Friday, February 6, 2015

Gay life in the small towns and man camps of North Dakota's oil boom

Cole Stangler has written, with photos by Matthew Leifheit, a piece about gay oil workers in the small towns and man camps dotting the landscape of increasingly-polluted North Dakota's Bakken petroleum boom.
     There are no gay bars in North Dakota...
     Minot, a growing city of 46,000 on the eastern edge of the patch, is the closest there is to a gay mecca in these parts...
     The closet is still a major institution in the Bakken. Over the course of a week in North Dakota, I spoke to more than a dozen workers in a similar situation. Some are in the closet for fear of losing their jobs. Others figure the risk of creating friction at the workplace isn't worth their peace of mind.
     Like the vast majority of employers in the state, most companies in the oil patch do not provide discrimination protections for gay and trans workers. That means, if you're a roughneck who's out on the job—or a truck driver, or a welder, or a pipe fitter—your boss can probably fire you for being gay, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it. Protections exist at some of the bigger international companies that have set up shop—Halliburton and the Norwegian oil giant Statoil, for instance. But this often means little in practical terms, since the industry relies so heavily on subcontracted labor...

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