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Jaq and Gus

30 Best Disney Characters

When life gets hard and daily life seems frustrating, we often find ourselves turning to Disney in hopes of feeling a little bit of the magic it promises. And somehow that binge session always leaves us happier, with a little more faith in friendship and love, and a wide grin that refuses to come off our face.

Whether it is Mickey Mouse giggling about his clubhouse or Winnie the Pooh looking for his honey, whether a sleeping beauty is in need of rescuing or a family in need of saving, Disney has got our cravings covered!

So here’s a list of our favorite characters from all of Disney’s own movies. Let us know which opinions you agree and disagree with!

30. Jaq and Gus

Source: Fandom

Movie: Cinderella

IMDb Rating:7.3/10

Streaming Platform: Disney+

One of the most transformative (pun intended) movies of Disney, Cinderella, also featured one of the best rat duos we have ever seen. Fearless and witty Jaq and food-loving, caring Gus have not only helped our beloved heroine, but made us fall in love too. We all wish we had friends who would be as loving and supportive even when we are at our lowest- Jaq and Gus look out for their dearest “Cinderelly” in all their tiny glory.

Jaq and Gus are an entertaining duo- whether it is the retrieval of the pearls or the sewing of an old dress, mice singing voices coupled with the antics of Jaq and Gus are bound to keep us wanting more!

29. Belle

Source: Disney Princess

Movie: Beauty and The Beast

IMDb Rating: 8/10

Streaming Platform: Disney+

The free spirited and proud bibliophile Belle is not only a classic Disney princess, but she also won our hearts with her eccentric antiques! Being stuck in a castle with a beast never looked more appealing!

Imaginative, intelligent and open-minded- Belle basically taught us we all can be princesses, and gave each dreamer a little more belief in their dream.

28. Sebastian

Source: Screen Rant

Movie: The Little Mermaid

IMDb Rating: 7.6/10

Streaming Platform: Disney+

There is no Disney fan who doesn’t love the adorable Jamaican-accented red crab poet. One of the distinguished composers of King Triton’s court, Sebastian is undoubtedly our favourite watchguard of all time! His repartee with Ariel is one of the reasons we still go back to watching The Little Mermaid.

Singing Under the Sea with Sebastian is a passage of rite every Disney fan should walk through. Of all the Disney characters who have caught our fancy, Sebastian is among the few who are not a major character- but that doesn’t stop him from being insanely memorable and fun, does it?

27. Stitch

Source: Screen rant

Movie: Lilo and Stitch

IMDb Rating: 7.3/10

Streaming Platform: Disney+

He is one of the franchise’s two title characters, with his human adopter and best friend Lilo Pelekai, and its most prominent protagonist. He is an illegally created, genetically engineered extraterrestrial life-form resembling a blue koala. But most importantly he is the heart of the film, as sweet as he is powerful, and we quickly find ourselves grow incredibly attached to him.

Stitch, after crash landing on earth, proceeds to change his evil tactics and world-destructing plans with help of Lilo and takes us on his journey filled with love and warmth. How can you not fall in love with this story?

Experiment 626 of Jumba Jookiba, Stitch, has successfully managed to become a part of our ohana with his cute, big eyes and pink ears.

26. Baloo

Source: Fandom

Movie: The Jungle Book

IMDb Rating: 7.4/10

Streaming Platform: Disney+

Long before Sloths were “in”, Baloo, the sloth bear from The Jungle Book had taken our hearts away with his fun-loving, easy-going characteristics. One of the best friends Mowgli found in the forest, Baloo is by far our most favorite. And did we mention the tremendous job Bill Murray did with voice acting?

Not only is he a true friend, he also keeps the entertainment quotient high at all times! He is big and cuddly and soft and unassuming and a little greedy for honey, but always cute… do we really need to say more?

25. Hades

Source: Fandom

Movie: Hercules

IMDb Rating: 7.3/10

Streaming Platform: Disney+

In Disney’s 1997 animated feature picture Hercules, Hades is the evil dude we’re supposed to fear. He is the Underworld’s fast-talking god, infamous for his violent temper and vendetta against his elder brother, Zeus.

The best and um, confusing part of all this? When we watch the film as adults, we sort of see his point?

You know a Disney character has done its job as being skillfully created when a villain makes us consider their stance- and has some of us totally identifying with their moods.

