Throughout the summer, North Dakotans have been celebrating Pride in communities across the state. The festivals are the shared celebration of resilience and LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit joy. Everything from the parades to parties are washed in cheery rainbow flags and fun.
That festive atmosphere is customary for Pride celebrations, which serve as a reminder of the progress that’s been made since the 1969 Stonewall Riots. However, this year’s events also call attention to progress that’s being threatened. Since 2015, political attacks against LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit people have grown exponentially in state legislatures. In 2023 alone, the ACLU has tracked nearly 500 discriminatory bills targeting freedom of expression, the safety of transgender students and access to health care for gender dysphoria across the country.
Here in North Dakota, lawmakers this year passed a slate of far-reaching, discriminatory bills that were signed into law by Gov. Burgum. These new laws – which include everything from prohibiting trans people from obtaining birth certificates that accurately reflect their identity to allowing the government to intrude on private medical decisions – represent a coordinated, hate-driven campaign to push transgender people out of public life.
Because of today’s increasingly polarized political climate, Pride has been pushed from a celebration of personal freedom and queer identity to a fight for liberation and self-determination. That’s why it is crucial that each of us commit to keeping the positive momentum going. Don’t let your spirit – or your support for the LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit community – go dormant after the festivities stop! Continue to rise up, to show up, and to strive for a more inclusive future.
- Get to Know Your State Representatives. North Dakota legislators not only have a responsibility to create and pass legislation, but also to connect with and listen to constituents about the issues that matter to them most. Contacting your state senator or representatives regarding anti-LGBTQ+ legislation can help lawmakers drive impactful bills forward or stop policies that harm minority communities.
- Incorporate Inclusive Language. LGBTQ+ individuals are everywhere – our schools, our places of worship, our work environments, our communities. Taking small, meaningful steps to create inclusive environments for everyone can help others feel welcome, especially through language. Learning about the importance of understanding pronouns and incorporating gender-neutral language in spoken and written communications, signals to others that you embrace all identities.
- Connect with Your Community. Change often stems from thoughtful dialogue that not only involves sharing information, but also truly listening. It requires engaging in conversations with those who possess different viewpoints, partake in harmful misinformation or may just be unaware of the current challenges plaguing the queer community. By talking with others openly about the struggles – as well as the joys – of LGBTQ+ individuals, you can help amplify the stories of the queer community while inviting others to experience a glimpse of someone else’s journey.
- Vote in Every Election. From state representatives and state senators to city council members to your local school board, every election contributes to the critical resources and wellbeing of communities nationwide. Each day, queer individuals make the decision to show up as their true, authentic selves. It is vital to find candidates who are willing to show up for the LGBTQ+ community, too. By taking the time to research candidates and voting for those who not just tolerate LGBTQ+ individuals, but who are committed to embracing and supporting them, allies can help shape government entities that drive progressive, equitable policies forward.
- Speak Up Against Hate. It is easy to call yourself an ally, but the label alone isn’t enough. Be a proud ally and call out harmful stereotyping. Anti-LGBTQ+ comments and jokes are harmful. Let your friends, family and colleagues know that you find them offensive. It takes dedication to make true acceptance and respect a reality. Your open and consistent support will lead as an example to others.
A version of this column also appeared in the Grand Forks Herald.