Historians wrong, queer people always existed in Mankato

In 1973 an anonymous poem appeared in the alternative publication The Medicine Jug and was called There Are Homosexuals in Mankato. The same poem appears in Jim Chalgren’s Mankato Poems under the title “There Are Faggots in Mankato”. In Mankato Poems, Chalgren includes the note that the title of the poem had been changed by the editors of The Medicine Jug without his consent.

Mankato has been home to a significant amount of LGBTQ history. For example, MNSU Mankato hosts the second oldest campus LGBTQ center,which was founded mainly thanks to the work of Chalgren in 1977.

Several other historically significant LGBTQ related events have also taken place locally.

For example, Jack Baker and Michael McConnell who formed the oldest legally recognized same sex marriage in the United States when they got legally married in Blue Earth County courthouse.

Many of you are probably familiar with the Boy Scouts of America’s history of discriminating against LGBTQ individuals. While the Boy Scouts no longer discriminate against youth members on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, for several decades they were notorious for kicking out LGBTQ members.

The BSA’s policy has roots right here in Mankato, with the first two individuals to be kicked out of any scouting program for being gay were kicked out of the local police explorers’ post by a Mankato police officer. The two individuals in question were Scott Ford and Scott Vance. In February 1978, Ford would go on to protest his expulsion to the city council who ignored his plea.

In the Mankato Free Press article, “Homosexuality admitted as cause of youths’ exclusion” (1/21/78) the then director of public relations, Russell Bufkin, is quoted as saying, “we support the action taken by the post advisor (Creel) as a prerogative of the organization to accept or reject members.

The Mankato Free Press article also adds, “the director noted this was the first known action by a Boy Scout group against a homosexual. He admitted the same action could be taken elsewhere at the discretion of other local units.”

At the same time of the expulsion of Scott Ford and Scott Vance, the local LGBTQ community led by Jim Chalgren was embroiled in a push to legally ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

That push was the result of six men being kicked out of the Trader and Trapper and Discoteque for dancing together. Chalgren would be interviewed about that incident and his activist work in 1978 by Time Magazine.

The effort to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in Mankato would reach it’s zenith in 1987. This effort would ultimately fail when the Mankato City Council rejected the proposal 4-2. The failure resulted in Jim Chalgren leaving Mankato for the Twin Cities.

Much of Mankato’s LGBTQ history has been extensively documented by Kellian Clink in her thesis “A History of the Center for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Students on the Campus of Minnesota State University, Mankato”.

Yet other than Clink, local historians rarely acknowledge local LGBTQ history.

In 2018 the late William Lass wrote, “Minnesota State University, Mankato 1868-2018: A Sesquicentennial History” for the school’s sesquicentennial anniversary. This extensive tome covers just about everything you might want to know about MSU Mankato’s history. Well everything, except one thing.

As I mentioned, before our campus has the second oldest LGBT center, yet there is only one mention of the LGBT center even existing in the entirety of Lass’s account. There is no mention of the work of Jim Chalgren, the LGBT center’s historical significance, nor the impact of either on the local community.

Furthermore, the Blue Earth County Historical Society newsletters and blog make no mention of Chalgren, the MNSU Mankato LGBT Center, nor to the marriage of Jack Baker and Mitch McConnell. Furthermore, I was unable to find any references to the expulsion of Scott Ford and Scott Vance. I even tried searching their site for LGBT related terms (gay, lesbian, queer, homosexual, etc.) and came up with nothing.

I am documenting this, not to point fingers or to shame anyone or any organization, but to demonstrate that there is a systemic issue at play here. An issue that is in need of correction.

Write to Jeremy Redlien at

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