Fourteen Years of Privilege

Friends, Greetings.

Just want to share with all y’all an anecdote about living gay in the red state of North Dakota, a right-to-work state with no LGBT workplace or housing protections. On September 22nd, my 14 year graphic design position with a print shop here, was unexpectedly eliminated. It was a great run. I did not have to be concerned about being gay, or any of my extracurricular advocacy activities. It was safe.

Last Wednesday, I had posted this lengthy update on Facebook:

Had my second appointment with my ND Job Service counselor. She stated that since we last met, there have been 13 views into my profile through their job search board. But, I have not received any calls or emails.

We went through my resume thoroughly, and my skills, profile, and qualifications are more than enough for a job contact. Being as we are in red and conservative North Dakota, she has a suspicion that my “Professional Affiliations and Volunteer Work” might be the snag for here in North Dakota.

Oct 2004 – Present
Bismarck Performing Arts Community
Arts and Culture

Board Member
Jun 2015 – Present
North Dakota Human Rights Coalition
Civil Rights and Social Action

At Large National Delegate
Jul 2016
North Dakota Democratic-NPL
Politics: Represented North Dakota LGBT Caucus at 2016 Democratic National Convention

Advisory Board Member
Nov 2016 – Present
North Dakota Martin Luther King Holiday Commission
Civil Rights and Social Action

Some consider volunteer experience as with reference letters. Nice, but don’t post it unless asked. So, I will remove that section of the resume, and see what can happen. At least from the resume on the ND Job Service job search board.

Later I had a conversation with a state official here who knows the situation. They too agreed that for here in North Dakota, it is wisest to keep all that on the down-low.

Unfortunately, I had to have similar conversations with student leaders when I worked in a career center. Not just LGBT, but feminists, students of color, etc. It was a shitty conversation because they built up leadership experience, but had to “out” who they were or their values before ever getting an interview so they had to think about if they were wanted to use that leadership experience or try without it.

It sucks and most people don’t understand that reality. We need to allow people to get further in the process so their skills and experiences speak for themselves, not who they are on a resume/application.

Less is more in the job search. But as a designer, that’s challenging, so I’d use just your professional portfolio to show your creativity and skill set. An employer seeing that you’re a strong advocate on the front end may have concerns about how you balance that with your work. Some would say “I will only work for an employer who accepts all of me”. However, I know that our options are limited in NoDak and the region.

So, this is what it is like to be gay in North Dakota. For 14 years, I was in a secure and stable job, privileged, if you will. It is a harsh reality, after coming out 14 years of safe privilege. Do I give up and leave North Dakota? I am willing, but I do not want to leave. At age 51, I thought life would have been together, and I would not have found myself trying to reinvent myself. Where do I go from here.