While June is Pride Month, some North Dakotans say working to bring awareness goes beyond 30 days.
Brandi Hardy grew up in Bismarck and most of her life she felt the need to hide who she truly was.
“I tried to do everything I could to look as straight as possible. So dated a lot of men or guys and that carried with me through my military career. At the time, it was ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell.’ But even in the military, I felt more open and free because I didn’t live in North Dakota anymore,” shared Hardy, a legislative coordinator for North Dakota Human Rights Coalition.
After years of living a heterosexual lifestyle, Hardy came out to her loved ones.
That’s when she turned her focus to volunteering — which led her to want to do more and change the narrative.
“It is so important as a member of the LGBTQ community to be visible. And visibility doesn’t mean always mean to be loud, it just means to be there to show support and acknowledgment and be proud of who you are and who we are,” shared Hardy.
She says moving forward her goal is to push for positive policy, such as access to healthcare and housing without your sexuality being a question.
“This year, unfortunately, we had a couple bills introduced that we played some serious defense on,” said Hardy.
Local organization Dakota OutRight says its main focuses are in the community, like working on advocacy, outreach and education for everyone.
“Throughout my years at Dakota OutRight, I have really tried hard to make sure that we’re a family-friendly organization and that we’re reaching out to everybody whether they’re LGBTQ community, allies families, friends because we are all in the struggle together,” explained Jonathan Frye, the secretary for Dakota OutRight.
Frye says peer support is very important for the LGBTQ+ community — especially for adolescents.
“Because our youth is our future and what we are finding is there’s alarming rates of our youth leaving the state, whether it’s because of high school graduation or because of college graduations or just because they don’t feel like they belong here,” explained Frye.
Frye says this year’s Capitol Pride event brought in at least 400 people.
He says it truly shows how far North Dakota has come over the years.
Dakota OutRight has been doing a LGBTQ+ work in the Capitol City for 20 years.