Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Anoka/Hennepin: Tear Down That Wall (of Deadly Homophobia)!

In the last year, 7 young people in the Anoka/Hennepin School District have committed suicide, 3 directly related to being or being perceived as LGBTQ. The wall of silence, also known in the district as "neutrality," is creating some strange fruit hanging from the trees up there.

Because, although they say that these youth committed suicide, they were actually killed by those within their community, their schools, their churches, and in other contexts that should rather have held their tongues than spouted wounding words. It was merely a sleight of the District's hand that made it look like the young people killed themselves.

What a sleight of hand the Anoka/Hennepin School Board pulled by saying that the sexual orientation policy had to do only with curriculum, and not with bullying! As though they weren't able to see a connection between the wall of silence they created, the bullying by students, teachers, pastors, some family members, and other "concerned citizens," and the deaths that resulted.

The Anoka/Hennepin School Board had such a problem with hearing the truth about their policies in their August 23, 2010 meeting, that the recording of those proceedings was somehow glitched or lost. This was the meeting at which the mother and friends of Justin Aaberg, one of the gay youth who committed suicide in that district, spoke from their hearts about how his death affected them, and how the district is still a dangerous place for LGBTQ, and even hetero, youth.

This is a Berlin Wall moment.

The wall of homophobia that was built around these youth, the wall of hatred and bureaucratic nonsense that was built around those for whom sexual orientation was not the main factor in their deaths, must be toppled once and for all.

Anoka/Hennepin School Board, what is keeping you from saving the lives of your students? Is it the mis-named PAL, Parents Action League, which hides itself behind a wall of anonymity? Which cries about receiving hate mail, as though it has not been out to engender it? Which claims as its motto, "Education, not Indoctrination," when what is meant by indoctrination is enacting measures that will stop gay kids from killing themselves?

Anoka/Hennepin area Churches (of the variety that preach against homosexuality), is it your contention that God wants gay and lesbian kids dead? Do you believe that the heart of the Gospel is in Leviticus 20:13? Do you pride yourselves on the success of this message over that of the saving Gospel? Because the Gospel SAVES; it does not KILL.

To paraphrase Psalm 13, How Long, Anoka/Hennepin, will you lay waste to those who did you no wrong?

How long will you taunt, spit at, beat up, and terrorize young people who did nothing but get up and go to school?

How long will you preach that God is a super-terrorist, that the fulfillment of the Gospel is death of those you believe God would oppose, that Jesus was more concerned with where a person's penis was put than where a person's heart is?

How long will you justify yourselves with policies, when coffins continue to be draped in a sea of tears?

How long will you say that it is a "lifestyle choice" that leads to these deaths, when no different or discernible "lifestyle" was at the root of the hatred, terror, and brutality that actually led to these deaths?

How long will you seek your seat of power in a young man's coffin?

How long will you lose the evidence of your wrongs? (Update: video of the August 23, 2010, Anoka/Hennepin School Board Meeting, is now (9/12/10) available. See Tammy Aaberg at 15:20 here, and listen to subsequent explanation by the School Board Chair, and further testimony of abuse around the Neutrality policy.)

Consider, and answer me!

Answer for those who have fallen, and those who will continue to fall as long as your feet drag!

Answer for those families you have helped to tear apart, and those lives you have ended!

Answer for those careers you have threatened to end because your people have wanted to provide some small measure of support or solace!

Answer for those people who will hear the word "Jesus," and see a man with a gun!

Hear those, O God, who call out to you "Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, and my enemy will say, 'I have prevailed.'"

Hear those, Anoka/Hennepin School District, whose voices are still crying out in pain.

Hear those who want only to live their lives in peace.

Hear those who want only to live another day, to see another sun rise.

Hear those who want only to love those who are in their hearts to love.

It is time for you to choose:

Your policies, or your people.

Your ideas, or your youth.

Your bullies, or your innocent.

Choose wisely. God is watching.


  1. Jennifer Wogaman MarshAugust 31, 2010 at 4:32 PM

    You are an amazing man, Chris Wogaman! I have always seen you helping teens. This is very moving and thought-provoking. Consider that you may do more with LGTB teens and with you on their side, eyes & hearts will be opened. I love you, my brother!

  2. I absolutely loved this piece, Chris. Especially the ending. That is some powerful wordsmithing. :)

  3. Thanks, Jenn & Kari! You are wonderfully supportive. Much love--and pass the word on about what's going on in Anoka--I bet Thompson might be a tough place to be too.

  4. Thanks, Spencer--I need to update it, since the A/H School Board has denied any connection between bullying and the suicides that took place there.