FARGO — A group of LGBTQ people over the age of 50 living in Fargo-Moorhead will soon be the subject of national media attention.
The Red River Rainbow Seniors, which offers a place for socializing, education and advocacy for LGBTQ senior citizens in the area, will be featured in an upcoming issue of the national AARP Bulletin. The article will appear online on July 1, and AARP members should receive the printed newsletter in the mail sometime between July 7-14.
"We are gratified to see articles of this nature which recognize that older LGBTQ folks exist everywhere and are involved in making our communities better and our relationships strong," the Rainbow Seniors said in a statement to The Forum.
In addition to talking about the group as a whole, AARP, whose mission is to "empower people to choose how they live as they age," will highlight the group's oral history project, "Breaking Barriers: Harvesting LGBTQ Stories from the Northern Plains."
The project features stories from people who talk about growing up gay in small towns and big cities of the Dakotas and Minnesota.
“In general, it’s important to know about people’s lives, not just LGBTQ lives, but everyone's,” Mark Chekola told The Forum shortly after the project kicked off in 2017. “But it’s important with us because for so long, we had to be discreet and things were unknown."
The oral stories paint a picture of past struggles, which include being disowned by family, becoming distanced from friends and fired from jobs after coming out of the closet, feeling forced to get married to fit in or leaving town to move to larger, more accepting big cities — all important stories that need to be remembered, according to the group.
So far, the Rainbow Seniors have interviewed almost 80 people with an average age of 64. While most of the interviewees have been from the Fargo-Moorhead area, the group has also talked to people from Jamestown, Bismarck, Fergus Falls and Bemidji. They have approximately 150 more people left to interview.
AARP, once known as the American Association of Retired Persons, has 38 million members nationwide.
"AARP has been a strong partner with us from the beginning. Having AARP shine a light on what we are doing here in the Red River Valley is a welcomed opportunity to show a broader audience something they may not have anticipated hearing about a group like ours in this region of the country," the group says.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or find the group on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RRRainbowSeniors. If you'd like to listen to some of the interviews they've conducted so far, visit The Digital Horizons: Life on the Northern Plains page.