By Faye Seidler
As someone in her thirties, I’m still at an age to have had active shooter drills as part of my school experience in Fargo. I was in middle school when 9/11 happened and grew up with the changing world as our national zeitgeist was overcome with grief and anxiety.
We tried to cope with 24 hour news networks, because of a belief that enough information would keep us safe. If only we knew everything, we couldn’t be surprised anymore. It was always a trauma response.
Growing up as a queer youth also created the unique experience where if you were ever honest about who you were, it would mean immediate danger. The two syllable magic spell that could get you killed was saying, ‘I’m gay.” And if not killed, then beaten or with a target on your back for maybe the rest of your life.
While this was my childhood, a lot of folks without personal experience think the world has moved on. And truth be told, the world has gotten safer. Now more than ever, queer youth have the chance to be loved by their family and thrive in their life.
However, if you ask a roomful of queer individuals of any age if they’ve been bullied or beaten, you’re going to get a story every time. If they’re BIPOC then the stories are more likely.
With the mass shooting in Fargo, an event that could’ve been worse by all evidence, more people are thinking of safety now than before. It’s become more real, even if we knew and have known our whole lives that the cost of firearm freedom is always going to be a high body count or that the cost of hate speech is a busier emergency room.
So what do we do when we don’t feel safe? I don’t have any expert advice here, but I’m a queer hypochondriac who does public speaking in venues surrounded by hundreds of windows, so I do have some perspective.
The first is that we won’t live forever. Get life insurance, plan your will, and make sure everything is in order when you die. We are really never guaranteed another day, but the better we plan for dying the less grief we spread in communities when it happens. And trust me, you feel a lot better when you know that even if some accident happens, your affairs will be sorted.
The second is that you cannot completely control safety, but you can control anxiety. As much as we hear about crime and as awful as it is to learn of violence or loss, these are not common events. Precautions like going places with friends, having buddy systems or things of that nature can help you with both anxiety and safety.
But if it’s really tough you can look for self-defense classes to feel more confident. Sign up with your friends!
The final thing is that we create safety through healthy communities. A healthy community can survive destructive people, but a destructive community cannot survive. The more we work towards community and invest in each other, make sure people are housed, fed, and have their basic needs met, the safer we all are.
It’s more complex than all that, but it’s a start.
Every act of violence or terror is an attack on a community's psyche. The more afraid we are, the less rational we become, the more territorial over our own things, and the less likely we are to keep offering help to our neighbors.
But things don’t get better that way. Healing comes from facing that fear, recovering our own feelings of safety in a community, and working towards a better world.
I’ve spent most of my life being afraid of a shooting. I’ve avoided public events before because of it. But this year I walked as Grand Marshal in the Fargo-Moorhead Pride Parade. I did it because I either face this fear and show others it’s okay to be open, out, and proud; or I’ve already given up on life anyways by dividing my world into smaller and smaller boxes.
Violence always has the capacity to stop me, but I will not let the fear of violence stop me and please don’t let it stop you.
That doesn’t mean go take all the risks or not get vaccinated. Be smart, be prepared, and ask for help when you need it or check in with friends. Safety is something we create and we can keep creating it together.
YOU SHOULD KNOW
Editor’s note: If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.
Professional Consultant: www.fayeseidlerconsulting.com
Community Uplift Program Manager: Harbor Health Initiative
September 23rd 2023
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