BISMARCK, ND – National Coming Out Day is Saturday, October 11 – it’s a time to celebrate coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ). However, it’s hard to live as an out LGBTQ person in Bismarck, North Dakota, when doing so could put your job, home, and life on the line.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) rated Bismarck a dismal 14 out of 100 points on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2013 Municipal Equality Index, which measures a city’s non-discrimination laws, relationship recognition, employment and law enforcement protections, municipal services, and overall relationship with LGBTQ people. Given the current climate in North Dakota, it’s vital that allies speak out more – more in number, more in frequency, and more in public.
To help build the momentum of allies speaking out, Dakota OutRight has created an awareness campaign focusing on “coming out” as an ally to the LGBTQ community. Dakota OutRight chose to focus on allies “coming out” to highlight the critical need the LGBTQ community has for outspoken allies and the current unsafe conditions for LGBTQ people to be freely out and open.
“It’s a bit ironic but says a lot about our region that we need to make space to ‘come out’ as an ally in order to create a safer environment for LGBTQ people to be out,” Jennifer Weisgerber, vice president of Dakota OutRight, said. “Hopefully this campaign will help others who have remained silent to speak out and really make themselves available as a support to their LGBTQ neighbors, friends, and family.”
Launching on Saturday, the Coming Out as Allies campaign encourages community allies to speak out and speak up on behalf of the rights, protection, and freedom of LGBTQ people to live freely and openly without fear of repercussion. Participants in the campaign include local leaders such as Bismarck city commissioner Nancy Guy, educators like Daniel Rogers and Shawn Oban, and longtime community activists, including Brian Palecek and Rose Stoller. The dozen-plus images feature powerful portraits along with their personal reasons for being an ally to the LGBTQ community.
Allies everywhere can participate on their own by contributing photos of themselves along with why they are an LGBTQ ally. Photos can be posted to social media, using the hashtag #comingoutND. Contributed images will be collected and shared on Dakota OutRight’s website and social media.
GLADD says, “LGBTQ people are our mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins. This is a fact and it isn’t going away. You have the opportunity to be an ally and a friend at home, school, church, and work. A straight ally can merely be someone who is supportive and accepts the LGBTQ person, or a straight ally can be someone who personally advocates for equal rights and fair treatment. Allies are some of the most effective and powerful voices of the LGBTQ movement. Not only do allies help people in the coming out process, they also help others understand the importance of equality, fairness, acceptance, and mutual respect.