"Everyone deserves to write their own story at their own pace."

We the People is a blog series that features the stories of members, supporters, volunteers, and allies of the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota. Together we are accomplishing critical work in our state to protect and advance civil liberties across the Midwest and beyond.


Brianna Hollestelle has been spending time building community for queer South Dakotans since they were 14. 

After volunteering with Sioux Falls Pride, Brianna’s passion for community led to the creation of a free mental health clinic hosted by the Transformation Project. The importance of mental well-being followed Brianna to this day where they now advocate for queer mental health. Outside of work and advocacy, you can find Brianna spending time with their two cats, hiking or embroidering, and enjoying life with their partner. 

Which of the ACLU’s issue areas are you particularly passionate about and why?

One of the issues the ACLU addresses that are most important to me are LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit rights. This issue area directly affects me and the community I have worked passionately to serve since I was 14. I started my work with this community after I came out as queer to my family and then quickly got involved in Sioux Falls Pride helping plan events over the years. I want to help people live in South Dakota without fear of their rights being taken or concerns for safety. 

Reproductive freedom is another topic that matters to me. I believe that reproductive freedom and LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit rights are closely tied. No one with a uterus should be forced to carry a fetus and making access to abortion care more difficult will result in lives lost. As someone who works in mental health, I think it is important to preserve quality of life and well-being for all -- that includes the decision on how and when to have a family. Reproductive freedom does not stop or start with abortion care but should start with access to quality and inclusive sex education in our schools. 

Do you consider yourself a changemaker? Why?

I would consider myself a changemaker because I helped increase access to quality gender-affirming mental health care at the Transformation Project through a free clinic staffed by interns. In my professional career, I continue to offer affordable counseling and pursue education that allows me to help underserved populations. 

Why do you think it’s important for people to be involved in their communities?

When people get involved in their community, they’re not only helping spread awareness of issues important to them, they’re normalizing conversations and showing those threatened by marginalized communities that we are human, too. A great way to disarm hate is to make the members of those communities seen and show those who spread the injustice the real people they are impacting. Additionally, being involved in the community helps people to expand their support network so they are giving and getting something in return. 

Do you have any advice for someone who might be interested in getting more politically involved in their community?

If you are looking to become more politically involved in your community, grab a friend and look up an event and go. That step may sound too big and if it does that’s OK, maybe start by following local organizations that align with your values and eventually an event will pop up. 

You were previously involved with Sioux Falls Pride. What was that experience like? How did it influence where you are today? 

As a teenager I was involved with Sioux Falls Pride, which was an amazing experience. I got to understand how a team works together to drive community events and allow even more people to have a seat at the table. It also gave me access to community, which is more valuable than I have words for. I was always one of the youngest people at the table, but I was always given a voice because age doesn’t matter when you’re busy building a community. Those experiences I had are exactly why I do what I do today. 

Volunteering with Sioux Falls Pride connected me to the Transformation Project and allowed me to provide counseling during my internship and help with their support groups. Sioux Falls Pride opened the door for a community where I would be accepted, understood, and gave me a purpose in that community, which has now shifted to include providing mental health services for a community I love and that feels like home. 

What issues do you think are most important for South Dakotans to pay attention to?

South Dakota has always been my home, but it has not always been kind to the LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit community. That needs to change. South Dakotans must pay attention to how the state is treating folks and educate the next generation. The LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit community is not a threat to anyone’s freedom. Reproductive freedom is also a major topic to pay attention to in South Dakota. Losing access to critical reproductive care will have an impact on the community at large. Young people are already starting to leave the state for abortion. 

Everyone deserves to write their own story at their own pace.