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The Next Focus for the LGBTQ+ Community

Faye Seidler, Fargo

On June 15th, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals was discrimination based on sex. This ruling gives LGBTQ+ individuals across our nation protection from discrimination within employment as well as potentially housing, accommodations, education, and healthcare. Many individuals within North Dakota tried to pass similar legislation going as far back as 2009, but efforts were largely stopped by representatives who were uncomfortable with the notion of equal rights that included queer folk.

It is likely that without the direction of the supreme court, it could have been years or decades before queer individuals had these basic protections while they lived and worked in North Dakota. Even with protections, our culture has a long way to grow. This also means we no longer have to devote as much effort towards these basic protections and we can focus on the many areas in which queer individuals still fall through the cracks.

In 2017, I wrote an article about how ND was failing queer youth. I spoke about how these youth experienced significant hardships with suicidality, bullying, and acceptance, especially in rural areas. I also spoke towards the lack of resources we had both inside and outside school systems. While I tried to increase awareness and encourage prevention, in 2019, the Youth Risk Behavior Survey of North Dakota came out and painted essentially the same picture.

Nine percent of all youth in North Dakota identify as queeer and they are nearly twice as likely to experience bullying on and off school property. They are 86% more likely to feel unsafe at school, but the majority of these youth do not feel safe talking to their parents about their feelings and these experiences largely remain hidden. That or they are afraid in their own home, because these students were twice as likely to run away, be kicked out, or abandoned by their family. There are so many more negative things that happen then I have time to list, but make no doubt that the picture painted is grim.

With Pride Month coming to a close, I want to encourage folks to look towards our next step and I believe that is doing everything we can make sure these queer youth can not only survive our school systems, but thrive in them. Not just for the benefit of queer youth, but for the benefit of all the students struggling. The first step is having conversations with your local school board and principal about things like safe spaces, better anti bullying policies, and affirming school counselors. The next step is getting in contact with me (Fayeseidler@gmail.com) or involved with organizations like Community Uplift Program, which is currently seeking grants to reduce suicidality for queer folk in North Dakota.

Seidler is administrator of Harbor Health Clinic.

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