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Building queer civic engagement & 2SLGBTQIA+ leadership in Minnesota & across the US.

Our Work

qei salon 2023

Every level of government– from city council and school board to our federal leader– has significant impacts on the daily lives of 2SLGBTQIA+ communities. QEI wants to make sure that all of our community members are ready to participate and no one is left behind.


Our society has constructed numerous barriers to decrease participation in social, civic, and cultural engagement for 2SLGBTQIA+ 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.


Leigh & Brion

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We're developing education programming to support our 2SLGBTQIA+ students and school leaders, as they build greater inclusivity in our schools and across 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.


The QEI fellowship awards are given to 2SLGBTQIA+ 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.




We are currently developing an interactive map and web-based database that will host resources from the Minnesota Trans Resource Directory – a document created and maintained by Ly Baumgardt of TIGERRS – in coalition and with support from many individuals and organizations involved with MNTIRN.

This project will be ongoing, and continue through collaboration, volunteers, and community feedback. Check out the work here.


Get Involved

Become a Supporter

Every dollar you donate supports our work building queer civic engagement and 2SLGBTQIA+ leadership in Minnesota and across the US.

Your tax deductible donation will be processed through our fiscal sponsor, FMW Nonprofit Solutions, tax exempt number 84-3753672

To donate via check by mail, please make the check payable to "FMW Nonprofit Solutions", Memo: "QEI", and mail to:

Queer Equity Institute

c/o FMW Nonprofit Solutions

13033 Ridgedale Drive #239

Minnetonka, MN 55305


Volunteer With QEI

We are currently accepting volunteer applications on a rolling basis. Volunteer positions are available in the following categories: data collection, event coordination, graphic design, policy research, web design, and youth/ student organizing. 

Contact Us


Queer Equity Casino Night

Join us for an unforgettable night of community, connections, food, fun, and games in support of Queer Equity Institute! Admission includes a dinner spread by Chowgirls Catering, plus a starter set of gambling chips to build a pot & win prizes!

Onsite childcare will be available for children ages 4+ at no additional cost. Space is limited.

Saturday, June 1, 2024

7:00 - 11:00 PM

Location: The Guthrie Theater (818 S. 2nd St, Minneapolis, MN 55415)


2024 Casino Night Sponsors
- Queer Revolution -

- Queer Power -

- Queer Pride -

- Individual / Small Organization -

About Us

Our Team

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Leigh Finke

Executive Director & Board President

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.

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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Ku'uleipoina'ole Akeakamai

Digital Programs Coordinator

Kuʻuleipoʻinaole 'Bex' Akeakamai (all pronouns) is a māhū organizer whose experience within the Kanaka Diaspora has helped shaped their understanding of community, socialism, sovereignty, and identity.

Over 20 years ago they began their journey with the cultural nonprofit Polynesia! Polynesia! Since then Kuʻulei's work has spanned from food sovereignty, water rights, restorative justice, and police/ prison abolition.


Our Fellows

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Alfred Walking Bull

Founder, Walking Bull Story & Culture


Alfred is an experienced storyteller with a 20-year background in journalism, organizing, communications, development, facilitation, coaching, and professional navigation services. Alfred’s background also includes political organizing for elections, ballot initiatives and Community. Alfred Walking Bull is an enrolled citizen of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, based in Minneapolis, the ancestral homelands of their Dakota cousins. They are Sicangu Lakota, and identify as gay, queer, Two-Spirit and a person of faith in recovery from substance Abuse. In Mni Sota Makoce, Alfred works for Tending the Soil and serves their communities as a member of the OutFront Minnesota Political Action Committee, Out & Sober Minnesota, and Avenues for Youth. They host every fourth Thursday’s edition of Fresh Fruit on KFAI, the nation’s longest-running, weekly, queer radio show. He also writes the Substack In Media Rez, a newsletter written from the intersections of media, Indigeneity, queer/Two-Spirit identity, politics and movement spaces in the in-between that get lost in mainstream narratives.
"I am grateful that Queer Equity Institute exists to strengthen the 2SLGBTQIA+ communities in Mni Sota. Recent history has reinforced for me that so many of the rights and freedoms we fought hard for require dedication to ensure they're not eroded. Leadership in our communities come from every sector, industry, and profession. I'm excited to get to work in supporting our queer community leaders to build bridges of understanding across difference and creating spaces of refuge for our future communities. Wopila tanka eciciyapelo" -Alfred Walking Bull

Roxanne is a 2018 Bush Fellow, researching 2SLGBTQIA+ Community Centers to understand best practices for a center in the Twin Cities that centers Trans and GNC BIPOC folx. Roxanne's on going work addresses issues of marginalized people. Rox serves as Interim Executive Director for the Minnesota Transgender Health Coalition. Rox has been part of many lgtbq organizations including the Hughes Foundation, RECLAIM for Youth, GLBT Host Home Program. Rox is Co-Founder/Co-Director of RARE Productions.

Rox is perhaps best known for helping build the Power to the People stage at the Pride festival in Minneapolis and operating the now-closed Café Southside, once described as a “radical community hub” for queer Black and brown people. They’ve played a part in numerous 2SLGBTQIA+ organizations and happenings across Minneapolis over decades — organizing around HIV/AIDS prevention, advocating for mental health care and culturally responsive housing for queer youth, amplifying trans voices — always with the goal of creating safer spaces for the most marginalized people.

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Roxanne 'Rox' Anderson

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Xay Yang


Xay Yang is a queer Hmong woman with over 15 years of experience working with Hmong/Southeast Asian families impacted by domestic violence/sexual assault, organizing 2SLGBTQIA+ community members and supporting youth. Xay's experiences span across the board from providing direct service through school-based therapy, community-centered therapy, and advocacy in domestic violence shelters servicing immigrant/refugee women and children. Aside from providing direct services, Xay has also facilitated healing circles locally and nationally, provided 2SLGBTQIA+ competency and culturally specific mental health trainings to service providers, school personnel and county staff. In addition to this, Xay is an active member of the Building Our Future- Queer Contingency, a national campaign focused on ending gender-based violence in the Hmong community with a special focus on gender-based violence in the Hmong 2SLGBTQIA+ community and the recipient of the 2023 Lavender Magazine Community Award.

Xay is super excited to be a part of this inaugural fellowship at QEI, to dream and envision what a leadership pipeline can look like for 2SLGBTQIA+ folks and to create much needed space and access.

Our Board

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Jason Bucklin

Education Director

Jason Bucklin (he/him) has worked with 2SLGBTQIA+ 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 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 2SLGBTQIA+ community. Outside of his work at MDE, Jason is a photographer with a focus on highlighting the 2SLGTBQIA+ community.


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Steve Cohen

Finance Director

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. 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

Political Director

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. 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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Mubina Qureshi

Board Director

Mubina (she/they) is a Queer South Asian American Community Advocate, Research Scholar, and Executive Co-Director of the culturally specific non-profit organization, SEWA-AIFW in Minnesota. She is leading gender-based violence intervention and prevention work, and LGBTQIA+ rights and advocacy programming. She is involved in the research work focused on ‘Dalit’ informal women laborers and their identity issues in Gujarat, India. Mubina is a Humphrey Policy Fellow (2022-23) and a MINN Fellow (2023-24). She serves the Board of a national coalition South Asian SOAR.


2024 Queer Equity Casino Night Sponsors

- Queer Revolution -

- Queer Power -

- Queer Pride -

- Individual / Small Organization -