Minnesota Mall of America Store Raises $1K for LGBTQ Youth amid Conversion Therapy Ban

The state's City Council recently passed a conversion therapy ban prohibiting counseling that tries to change a person's sexual orientation/gender identity

Mall of America Trans and Queer Youth Event
Photo: Jessica Lee/Fourpost

A store in Minnesota’s Mall of America recently showed their support for LGBTQ youth by hosting a holiday event, just weeks after the state passed a monumental bill banning conversion therapy for minors.

Fourpost’s flagship store in Bloomington held a fundraising event Monday night, with proceeds going toward RECLAIM, a local organization that provides queer, transgender, and gender nonconforming youth with access to mental health services.

Nearly $1,000 was raised by holiday shoppers in the wake of the new legislation, which was passed on Nov. 22, prohibiting Minneapolis from practicing counseling services that aim to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins, who played a major role in passing the ordinance, showed up to Monday’s event and spoke to the attendees about the impact of the ban and the importance of visible representation as a leader of the state.

“It gives me great pride and joy to say to transgender and gender nonconforming youth, particularly people of color: We see you. We love you. And we will be there for you,” Jenkins said. “When I was coming out, there was no role model, and so I feel so blessed to be on the city council today.”

Jenkins continued, “There is another black transgender person on the city council, my colleague Phillipe Cunningham. And I feel so blessed to be able to go down the hall during a morning break at work and I get to talk with another trans person of color, my colleague, about policy. I never would have thought that would be possible.”

Mall of America Trans and Queer Youth Event
RECLAIM board member Marcus Waterbury and Andrea Jenkins. Jessica Lee/Fourpost

Jenkins also praised South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, for being open about his sexual orientation as he runs for president in the 2020 election and makes strides for the LGBTQ community.

“The fact that we have Pete Buttigieg, a gay man, running for president is a great thing — great for visibility and for changing the possibility models for LGBTQ youth,” Jenkins explained. “And he’s young, so you know he will run again!”

Besides Jenkins, RECLAIM board member and transgender activist Marcus Waterbury also spoke at the event, as attendees created holiday cards in support of trans youth.

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In Waterbury’s speech, the board member emphasized how supporting the youngsters now can contribute to a “more confident, less fearful” life for them in the future.

“What we have found is that when you have transgender and gender nonconforming youth who are supported by the people around them, they are less likely to be discriminated against in the wider world,” Waterbury said. “They are more confident, less fearful, and they carry themselves different[ly]. So that is why funding mental health services for these youth, ages 13 to 23, is really key.”

Mall of America Trans and Queer Youth Event
Children writing holiday cards in support of trans youth. Jessica Lee/Fourpost

The conversion therapy ban in Minneapolis makes it the first city in Minnesota to prohibit the counseling practice, according to the Star Tribune.

Mental health professionals and medical personnel have widely rejected conversion therapy for decades, claiming that it can lead to depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide, Human Rights Campaign reports.

Though it is unclear how many children in the area were exposed to conversion therapy, Jenkins and Cunningham diligently worked together, along with the city’s attorney, to ensure that the council’s ban would not be struck down by other courts.

“We have a moral obligation to step up where partisan politics at higher levels of government have failed our kids,” Cunningham said in November, according to the outlet. “I ask for other cities and towns to also step up for the children and young people across our great state.”

Cunningham’s request seemed to be well-received, as Monday saw the city council in Duluth joining Minneapolis in approving a conversion therapy ban. By doing so, Duluth became the second city in the state to prohibit the practice.

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