the Chair of Eureka Recycling, and served as Saint Paul’s Ward 4 DFL Chairperson and on the board of Congressional District 4.

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Steve is the VP of Business Operations for a local software company in the medical device industry and formerly served as CEO for the largest medical organization serving people afflicted with epilepsy.

Steve has spent his life motivated to fight all forms of bias and hate--antisemitism, homophobia/transphobia, Islamophobia, and more--understanding that organized political hate gives rise to fascism in America. When he's not working, Steve enjoys biking and reading philosophy (for fun).

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Brion Curran

Board Member

Brion Curran (they/she) represents district 36B in the Minnesota House of Representatives. Brion serves as Vice Chair of the Queer Caucus and has been appointed to the new Governor's LGBTQIA2S+ Council.

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Brion worked in nonprofit administration for 20 years supporting people with disabilities. In addition, they served in law enforcement and now use their experience and education to fight for better public safety practices. In Brion's spare time they enjoy singing, writing, and connecting with nature.

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Cecily McMillan

Program Director




Reach out to us and let us know if there is anything we can do for you

Queer Equity Institute-

Mailing Address: 1430 Concordia Avenue
P.O. Box 4192
Saint Paul, MN 55104