The ND LGBTQ plus summit is in full swing, and its message is attracting hundreds of people from across the state.
Coming out of the closet can be harder than it sounds.
“Especially on the western side of North Dakota, it is very much hush-hush. People didn’t talk about it. Growing up it was the one gay guy, the one lesbian in town and that’s who everyone pointed their finger at,” said Lynn Thomas, Williston resident.
That’s why Lynn Thomas waited until she was 40 years old to tell her truth.
“It was kept so quiet because it was dangerous to us, physically dangerous. We didn’t want to be placing ourselves, families or our work in those situations,” said Thomas.
In order to break down those barriers, she’s working with Williston Rainbow Rendezvous to support and build relationships with people in LGBTQ plus community. One way she’s doing this is by making sure people are comfortable in their own skin, especially the youth.
“I have had people stare at me for dressing differently than everyone else. I have had people laugh at me which really doesn’t bother me because I am living my life the way I want to live it,” said Donavin Whitewater, Bismarck student.
Each year people across the state gather at this summit to not only support each other but to have equal rights. Under state law, there are no protections for the LGBTQ plus community, meaning they can be denied housing, work, and more. Advocates in North Dakota have been trying to get the Human rights act approved since 2009, and every time it’s been brought up, it’s been denied.
“We are your friends and family, we are your students, your teachers. We are in every aspect of life in North Dakota and there is nothing to fear by knowing the LGBTQ plus community,” said Thomas.
The last day of the summit is tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Baymont Inn & Suites in Mandan. Anyone is welcome to attend, you can register at the door.