23. Jiminy Cricket

Jiminy Cricket
Source: Wikipedia

Movie: Pinocchio

IMDb Rating: 7.5/10

Streaming Platform: Disney+

Jiminy Cricket is a little cricket that initially debuted as the deuteragonist in Disney’s 1940 animated Pinocchio. Jiminy serves as Pinocchio’s conscience and a wonderful friend. He is intelligent, kind, and courageous. He will go to any length for a friend, even if it means risking his life.

He is the friend who’s always there, the wisdom we have but never put to use. We all need a Jiminy Cricket in our lives. Where to sign up?

22. Raya

Source: Den Of Geek

Movie: Raya and The Last Dragon

IMDb Rating: 7.3/10

Streaming Platform: Disney+, Apple TV

Raya is a strong-willed adventurer, mature and smart beyond her years. She is efficient, can easily adapt to changing circumstances and most importantly is a feisty and funny person, who never gives up.

Raya is truly a modern character, a good role model, and one of the most well-done character sketches by Disney in recent times.

21. Merida

Source: Fandom

Movie: Brave

IMDb Rating: 7.1/10

Streaming Platform: Disney+, Apple Tv

Merida is one of the most unique Disney characters in appearance and character- she is a princess whose tragedy is entirely reliant on her own actions, her story ends with a resolution of her familial problems, and not beside a man she rides off into the sunset with.

With flaming red hair a lot of spirit, Merida openly resists her royal heritage and wishes to be nothing more than a regular girl. She is a natural athlete who loves nothing more than riding her horse Angus and practicing her archery, which she excels at.

20. Jafar

Source: Screen Rant

Movie: Aladdin

IMDb Rating: 8/10

Streaming Platform: Disney+, YouTube

Jafar is the favorite character of many Disney fans who stray a little to the dark side. And as much as we love Aladdin and Princess Jasmine, we can sort of see what makes Jafar so impressive.

Firstly, the gravitas in that voice is unparalleled, and when coupled with the characteristic beard and manipulative words, Jafar becomes one of the most striking Disney villains, one who truly adds a hint of unexpectedness and terror to an otherwise dazzling landscape.

The thing about Jafar is, that unlike other Disney villains, he is truly scary and twisted. And this intense quality about him is precisely what lands him on our list.

Well, we suppose being dark and scheming pays off in securing a place among a list of wholesome characters sometimes.

19. Moana

Source: WBUR

Movie: Moana

IMDb Rating: 7.6/10

Streaming Platform: Disney+, Apple Tv

While she doesn’t have the lavish palace and fancy gown to show for it, Moana is as true a Disney princess as can be. In fact, she totally reconstructs our idea for what a princess can be- she doesn’t need a man to be her happy ending, she can fight for her own!

Moana is a true princess in that she fights for her land, her people- she is truly a daughter of her soil, and a brave, strong one at that.

She is practically a fearless warrior off to be the savior for her island, whatever be the cost, and she teaches us to take destiny into our own hands to craft a better tomorrow.

How could we NOT love her?

18. Cruella De Vil

Cruella De Vil
Source: Screen Rant

Movie: Cruella

IMDb Rating: 7.3/10

Streaming Platform: Disney+, Apple Tv

Cruella De Vil is probably the Disney character most relevant in pop culture, and with that hair and those clothes, how could she not be?

Whether its Emma Stone giving us the sad backstory to this magnanimous, larger-than-life villain, or the animated Cruella in her sneering glory, the character has a presence, that’s all we’ll say.

The wiring in her brain might be an acquired taste- but hey, few are dressed as impeccably. And yes, she is a ruthless heiress hunting down poor animals to make clothes of- but we can’t help feeling just a little intimidated by her.

Cruella isn’t the most morally sound of Disney characters, but she totally has the best hairdo among the studio’s many fashionistas.

17. Olaf

Source: CharacTour

Movie: Frozen

IMDb Rating: 7.4/10

Streaming Platform: Disney+

This is a Disney character who can only be engulfed in a collective ‘Aww!’

Olaf reigns supreme in our minds- and even those with the most frozen of hearts(pun fully intended) are not able to escape the warmth of this sunny snowman. A major character through both the Frozen movies, Olaf is the most adorable creation of Elsa’s ice- but he is more than just the paradoxical little snowman who sunbathes.

