QUEERSPACE Collective was founded in 2021 in response to devastating statistics regarding the quality of life. LGBTQ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their hetero peers and they make up 40% of the youth homeless population. While there are thousands of mentorship programs across the country, only a small percentage is dedicated to LGBTQ youth.
Executive Director and Founder of QUEERSPACE Collective, Nicki Hangsleben saw this need and started gathering momentum and support from local organizations to create the collective and its mentorship program. Queer Space Hangouts is a mentorship program that features a one-to-one and group mentoring model where LGBTQ youth are matched with adults and hang out in the community once a week.
“There's not a lot of spaces where Queer and Trans kids can show up and not feel like people are judging them in some capacity,” Nicki explained. “So I'm really just trying to create that space. And then, in addition to the one-on-one, we have group hangouts where the mentors and mentees all get together, and we might have a barbecue or go to a Twins game or do a big art project. We've had historians in to talk about LGBTQ history. We’re really just creating these networks of support for them in these spaces, where they can show up and feel good about themselves.”
Nicki says they plan to expand the QUEERSPACE Collective to more rural locations where increased LGBTQ visibility is a continued hurdle, including St. Cloud, Duluth, and possibly into North Dakota. They are also collaborating with Rainbow Labs, an organization created to address the unique challenges faced by queer and gender non-conforming youth.
“We're also starting to do training and consulting so a few weeks ago we trained over 200 YMCA camp counselors who work with over 14,000 youth on how to be more LGBTQ, inclusive at camp.”
Nicki says that with the evolution of language, QUEERSPACE is looking at building out a deep training and consulting module that focuses on youth organizations and helping them become more LGBTQ inclusive.
“We're also looking for more mentors. A lot of our youth are Trans and gender non-conforming. So we're also always looking for more trans and gender non-conforming mentors, because those are the mentors that the youth would love to connect with along with BIPOC mentors, as well, so that we can really reach the broad audience of youth that we serve here in the Twin City metro area.”
Nicki Hangsleben says that Queerspace Collective is happy to help organizations make their spaces more LGBTQ welcoming. If you’d like to refer a youth for their mentorship program you can do so directly on their website.