For nearly three years, people living in the suburban Minnesota Anoka-Hennepin area have been dealing with not only a rash of LGBTQ youth committing suicide, but a cultural environment that at times seems nearly a war zone as the greater LGBTQ community and its supporters have squared off against the small but well-funded virulently anti-gay conservatives.
In this month’s issue of Rolling Stone magazine, political correspondent Sabrina Rubin Erdely examines the background of the cultural battle being fought as seen through the eyes of the affected teens and their parents as the LGBTQ community is pitted against anti-gay evangelical Christians whose policies — now under threat of federal lawsuits by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU of Minnesota — were implemented by the local school districts.
“LGBTQ students don’t feel safe at school,” says Anoka Middle School for the Arts teacher Jefferson Fietek, using the acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning. “They’re made to feel ashamed of who they are. They’re bullied. And there’s no one to stand up for them, because teachers are afraid of being fired.”
For years, the area has also bred a deep strain of religious conservatism. At churches like First Baptist Church of Anoka, parishioners believe that homosexuality is a form of mental illness caused by family dysfunction, childhood trauma and exposure to pornography – a perversion curable through intensive therapy.
It’s a point of view shared by their congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who has called homosexuality a form of “sexual dysfunction” that amounts to “personal enslavement.”
In 1993, Bachmann, a proponent of school prayer and creationism, co-founded the New Heights charter school in the town of Stillwater, only to flee the board amid an outcry that the school was promoting a religious curriculum. Bachmann also is affiliated with the ultraright Minnesota Family Council, headlining a fundraiser for them last spring alongside Newt Gingrich.
Read the entire Rolling Stone article here →