By Michael Strike
Photo by Sabrina Hornung
When you passed through the intersection of Broadway and 2nd Ave North Friday evenings recently, you may have noticed a growing presence of colors, community engagement, and PRIDE.
Yes; THAT Pride.
While Fargo, North Dakota 'officially' celebrates pride for one week in August; a growing movement has pushed to bring the celebrations and representations to Downtown Fargo during the historically accurate month-long remembrance in June.
That movement has grown from the determined presence of one individual, in particular, a Fargoan who has been marching to the intersection on their own in fabulous style since our long winter finally thawed. Zara ('ZAH-rah') for months now has stood at that intersection calmly waving their flag, and engaging with any passers-by curious enough to speak with her; about herself, what her flag means (no, it's not a Mormon flag), and anything else that may come up.
Zara came to Fargo after spending 4 whole years in conversion therapy. From the age of 14 to 18, she was exposed to some of the most traumatic and dehumanizing 'treatments' that are still practiced by institutions in the present day. It's hard to put into writing how dark things can get when a treatment like that is someone's reality for so long, and it was the love she felt for those in her family that she holds most dear that saved her. She reached out through her school for help, and after an evaluation was transported from her small Minnesotan town of just over one thousand people to North Dakota's largest city, Fargo.
It's not the first time engaging with the community for Zara. Two years ago, when the world stood in the streets again for social justice Zara was there in solidarity, marching with hundreds of others to be heard.
Come to the present day, the news is bubbling with conservatives clutching their pearls about some conceived agenda of the gays, the highest court is spilling to the right as the five conservative seats overload the scale, and states are positing disgusting and deliberate anti-trans legislation in Florida, Texas, and too many others. All of this pushed her to start heading downtown and just being present in the community once a week; especially present with her array of dazzling vintage fashion, accessorized by the soft blue, pink, and white barred trans flag.
Now, Zara and a growing group are meeting every Friday this month (and maybe longer) at the Pride Collective and Community Center at 6 PM, marching from there to Broadway, and celebrating their presence until the streetlights come on. Being downtown and engaging with the community is something that they believe humanizes the gay experience and brings understanding and compassion from those that may just not be aware of their reality. Even more important to her is to just be seen by the community.
Put simply by another individual "We need to be visible where we can, for people who are in places where they can't." Zara went on to say "Go out on your local street and hold up a sign. I know it just seems stupid or it could be scary, but it's helping.
Most politicians will tell you that the best way to effect change is to vote for people and donate to certain causes. Which is not true. The best way to effect change is with civil disobedience. I don't advocate breaking the law; I do advocate for people to just go into the street and talk to people."
While it is important to get out in the community, Zara notes that your safety is more important. If you want to go out and make a statement, don't go alone. Bring friends old and new, or family old and new.
To the local politicians, she has this to say. "We see you, and we're watching you. We're willing to fight any legislation that you put in. We're here and we're queer and we're not going away, even if you outlaw us out of existence."
YOU SHOULD KNOW
Pride Collective and Community Center
1105 1st Street S, Fargo, (218) 287-8034
Open Saturday & Sunday, 12 - 4pm
HPR, (701) 235-1553
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