If you’ve been to an LGBTQ+ event in the past few years, you’ve almost certainly met Bryan Matthew Chase. As a prominent member of the Rochester MN Pride volunteer board, and the organizer of Tuesday night kikis at Little Thistle Brewing, Chase is as likely to be seen passing out name tags from a rainbow flag-bedecked table, throwing Frisbees at River Road, and searching for volunteers to set up Rochester Pride Day in September.
And after a year-long quarantine, Rochester’s LGBTQ+ community seems more than ready to get together. Even after organizing weekly and bi-weekly meetups, Chase said he still receives queries about meetups on other days of the week, and at new venues.
We caught up with Chase about everything he has going on.
“They are better than ever! Before, when I started them in 2019, we had pretty decent turnout and I was happy with it -- we were averaging maybe eight people. The max we ever had was a celebration with 24 people. The very first kiki of 2021, we beat the 2019 record by one -- we had 25 people. And the numbers have only gone up from there -- we have not had fewer than 28 people since. We’ve had folks from all different sorts of communities coming, we’ve had racially diverse, gender diverse, orientation diverse and a lot of intersections happening. We’ve also had a lot of diversity across age range.”
You’ve also started up a dog park meetup this month, haven’t you?
“Yes! The first one was scheduled for this (past) Sunday… I haven’t thought of a better name yet, so it’s just called “Sundays Are For The Dogs,” and it’s every other Sunday, starting June 6. … It’s a very large dog park, it’s completely fenced-in, and there are three sections in the fenced-in area, so if anyone’s dogs get a little rowdy, they can move their dog to another section. If I put the pride flags over one section -- not to say ‘this is ours,’ but to go, ‘hey, this is where we’re hanging out.'"
You’ve got a podcast in the works as well, I hear, about LGBTQ life in Minnesota. Can I hear some more about that?
“Again, I had a lot of ideas right around 2019. I had a lot of equipment I had purchased for running a Dungeons & Dragons podcast which I have started. … I had asked around, ‘are people interested in this?’ And there was a ton of people saying, ‘yeah, I’d love to do this -- it sounds so good!’ … And then the pandemic hit and I couldn’t go interview people. My equipment isn’t necessarily built for doing interviews distanced or over Zoom, so I had to put the kibosh on that in a while. I started taking classes at RCTC and we had to come up with some sort of (project) and I started to expand on it -- the Minnesota QueerCast. I would just tell the story of Southeast Minnesota folks and interview them, let them speak their peace, tell their stories -- coming out, moments of adversity they faced, moments of strength, and love. Whatever they want to talk about, because a lot of us don’t have a place to put it."
What kinds of stories do you hope to tell?
“One of my really close friends is a trans woman at Mayo Clinic. She’s not the first, but she was one of the first folks to come out openly as trans there, and helped define what that looked like and how that went forward. I’d love to talk to her about that experience, what that was like, and how she feels knowing there are others benefiting from it. "
Finally, I know things are getting set up for Rochester Pride on Sept. 25. What can you tell me about where you are with that?
“We’re very excited and happy that we’re back in Mayo Park.
"We’ve been especially lucky with people coming out and wanting to volunteer. We’ve been focused on sponsors, and we’re getting some traction there -- people being returning sponsors, higher sponsorship levels than they did in ‘19, community sponsors. We’re really cracking down on vendors -- we’re looking to get as many as we can. Our cap, I think, is 80. We want food vendors of course, educational tables, people looking to sell things, just anyone looking to get out there.
"We have booked all of our entertainment. We haven’t made a proper announcement yet, but many have started posting on Facebook about it.
Asked & Answered is a weekly question-and-answer column featuring people of southeastern Minnesota. Is there somebody you'd like to see featured? Send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.