He is a kind soul, a reliable friend, possibly the most popular product of Disney’s Frozen, and the only element in the movie that outshines Menzel’s Let It Go.

We would love all the warm hugs Olaf sends our way!

16. Peter Pan and Tinker Bell

Peter Pan and Tinker Bell
Source: Wallpaper Flare

Movie: Peter Pan

IMDb Rating: 7.3/10

Streaming Platform: Disney+

Tinker Bell may be small, but she can be terrifying, especially when Peter Pan is in the mix. So we at Gizmo Story didn’t dare separate the two beating hearts of Neverland!

Peter Pan and Tinker Bell truly embody the magic that Disney brings to our lives, and the childhood we are taken back to, every time we tune into the world of animated Disney characters.

Inspired from folk and Disney-ed up just enough to do Walt Disney proud, Peter Pan and Tinkle Bell stay with us years and years after their stories have unfolded, and however hard we try, we cannot shake off that childhood belief in them coming to steal us away for just one night!

15. The Seven Dwarfs

The Seven Dwarfs
Source: Pinterest

Movie: Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs

IMDb Rating: 7.6/10

Streaming Platform: Disney+

Snow White was the first Disney Princess- and the seven Dwarfs who looked after her the original squad of Disney characters we want to befriend. The most striking aspect to them is how their personalities may be differently interpreted by each viewer.

The seven dwarves are among the most interesting characters brought to us in Disney movies, and we’re definitely not complaining!

14. Timon and Pumbaa

Timon and Pumbaa
Source: Clipart Key

Movie: The Lion King

IMDb Rating: 8.5/10

Streaming Platform: Disney+

Timon and Pumbaa are probably the most chilled out Disney characters to exist- and we’re totally giving them the crowns of Disney’s coolest. A duo we’re not going to separate, Timon and Pumba find in us the dream of a friend group as tight as the lion king and these fun-loving beasts.

They’re the singers of the insanely catchy theme song- Hakuna Matata, and they’re our comic relief. They’re brave and adorable and trustworthy.

As if their epic dance moves weren’t awesome enough to make the list!

13. Pocahontas

Source: CBR

Movie: Pocahontas

IMDb Rating: 6.7/10

Streaming Platform: Disney+

The emotional depth exuded by Pocahontas is almost unbelievable in a cartoon character. She is the Disney character that defies our expectations from your average blonde and blue eyes Disney princess, and by God, is she wonderful! Pocahontas takes place among scenic landscapes as the political turmoil ceases to be important in the face of love.

Her love story with John Smith is beautiful, and her struggle to choose between the familiarities of our home and the excitement of the new world is masterfully depicted.

12. Woody

Source: Fandom

Movie: Toy Story

IMDb Rating: 8.3/10

Streaming Platform: Disney+, Apple Tv

In the Disney–Pixar Toy Story franchise, Woody Pride is a fictitious pull-string cowboy rag doll. Woody is one of the primary protagonists in the films, and he is primarily voiced by Tom Hanks in the Toy Story features, short films, and TV specials.

He is brave, he is chivalrous, he is smart- all we can hope for from our dollhouses’ best Sheriff! Not only that, Woody is also a mighty loyal friend and every kid’s dream top.

11. Bambi

Source: SeekPNG

Movie: Bambi

IMDb Rating: 7.3/10

Streaming Platform: Disney+

We all remember watching Bambi when we were young and bawling our eyes out. Bambi was a film that grasped our hearts- and Bambi was a character who decided to live in those very hearts. The death of Bambi’s mother is one of the saddest cinematic moments of all time, and we’re never not tearing up, just thinking about poor little Bambi.

Arguably the cutest Disney character of all time, this little fawn is one of the most beloved Disney characters of all time, owing to the sheer innocence he embodies.

Those wide eyes and that delicate build perfectly compliments his naïve characteristics- the delicate, fragile nature of the story perfectly manifests in its hero, and we find among a list of Disney characters

10. Maleficent

Source: Screen Rant

Movie: Maleficent

IMDb Rating: 6.9/10

Streaming Platform: Disney+

This list has mostly been taken up by animated Disney characters, but in Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent we find a live action character who is truly phenomenal as far as Disney characters go- and then a little further.

We hate the evil queen and then love her, she frustrated us and pulls at our heartstrings. This is a Disney film that finds its protagonist in an antihero, with a black costume and horns to match. Yet, the one word to describe Jolie’s character would be heart-wrenching.

