The Safe Zone

The Safe Zone

The Safe Zone sticker recognizes allies of the LGBTQ community. Photo courtesy of

Telling people about your sexual orientation or gender identity can be hard, especially when you are living in North Dakota. It is not that we feel obligated to tell everyone we are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or gender non-conforming.

These topics come up in everyday life which makes it hard to avoid the subject. You never really stop coming out to people in your life. With that being said, being who you are in North Dakota is more than brave, it is risky.

In California, you can freely post your gender identity and/or your sexual orientation on Facebook and go to work the next day without worrying. However, if you do the same in certain parts of North Dakota, you could show up for work the next day and lose your job. Grand Forks has fought hard to ban housing and workforce discrimination. Fortunately in 2013 this ban was removed in Grand Forks.

What could possibly be worse than being denied housing and getting fired? How about being the victim of a hate crime?

According to the Human Rights Campaign, North Dakota does not have laws that protect people who are assaulted due to their sexual orientation/ gender identity.  Other LGBTQ components that do not have protection laws include the following: anti-bullying, transgender healthcare, public accommodations and gender marker change.

According to, suicide in the LGBTQ community is too common: a quarter of transgender people attempt suicide every year and LGBTQ youth are four times more likely to end their life.

I have to say that I am disappointed with the lack of laws protecting the LGBTQ community in North Dakota, but I am not surprised. What does shock me is the lack of resources for LGBTQ students on campus. We are fortunate to have a great student organization like the Ten Percent Society but there needs to be more. When it comes to resources for the LGBTQ community, we have to take a look at NDSU.  When paging through their handbook, it is amazing how much their campus has done for the student community.

Some resources that NDSU have include: a resource room that provides education for faculty, staff and students on campus, safe zone areas, scholarships for the LGBTQ students and gender neutral bathrooms.

UND needs to have faculty willing to take part of safe zone training to become more informed with LGBTQ topics. Not only will this allow students to feel safe but faculty can be allies and provide other resources for students on campus. Having the option of gender neutral bathrooms is important because no student should have to leave a building in order to use the bathroom.

According to, these restrooms can prevent harassment and violence.

However Grand Forks is trying, with the successful implementation of laws that ban discrimination for housing and employment established in 2013, the city is making steps in the right direction. The Ten Percent Society has come a long way with helping students by creating other events. Every year, campus holds a Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony which highlights people who have been victims of hate crimes. A lavender graduation ceremony is also held to honor students in the LGBTQ community. Due to the lack of protection for LGBTQ people in North Dakota, I think it’s important for students to feel safe and welcome on their campus which is why I believe something needs to happen to raise visibility for LGBTQ students.

Becca Devine is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected]