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Queering Mentorship

Nonprofit QUEERSPACE Collective is creating a safe harbor for LGBTQ+ youth



LGBTQ+ Americans are experiencing an onslaught of legislative attacks. In the first quarter of 2023 alone, nearly 400 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been proposed in state legislatures across America, many targeting trans youth: 18 states have banned trans athletes from participating on school sports teams, and 7 have outlawed gender-affirming health care.


Statistics measuring the safety and well-being of LGBTQ+
youth reflect this grim reality. The Trevor Project’s 2022 National
Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health reported that nearly half
of all LGBTQ+ youth “seriously considered” taking their own life.
And according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, LGBTQ+

youth “have a 120 percent higher risk of experiencing homeless-
ness—often the result of family rejection or discrimination based

on gender identity or sexual orientation.”


QUEERSPACE Collective seeks to reverse these statistics by providing a strong support network and community for LGBTQ+ youth. Launched in April 2021 by Nicki Hangsleben, a community activist with a background in international development, the Minneapolis- based nonprofit helps young people cultivate their self-worth and develop a sense of belonging. The organization covers the Twin Cities metro area and, in March, expanded northwest to the city of St. Cloud. Currently, it does not have a physical location but operates its programming in social spaces like parks and private venues.


The collective’s mission is realized through its LGBTQ+ youth mentorship program—the first in Minnesota and one of fewer than 10 mentorship programs for queer youth in the nation.


Hangsleben’s early life inspired the program. “My mom dated
women when I was a kid, and I was surrounded by a lot of queer folks growing up,” she explains. “So when I came out, I already had this huge network of support, which made [coming out] so much easier.”

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