She stands against all our notions of Disney fairies and heroes, but we love her all the more for this!

9. Aladdin

Source: Pinterest

Movie: Aladdin

IMDb Rating: 8/10

Streaming Platform: Disney+

Aladdin is an Arabian thief with a pet monkey- an unlikely hero, don’t you think? Disney does a good job at sketching out the plight of the poor beyond the castle doors- an angle the studio doesn’t generally venture into.

What is most important about this kind and earnest character, however, is his heart of gold. That, coupled with his ability to find the coolest friends- his entourage is populated by a sassy monkey, a magic carpet, a touchy magic lamp, and a hilarious genie- lands him among the clouds as he soars through the skies with Princess Jasmine, the love of his life.

The Walt Disney Company was able to bring us this sensitive character that is really all about goodness and love, within a story that has evil sorcerers who vie for the throne, glorious castles that shine in gold, and talking caves that close in on themselves. Aladdin is sweet as his story is grand, and this characteristic is what secures his place among the best Disney characters of all time.

8. Eeyore

Source: Fandom

Movie: Winnie The Pooh

IMDb Rating: 7.1/10

Streaming Platform: Disney+

Eeyore is a sad little cartoon donkey who is friends with Winnie the Pooh, but this depressed Disney character (an anomaly?) has our hearts. He is tired and sad and exhausted, but Eeyore still has a lot of love for his friends, and they in turn, for him!

This group of animal Disney characters is one of the most loved friend groups of all time- and Eeyore a surprisingly tactful character in a kids’ movie.

We will not entertain any Eeyore slander, and neither should you!

7. Simba

Source: Screen Rant

Movie: The Lion King

IMDb Rating: 8.5/10

Streaming Platform: Disney+

The Lion King is one of Disney’s most successful films- and with a beloved soundtrack, a fun twist to a Shakespearean tragedy and the most adorable heroic little lion, it isn’t hard to see why. Simba, the lion cub makes us gush, while the grown up lion king finds our support and respect.

We find ourselves way too attached to the coming-of-age story of a cartoon character, that too an animal- but what with that riveting love story with Nala and the philosophical musings about kingship and duty, The Lion King is worth it.

Walt Disney Productions had never expected this great a response to The Lion King, but we’re glad it was made, because Simba really is one of the best Disney characters to reach us!

6. Mickey Mouse

Mickey Mouse

Movie: Mickey Mouse (Shorts)- a short film series

IMDb Rating: 8.1/10

Streaming Platform: Disney+

This is a character that absolutely had to make the list. It is the Mickey Mouse ears that people associate most with Disney and his endearing grin, broad-eyed purity,  and upbeat demeanor are emblematic of optimism.

He’s one of the main reasons the Disney brand carries the warm and welcoming message it does, and we never seem to get enough of Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Daisy, Pluto and Goofy prancing about.

5. Bruno

Source: Slash Film

Movie: Encanto

IMDb Rating: 7.2/10

Streaming Platform: Disney+, Apple Tv

Fifth on this list of our favorite Disney characters is Bruno from Encanto- and yes we here at Gizmo Story, do talk about Bruno!

This is probably Disney’s darkest character, because Bruno is not a villain or even an antihero by any means, but his own family makes him out to be so. What lies beyond the grieving eyes and the foretold future is a sweet little man who only wants his family to accept him. Many of us are able to identify with Bruno, while others see in him a truly tragic and yet beautiful character.

He also has secured icon level in the roster of Disney character names, so Bruno supremacy for life!

4. Mulan

Source: The Nerd Daily


IMDb Rating:

Streaming Platform:

Mulan is perhaps the most badass Disney princess to ever exist- she’s got the family sword, and the skills to back it up. Not only is she one of the most popular Disney characters of all time, she is also a great role model for young children.

Mulan is brave and feisty, can stick up for herself, while making sure that her love for family is never compromised. The adorable love story only helps, and in Mulan emerges this character hailed by Disney fans as being a total boss.

Did we mention we love her voice?

3. Flynn Ryder

Flynn Ryder
Source: Fandom

Movie: Tangled

IMDb Rating: 7.7/10

Streaming Platform: Disney+, Apple Tv

Flynn Ryder has been crushed on by so many Disney fans through their childhoods that it is often a bonding moment for many. He’s a thief but he’s a flirt, he’s cute but he’s brave- most importantly he’s in love with Rapunzel, enough to put his life on the line.

