Queer youth are moving out of North Dakota

Oct 21, 2020
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An excerpt from Canopy's LBGTQ Card Coordinator, Faye Seidler, from a recent article published in the InForum. To read the full article, visit Inforum's website.

An excerpt from Canopy's LBGTQ Card Coordinator, Faye Seidler, from a recent article published in the InForum. To read the full article, visit Inforum's website

"Faye Seidler, a trans activist and the administrator of Harbor Health Clinic in Fargo, says those numbers reflect a trend that has long been known among LGBTQIA North Dakotans: In a state that is at best frigidly indifferent and at worst openly hostile to its queer population, many young LGBTQIA people realize early that opportunity, safety and community are better found somewhere else.

“There is a reason we have the lowest trans population and one of the lowest LGB populations within the United States, and I don't think it would be a stretch to suggests that it is both because our queer youth are leaving and queer adults are not coming here,” Seidler said. “I'd wager every queer person in this state knows somebody who left because they didn't think they had a future here.”

Faye also discusses the alarming statistics regarding queer youth in ND:

"...Seidler said most people she speaks to are already aware of the statistics: according to the Youth Risk Behavior Surveys, half of North Dakota’s queer student population seriously considers suicide, 39% have created a suicide plan, 27% have attempted suicide, and overall, they are three times more likely to be suicidal than straight students.

Queer students are also 77% more likely to experience bullying and 86% more likely to feel unsafe in school. Further, 86% report feeling uncomfortable talking to their parents about their feelings. They run away or are kicked out of their homes twice as often as straight students, and they make up more than half of North Dakota’s youth homeless population. Between the 2017 and 2019 surveys, there was very little movement in those numbers.

“This is how hopeless they feel,” Seidler said. “This is how unsafe they feel. This is the result of that.”

She said that to her, it’s clear North Dakota is failing its queer youth, and if that’s going to be turned around change needs to happen both legislatively and culturally. She noted that legislative change without cultural change would be less effective, because the attitudes that made the state unsafe for queer people in the first place would still exist. However, without legislative change, North Dakota will continue to struggle to retain its queer young people.

Seidler said that’s why she left the state a few years ago: moving a few miles across the river from Fargo to Moorhead provided her increased protections from the state of Minnesota.

“It would be absolutely insane to continue living in a state where I could be killed without it being considered a hate crime, have health insurance that doesn’t cover my medical needs, evicted regardless of my ability to pay, and fired regardless of my performance at work,” Seidler said. “Some of those issues have changed since I left, not because of North Dakota government, but because of federal regulations. While I may have some protections there now, the culture that denied those protections for decades has not yet changed.”

Faye can be reached at fseidler@canopymedicalclinic.com