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'Same Difference': Documentary Film Looks At LGBT Youth - VIDEO

Youth

Filmmakers Joshua Sweeny and Kyle Wentzel are shedding light on the powerful effects that school environments have on LGBT youth in their new documentary Same Difference. The film tells the stories of two gay-identified boys, Graeme Taylor and Justin Aaberg, growing up in the midst of drastically different social settings:

Graeme Taylor, now 18 and off to college, grows up and goes to school in a supporting environment that allows him to thrive. Justin Aaberg (1994-2010) unfortunately grows up and goes to a school filled with intolerant backwards policies and scandal. Justin was just one of nine LGBT youth that took their lives while attending the Anoka-Hennepin School District between 2009-2011.

Same Difference focuses on the Anoka-Hennepin School District, which was identified as a suicide contagion area between 2009-2011 by state health officials after a slew of bullying-related deaths. Sweeny and Wentzel are currently in the process of raising funds to complete post production on the film via their IndieGogo page with 26 days left to go. Completion of their funding goals will bring the film to the festival circuit as well as to classrooms in order to better equip teachers and educators to handle discussions about LGBT identity in youth populations.

Watch the trailer for the film, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Anti-Gay Wingnut Linda Harvey Releases Study Guide For 'Ex-Gay' Book

Anti-gay hater and all-around wingnut Linda Harvey published her bookMaybe He's Not Gay: Another View on Homosexuality in January 2014. Her new mission? Ensure that the title is as accessible as possible. Parents and children can download a "student study guide" on her Mission America website to help guide them through the thoughtful advice and kind words of what amounts to an "ex-gay" self-help book.

HarveyJoe.My.God. reports on the study guide press release:

"Youth groups, college roundtables, and adult Sunday school classes can now explore the many facets of the issue of homosexuality through in-depth discussions centered around Maybe He's Not Gay," said Harvey, founder and president of Mission America. Harvey is a Christian radio talk show host, a speaker, columnist and author who writes frequently about the homosexual political agenda and its destructive impact on America, particularly on our youth. The guide is available at no cost on the Mission America site. This highly-acclaimed book is tailored especially for teens and young adults but has been praised by adults who appreciate its common sense, biblically-based approach to a difficult and controversial issue. Published in January 2014, the book presents the view that adolescents who claim a "gay" identity are not getting the whole picture and have been misled into believing the "LGBT" identity is risk-free and inborn like race. They have also been persuaded, contrary to research and many personal testimonies, that there's no hope of change."

Though the book was reportedly removed from Amazon for violating a rule against promoting self-abuse, it is now readily available for purchase.


Film Review: 'Broken Heart Land' Weaves Unexpected And Tragic Tapestry Of Grief

BHL4

Broken Heart Land, an expectation-eschewing documentary from directors Jeremy and Randy Stulberg, begins with an all-too-familiar tragedy in the rural American landscape: the suicide of a gay teenager. From there it weaves a far different story than one might anticipate, opting for a complex exploration of a family struck by death and a town in the throws of an identity crisis. 

The setting, Norman, Oklahoma--home to the University of Oklahoma--is seen by many citizens as a bastion of liberal goodwill in one of the nation’s most conservative geographic regions. In reality, though, the town is largely inhabited by Christian conservatives and other folks who fall uneasily within a murky spectrum of political thought. 

BHL2Two such people, Van and Nancy Harrington, are the parents of Zack, a reserved guy who came out in high school, seemingly without significant fanfare and with ardent support from his family. We learn very little about Zack, save for his participation in the high school color guard; his sudden suicide leaves him even more of an enigma. Only when his grieving parents receive the coroners report do they, and the audience, find out that Zack was HIV-positive and had been treating himself with drugs bought on the street. It is a surprising turn of events within the film. One friend, overcome with emotion and unsure whether or not to speak on the matter, recounts the way that Zack finally told her, after over a year of hinting, about his status. The wound of his death is clearly still fresh for everyone involved, and this particular revelation throws them for a loop. The trailer, which we reported on previously, framed Zack’s HIV-status as the central mystery within the narrative, but its reveal comes early, both in the run time and in the mourning process. The film actually seems far more concerned with picking up the pieces and understanding just how great an impact Zack’s death had, particularly on his mother and rather surprisingly on small town politics.

BHL1Just before Zack’s death, he may or may not have attended the Norman town council meeting where an LGBT History Month proposal was discussed and voted on. The mystery of his attendance reflects the unknowable qualities of his personality, but it is no matter in comparison with the bigoted and disturbing diatribe unleashed by many of the town’s most influential conservatives, including Chad Williams, an assistant pastor of a local mega-church and an eventual candidate for town council. 

The dueling campaigns of Williams and an openly lesbian opponent form the backbone of much of the documentary, framed by the broken and embittered family at the center of the tragedy. Both Van and Nancy Harrington are self-proclaimed Republicans and supporters of the LGBT rights movement, an almost oxymoronic combination these days, and their understanding of politics is shaken throughout the film by national trends (see: the Tea Party) and the closer-to-home town council race. Nancy joins a Norman group called Moms Of Many (MOM), formed in the wake of Zack’s death. She learns about the representation of the LGBT community in politics, campaigns for Williams’ competitor, and, in a particularly tense scene, confronts the pastor after all of her LGBT-related questions are ignored at a debate amongst the candidates. Van is largely seen sitting on a couch at home, watching Fox News, and smoking a cigarette; the grief is palpable and nearly unbearable. 

