I have lived in North Dakota my whole life, and up to a point I had hoped to continue to living here. I wanted to make a positive change in this state and make it a place I was proud to be a resident of.
With this goal I have written over thirty articles, provided mentoring for the last three years, and delivered cultural competency training to a number of organizations. I’ve testified in front of a house committee on the need of protections and watched hundreds of others through the years do the same. I’ve seen people from every age, religion, race, and background stand up in our state and say we need to protect the most vulnerable of us.
I’ve seen amazing people speak with elegance about the needs of our state, whether it be issues related to immigration, homelessness, LGBTQ+ rights, mental health services, or teacher benefits.
But we have cut taxes and fixed our mistakes through short-term short-sighted directives that cut away at programs designed to help the most vulnerable. Programs, to spell it out clearly, that only have a positive long-term impact on the economy by generating healthy contributors and infrastructure.
I can’t justify living in this state anymore, as an LGBTQ+ individual, a socially conscious individual, or an economically conscious individual. There just isn’t a reason to stay, economically or otherwise, because this system isn’t sustainable.
We are already losing our most talented to better-paying states or states with more inclusive rights and services. We aren’t replacing those we lose, because students move away to better opportunities. These individuals leave and tell others how bad it is or how bad it is getting and nobody is encouraged to come here.
The sad joke is that I’ll be moving a mile away across the river. I will be moving a distance I routinely walk everyday. Yet, on that long walk, I will go from a place where I can be discriminated against without consequence in employment, housing, or public accommodations to a place I will be protected.
A place where the main LGBTQ+ advocacy center gets millions in donations and provides services and support to the entire state. A place that rejected putting LGBTQ+ discrimination into its state constitution and that has had anti-discrimination laws on the books for over twenty-five years.
It is insane to think that just a five-minute drive for me can be an incredible world of difference. It is baffling that our state refuses to see the need for anti-discrimination laws. It is baffling that they ignore hours and hours of testimony from North Dakota residents of all walks of life during our multiple anti-discrimination hearings. It is heart wrenching that insurance companies that offered surgery for transgender individuals last year, don’t now.
A ten-minute bike ride will get me to a place where insurance companies and Medicare cover all of my medically necessary treatment.
North Dakota has sent a very strong message that LGBTQ+ individuals are not welcome or protected here. That supporting family members of LGBTQ+ individuals should not seek work or education in our state. That allies of LGBTQ+ should shun this place like we now shun North Carolina. Because we have tried, we have tried to work within the system and be reasonable, but we’ve only been met with erasure or force.
This isn’t good news for individuals who are anti-LGBTQ or benefit from tax cuts, because the state of things has and will continue to hurt our economy, our growth, our schools, and our opportunities. This isn’t projection or hyperbole either, this is from speaking to countless individuals who’ve left our state or are about to. Individuals who were job providers, business owners, doctors, and grad students.
NDSU’s cutbacks, to give an example, have resulted in an exodus of such qualified and amazing people. In addition, we constantly have nursing and cook shortages because people can get paid twice as much in the Cities for about the same living cost.
We can do better and we can be better. I am frustrated that we have gotten to this point. I’m upset that our government represents the needs of only certain businesses. I’m furious that our school teachers and parents need to buy their students very basic supplies.
I’m leaving this state because I’m trans and I’d be insane to stay here at this point. But I’m not going to stop fighting to see a better future or North Dakota to thrive. I’m not going to stop offering perspective, training, and mentoring to this area. However, I’m not going to tell anyone to ever move to North Dakota until things are different. That’s what I can do as a non-resident.
For anyone still able to live in North Dakota, please elect better people and demand more of your state.
[Editor’s note: Faye Seidler is the North Dakota Safe Zone Project Spokeswoman]
by Sabrina Hornung
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