We find ourselves falling in love with this character among the lanterns and Zachary Levi’s voice, and how could we not!

It is interesting how this is a character who was crafted almost entirely by female Disney employees in an attempt to paint the ideal man. We think they did a really good job, don’t you?

2. Hector

Source: Disney News

Movie: Coco

IMDb Rating: 8.4/10

Streaming Platform: Disney+, Apple Tv

Coco is not only one of the best Disney films of all time, but also among the greatest animation films to reach us. And in it we find a wonderfully sensitive man, the failed husband and artist, Hector. Why choose him among an array of interesting characters then?

Well, the answer lies in how well Disney has managed to portray the many aspects to him- his story makes us weep and sigh, giggle and gasp, all at once.

He is also given the sweetest songs on the soundtrack and that really, really helps the case of this devastating but lovable character. We remember Hector all too well, don’t we?

1. Genie

Source: Fandom

Movie: Aladdin

IMDb Rating: 6.9/10

Streaming Platform: Disney+

At number one on our list we have Aladdin’s genie- he’s magical, blue and super funny. Not to mention his killer dancing skills and that unmatched fashion sense! Robin Williams’ vocal acting for this character was absolutely stunning, and Will Smith in his live action reprise, does quite a good job too.

What’s best about this powerful magical character, however, is his endearing personality and loyal friendship- and we can’t help but celebrate as his dream of being free comes true.

Do let us know what you think of our list- and who your top five Disney characters of all time are!

The post best disney characters appeared first on Gizmo Story.



Twins record second shutout in three days in win over Rockies



Twins record second shutout in three days in win over Rockies

Puffy white clouds filled the blue skies above Target Field and sunlight bounced off buildings that make up the Minneapolis skyline. It was the kind of summer night at the ballpark that Minnesotans dream about throughout the long winter months.

It was the perfect night at Target Field and the hometown team, well, they were nearly perfect, too. Twins pitchers gave up just one hit (and five walks), and the team captured a first-inning lead on its way to a 6-0 win over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night at Target Field.

A day after getting shut out for the 10th time this season, tying the league lead, Luis Arraez and Byron Buxton made sure early on that the Twins wouldn’t suffer the same fate. Arraez snapped an 0-for-11 stretch to begin the game and Buxton, back in the lineup for the first time since Tuesday, followed that up with his first triple since 2019.

After missing time this week after his knee flared up, Buxton turned on the burners, with a sprint speed of 29.3 feet/second (30 ft/sec is elite) on the triple, losing his helmet along the way. When he reached the base, he pounded his chest a couple times, smacked his hands together and let out a roar.

While the Twins left Buxton on third, they added on throughout the game, tacking on a run in the second on Arraez’s second hit of the game, two more in the fifth and two more in the seventh.

Alex Kirilloff drove in three of those runs, one on a sacrifice fly and the other on a double off the right field wall, bringing home Max Kepler — who walked three times in the game — and Kyle Garlick. The double was his fourth in eight games since being recalled from Triple-A.

All that offense came in support of Chris Archer, who worked five innings and allowed just one hit — a single to former Twin C.J. Cron in the second inning — and a walk in his outing.  Archer pitched out of that second-inning jam, retiring the next three batters in a row, the first of 12 straight that he sent down to conclude his start.

His start was followed by a scoreless inning each from Jharel Cotton and Griffin Jax and two from Tyler Thornburg. Twins pitchers have now thrown two shutouts in their past three games, and in Friday’s loss, they gave up just one run.

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A Pride timeline: Gay rights in Minnesota from 1858-2022



A Pride timeline: Gay rights in Minnesota from 1858-2022

1858: Joseph Israel Lobdell, born Lucy Lobdell, is arrested for “impersonating a man.” A judge in the rural camp community of Forest City, Minn., sided with Lobdell, ruling that he did not act unlawfully.

1877: Minneapolis rules crossdressing as illegal, putting gender-nonconforming Minnesotans at risk for imprisonment.

1969: The Stonewall riots begin in New York City after police raids occur in the gay-friendly bars and community spaces of Lower Manhattan. These riots serve as a public turning point in American LGBTQ+ history.

