Skip to main content Skip to accessibility controls

Doing the Work Where I’m at: Kat Rohn of OutFront Minnesota

In our series In Rest We Trust, we talk with three grantee-partner leaders about the origin stories that led to their life’s passions and their organizations, what they’re doing to ensure they and their teams rest, and why rest is necessary for sustaining the long game of a more gender-just world.

“Rest is critical in movement work. We’re always dealing with the next fire, the next issue, the next problem. That means we need to take a step back. The work will still be here. Take a walk through the trees. Get that extra cup of coffee. It’s about trying to create pacing, about care, and looking out for you. We can’t always do that in those moments of crisis.”

-Kat Rohn, Executive Director of OutFront Minnesota

In every community in Minnesota, LGBTQ+ people exist, and every lived experience is different. For Kat Rohn, growing up in Northfield meant rarely seeing themselves reflected in their community, let alone having trans role models to look up to.

“It took me a long time to be comfortable and find the words to describe my journey.”

As executive director of OutFront Minnesota, the largest LGBTQ+ organization in the state, and a parent, fellow organizers can typically find Kat running to the state Capitol to testify against one of many anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced at the legislature while rushing back to pick up their kids from school before going to the next community meeting.

“I want people to know I’m a parent and a leader, too. Queer communities haven’t had that opportunity to talk about both identities in these spaces. We can inhabit all those spaces together. We can be caretakers and leaders at the same time. Leadership in my work informs my parenting and vice versa.”

A deep understanding of LGBTQ+ lives and experiences isn’t necessary to simply understand the values of inclusion, Kat reminds us. The snapshot of impacted communities they’ve worked with include Queer people in rural communities, Queer people with disabilities, and trans women in violent relationships. Their work is intersectional because the people they work with live with a multitude of identities and experiences.

“When we’re at our best as a state, we create welcoming spaces.”

Part of that bigger picture, says Kat, is ensuring LGBTQ+ communities are being counted in the data. From the census to gender-based research, the stories of LGBTQ+ communities should be seen, told, and supported.

What does the world look like when OutFront Minnesota’s mission has been realized?

It’s a world where every person in this state can step into their full identity and occupy their workplaces, schools, and places of worship, and just be their full selves.

A story about creating impact in their life-changing work:

After hearing from and connecting with families who have trans youth coming to Minnesota to seek refuge, we started having culture conversations around gender-affirming care and access to it. I found myself being able to sleep with more hope. There’s a common thread of both experiencing marginalization and othering, and the community we created is this thread through the LGBTQ+ community. We approach issues from a lens of supporting those most affected with direct community engagement and service support. We work on culture-changing through creating communities and narratives where people can see themselves and fully support themselves.

On activating hope for themselves and their team:

I think about the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In the midst of all of that tragedy and people dying with no support from the government and the social stigma around it, there was so much beauty, hope, joy, and creativity from it. Constantly being in a community of people and going back to a room full of Queer folks to find that energy and say “Yep, we’re going to show up tomorrow and it’s gonna look better.”

A narrative-changing story:

Hildie Edwards can be who they are at the age of 12 and be unapologetically who they are. Kids have supportive family, community, leadership at a state level. Kids are able to grow up without any fear of who they are.

A leadership lesson:

The ability to pull together a response to this moment we’re in. Being able to change the narrative around conversion therapy and what the culture is saying. There was new leadership at the legislature, and they came to this culture conversation in a new way, which became a fun puzzle challenge.

Why rest is necessary:

We’re going to experience trauma in our work. Stepping away is necessary and rejuvenating and it’s healing because without it, you’re just constantly in the space of harm and challenge. Urgency culture is such a product of how we’re currently operating with trying to work efficiently, but in equity work, there is no efficiency. It’s actually a slow, deep process. As a movement leader, there’s a responsibility to care for that, in an effective and responsible way and to model what it looks like to create systems of care for myself, coworkers, and colleagues. We can’t just burn out folks, we can’t just demand every last thread. Self-care is so individualized. I think in the Queer community, it’s about a sense of community care. What does rest and resilience look like to us?

What does rest and well-being look like for you?

I want to take time for quietness and genuinely check out. This requires trust in my colleagues and co-conspirators in movement work. Care for me is about caring for the people around me and sitting down with staff and asking what they need in space to be fully supported.

Why invest in rest?

It’s about always coming to work, always at my best point and not forgetting the joy in what I do. For example, I ask myself: is today the day I need to step away? If I get to that point where I need to step back, I step back. I don’t worry about it, there are others in our community who can uplift it. If we cultivate that kind of supportive network, that’s how we create change, because it’s not just my work as an individual.

By Chanida Phaengdara Potter, former Vice President of Strategic Communications & Narrative Change

Take Action to Support

Explore Related Posts

Sign up for our newsletter!

Sign up and stay informed as our key partner to ensure safety, economic justice, well-being, and leadership for all women, girls, and gender-expansive people in Minnesota.