Still, both he and Nancy traverse an arc, from disbelief and upset about Zack’s status (his keeping it from them more so than the fact that he was positive) to a state of sad but empowered motivation to create change. We eventually see them dedicate a bench in Norman to their son and march in an AIDS Walk in his memory. 

BHL3Ultimately the “broken heart land” of the film’s title seems twofold. It is a comment on the nature of grief and tragedy, rendered so vividly in the lives of the Harringtons, and it is an observation about the shifting, highly oppositional politics of a nation, and particularly the midwest. The Harringtons are a family awakened to their own faults, their political aspirations, and their beliefs. The same, unfortunately, cannot necessarily be said for Williams and others in the more conservative contingent. They stand behind a “we love everyone enough to tell them that they are wrong” facade, never owning up to what the filmmakers and the Harringtons come to believe: something, many things, must be wrong in a society where someone, Zack, would take his own life. LGBT inequality, non-comprehensive sex education, and perhaps even organized religion come under fire. While there is no conclusive reason behind Zack's suicide, beautifully-read passages of his tormented poetry and journals accompany nostalgic video footage throughout the film, giving prophetic voice to a young man no longer able to speak his mind.

Broken Heart Land is a powerful, unexpectedly political, and deeply sad documentary. At its center lies a teenager who could have lived a long, fulfilling life, given the support he deserved all along.

You can stream Broken Heart Land online at worldchannel.org, or catch it airing The World Channel through this weekend.


Bryan Fischer Warns of Gay Fairy Tale Book Tainting the 'Tender Young Souls' of Children

PrincesTreasure

The Princes and the Treasure, a revisionist fairy tale which finds its duo of handsome princes (on a quest to save a damsel in distress, mind you) falling in love with each other, is likely sitting on the shelf of your local public library. Written by University of the Pacific professor Jeffrey A. Miles, the book is a welcome and exciting breath of fresh air for a genre which has steadfastly stood by its heteronormative foundations. Bryan Fischer feels differently.

Book Patrol reports:

Bryan Fischer, the director of issue analysis for the nonprofit Christian organization, talked with the Christian Post recently and had these nuggets of close-mindedness to share:

“The stories and the images that children store up in their minds from fairy tales have a very powerful imprinting effect on their tender young souls.”

“And the bottom line is that no responsible library should ever include a book like this on its shelves, and no responsible school should ever use this book as a part of its curriculum."

Unsurprisingly, Fischer's definition of "responsible" lies within a Judeo-Christian value system, one which he believes all families should adhere to.

“Christian parents don’t want to be concerned only about their own children, they want to keep this kind of warped literature out of the hands of other children as well.”

“And if parents want this book for their children, there’s nothing to stop them from going to Amazon and buying it with their own money. But taxpayer dollars should not be spent on tripe like this.”

“[Because] of the power [of] fairy tales, this book is a particularly pernicious form of sexually perverse propaganda.”

Thank you for the words of warning, Mr. Fischer. If you'll excuse me, I have a "pernicious" gay fairy tale to read.

You can buy a copy of The Princes and the Treasure online here.


Man Arrested In Horrific Shooting of Texas Teen Lesbian Couple Back in 2012

Teen couple

On Friday, authorities arrested the man they believe is responsible for the shooting of a teen lesbian couple near Corpus Christi, Texas two years ago that left one of the girls dead and the other in serious condition.

NBC News reports:

StricklandDavid Malcolm Strickland, 27, was arrested Friday by U.S. Marshals and Texas Rangers in the San Antonio suburb of Helotes, local media reported. U.S. Marshals, Texas Rangers and the police officers from Portland, where the attack occurred, detained Strickland and his wife, Laura Kimberly, 23.

He is facing charges of capital murder, aggravated assault with a weapon and aggravated sexual assault in the June 23, 2012, attack on Mollie Olgin, 19, who died in the shooting in Portland on the Corpus Christi Bay. Olgin's girlfriend, Kristene Chapa, then 18, survived. His wife faces charges of tampering with evidence.

Wrote Chapa on Facebook:

Thanks everyone for the texts, messages, and calls but my family and I are just kinda in shock and just shook up We need time to let it sink and just process the news we've waited on for 2 years please keep us in your prayers


Ethan Hawke Says LGBT Characters in Film and Television Will Help Prevent Teen Suicides

Boys don't cry

In an interview with the Toronto Star, actor Ethan Hawke shared his thoughts on the changing societal attitudes towards homosexual love, with much of the positive change driven by growing LGBT visibility in pop culture.

Said Hawke:

Ethan hawke“It’s been fascinating to me. One of the biggest differences I think between my generation and my kids is that they have almost zero homophobia. They’ve grown up thinking that it’s not a big deal to have gay characters on TV or in movies like Boys Don’t Cry or Kiss of the Spider Woman.

“There are all these things that started this (gay acceptance) ball rolling, and now people are really comfortable talking about it. I think you’ll see a lot less teen suicide in the coming years. I really do believe that.”

Check out the full article HERE, which offers a fascinating look into how the James Dean classic Rebel Without a Cause was a milestone for gay-positive cinema. 


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