May 18, 1969: University of Minnesota alumni found Fight Repression of Erotic Expression, or FREE, the first LGBTQ+ rights organization in the state. Founders Jack Baker and Michael McConnell become the first same-sex couple in the nation to apply for a marriage license, an application that is rejected by Hennepin County. Their legal case is dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court in one sentence.

1972: The first Twin Cities Pride celebration is held in Minneapolis’ Loring Park.

Dec. 9, 1972: Minnesota state Sen. Allan Henry Spear indicates he is gay in an interview with the Minneapolis Star, making him the first openly gay state legislator in the United States.

June 1982: Bruce Brockway becomes the first documented recipient of an HIV diagnosis in Minnesota. After his diagnosis, he founded the Minnesota AIDS Project to provide resources to HIV-positive Minnesotans.

1993: Gender- and sexuality-based discrimination is outlawed in Minnesota, making it the first state in the nation to adopt the policy.

1997: Sicaŋgu Lakota man Nicholas Metcalf and his partner, Korean-American Edd Lee, found the Minnesota Men of Color, an organization that focuses on the well-being of men, women and gender-nonconforming people of color.

2012: Amendment 1, which limits marriage rights to only heterosexual couples, is rejected by the majority of Minnesota voters. Same-sex marriage is legalized in the state.

June 2015: The U.S. Supreme Court releases a decision in Obergefell v. Hodges finding that same-sex marriage cannot be banned in any state and must be recognized nationally. Gay marriage is legalized.

June 25-26, 2022: After two years of pandemic-related cancellations, the Twin Cities Pride parade and festival returns to Minneapolis.

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Ramsey County official recalls Pride marches in the early 1980s: A time of AIDS, discrimination



Brian Theine, manager of St. Paul Social Services, in his office overlooking the Mississippi River in St. Paul on June 23, 2022. (Bryson Rosell / Pioneer Press)

Growing up in the 1970s in small farming communities outside of Milwaukee and Madison, Wis., Brian Theine knew three things: He was gay, he wanted to help people, and he wanted to live in a more cosmopolitan place.

Theine would go on to become a social worker and land in Minneapolis in 1982, toward the height of the AIDS epidemic. Instead of Minnesota Nice, he said he discovered profound rejection. Some 100 to 200 members of the gay and lesbian community would gather annually at a beach by the area then known as Lake Calhoun for a solidarity walk to Loring Park. Along the way, the insults and jeers from bystanders came hard and fast, and they were relentless.

Celebrating Pride meant suffering through verbal assault, and sometimes real punches.

Gay media at the time carried news accounts of men who had been badly beaten as they were arrested by police for loitering in the park, and the graphic image of a Black man who’d had his teeth knocked out still haunts Theine some 40 years later.

“It was sort of a feeling of, ‘What kind of place did I come to?’ ” he recalled.

This weekend, during the 50th anniversary celebration of Twin Cities Pride, Theine is spending at least eight hours each day manning a Ramsey County Social Services booth in Loring Park, encouraging members of the GLBTQ community and their allies to become foster parents and open their doors to young people who may be struggling with their gender identity or who have faced rejection at home and bullying in school.

Underscoring the degree to which the social landscape has changed, some 400,000 people are expected for the Ashley Rukes GLBTQ Pride Parade on Sunday down Hennepin Avenue. The parade had been canceled for two years in a row during the pandemic.

While social acceptance and legal rights may be more widespread than in the 1980s, Theine considers the issues confronting many GLBTQ youth to be no less profound. Theine, a manager in Ramsey County Social Services, oversees foster care licensing for children and adults, adoptions and other family services. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

It’s the 50th anniversary of Twin Cities Pride. A lot more people are openly gay today than 50 years ago. Is it safe to say we’ve come a long way?

I made that leap in the late ’70s, and it was a time of HIV and AIDS awareness impacting the community hard, and a difficult journey for the next 10 years of my life. In my job life here at Ramsey County, I led a mobile crisis team for 10 years, and part of what I did was make the rounds with police. We reached out to them to make a bridge. We said hey, we have social workers, I’m a social worker. Let’s work as a mental health team and change what’s happening in the community. In these later years, I had a much different relationship with the police. I would never have approached the police like that in 1984, whereas I feel much more comfortable doing that today.

Back in the early 1980s, how many folks would attend Pride?

Maybe 100 to 200. I have nothing against the parades of today, but they’re long, a huge number of people come to the park. In a good year, 400,000 people come to the park. It’s great. It’s a different feeling now than in the 1980s. There was sort of an area known as the gay beach, and there was a part of the beach where African-American people would gather up. That’s where the parade would start out from. It was grassroots.

You mentioned arriving in the Twin Cities during the HIV and AIDS epidemic. What was that like for you at the time?

Brian Theine, manager of St. Paul Social Services, in his office overlooking the Mississippi River in St. Paul. (Bryson Rosell / Pioneer Press)

At that time, I had friends and people who I had actually dated who ended up with HIV. It was a scary time, because there was not a lot known about it, services weren’t available to get help. Friends of mine who had been diagnosed at that time were told they had two years to live. One of my friends is still living with HIV. He lost a couple doctors along that way who died of it. Friends I’ve known have suicided. We were sort of the pariah because of HIV.

It was isolating, and making our community feel alone, but it was actually sort of unifying, too. Our lesbian sisters came to help their gay brothers when others wouldn’t do so. I was part of the founding of OutFront Minnesota — which in 1987 had a different name, the Gay and Lesbian Community Action Council of Minnesota — because there weren’t a lot of support services at that time. We ran the hotlines, helping people get to therapy and direct care and making sure they had services in the home to try to have some quality of life. In a different job I was doing, I had to get people to volunteer to work on the floor of the nursing home where people went to rehab after the hospital, because finding staffing was a struggle.

A lot has changed legally, like the national legalization of gay marriage in 2015. And I’m sure a lot hasn’t changed depending upon where you are and what situation you’re in. Talk about your vantage point working in youth social services.

In the last three years or so, I came into this department of Children and Family Services to take on being a manager. There were people interested in this area of foster care and adoptions who wanted to work with the GLBTQ community to see if there was more they could do. The staff in our foster care and adoption unit also started showing up at Pride five years ago. At the same time, the department in social services here was getting consultation with the Human Rights Campaign, trying to figure out how to approach policies and procedures and change policies that needed to be refreshed.

If services didn’t join with our values, we wouldn’t place kids there. Today, we have had to move kids out of a foster home, or out of a residential treatment facility because of conflict with our policy. We all want to be accepted. Kids who identify as trans, or lesbian or gay, they’re no different from anybody else. We didn’t want to place them into placements where that was going to be a conflict. It’s written into our contracts for anyone who works with us, that recipients of our social services should not be subject to discrimination because of their race, gender expression, political beliefs, religion, etc. We’re not going to go into a contract with an agency in those kinds of situations.

How often would you assume kids in foster care are GLBTQ?

National numbers tell us as many as 30 percent of the kids identify. It’s a very GLBTQ community. Other surveys that are bit more local suggest it’s 27 percent, 28 percent, so it’s similar numbers. We’re trying to collect demographic data. We need to do that, because we have the anecdotal stories. That’s part of the systems change we’re working on.

Why are those numbers so large?

It’s one of those things that are hard to hear. We end up with kids who are homeless, living on the street as teens. They may need to do sex work to get inside and out of the cold on a cold winter night. Kids who are homeless had conflict in their homes. They’re struggling with gender identity or gender expression, and their home situation is too much to bear. The streets might feel safer than what they have at home.

There’s times we may need to reach out to a grandma or an aunt to say, ‘Can you take this kid in?’ It’s a whole variety of factors. There’s other things that happen to kids, like bullying in school, that still make coming out a hard time for people. There’s a lot of public schools that are trying to have Gay/Straight Alliances, or alliances to acknowledge our non-binary kids. But there’s these individual factors that can make life hard, and make it difficult to live without fear. And all of that contributes to what we’re seeing — kids who are couch-hopping or living on the street.

We need to reach out to their kinship support groups. People shouldn’t be in child protection just because they’re GLBTQ. They shouldn’t be in a group home or institutional care. We need to work with families upfront in a welfare way and not in a child-protection way. Ultimately, we don’t want any kid in foster care, and that’s part of our overall mission as a county — only to use foster care when we need it. That’s part of why we show up at Pride, to say, ‘Have you thought about being a foster parent?’ We need people who reflect the community. We keep saying it, and sometimes you have to hear it 15 times to get someone to sign up: ‘We need you.’

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