I knew it was a horror show when I saw the name Barb Anderson

Everything she touches turns to poison. If you’ve never heard of her, she’s a notorious Minnesota hate-monger, a nasty, more bitter version of Michele Bachmann. She’s the master hater behind the Minnesota Child Protection League, one of those misleadingly-named right-wing organizations that swoops into schools to protect the kids from bullying, which usually translates into defending the bullies right to torment LGBT kids. She’s simply an awful person.

MCPL’s lead spokesperson is Barb Anderson, a ubiquitous figure in the school bullying debate. Anderson has long volunteered as a researcher for the Minnesota Family Council, which led two failed battles against marriage equality. She was also a vocal opponent of LGBT safety in the Anoka-Hennepin School District where she helped launch the Parents Action League. PAL is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of its adamant demands to have the ex-gay movement in the Anoka-Hennepin School District.

Anderson has made some extreme statements about LGBT people, so much so that GLAAD has added her to its Commentator Accountability Project.

For example, she once said, “The greatest threat to our freedom and the health and well-being of our children is from this radical homosexual agenda that is just so pervasive.”

She was bad news several years ago, when a wave of suicides was sweeping through the Anoka-Hennepin school district — nine kids dead by their own hand in a couple of years. It was horrific. The school district was highlighted in a Rolling Stone (Massive trigger warning: that article recounts the personal experiences of many young people who were viciously bullied, and graphically describes several suicides).

There was another common thread: Four of the nine dead were either gay or perceived as such by other kids, and were reportedly bullied. The tragedies come at a national moment when bullying is on everyone’s lips, and a devastating number of gay teens across the country are in the news for killing themselves. Suicide rates among gay and lesbian kids are frighteningly high, with attempt rates four times that of their straight counterparts; studies show that one-third of all gay youth have attempted suicide at some point (versus 13 percent of hetero kids), and that internalized homophobia contributes to suicide risk.

Administrators denied that there was a problem with gay kids being bullied. They want to stop all bullying, which is a common defense for avoiding conflict with special interest groups targeting LGBT rights. They can’t possibly single out LGBT kids for protection, despite the fact that they’re getting bullied because they’re LGBT. They won’t even acknowledge that the behavior of these kids is perfectly normal, so they avoid useful approaches, like inclusive sex education. No, they just close their eyes to the issues, because they’d rather offend families of the bullied kids than the MCPL. They’ll even go so far as to blame “gay activists” for the problems.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Center for Lesbian Rights have filed a lawsuit on behalf of five students, alleging the school district’s policies on gays are not only discriminatory, but also foster an environment of unchecked anti-gay bullying. The Department of Justice has begun a civil rights investigation as well. The Anoka-Hennepin school district declined to comment on any specific incidences but denies any discrimination, maintaining that its broad anti-bullying policy is meant to protect all students. “We are not a homophobic district, and to be vilified for this is very frustrating,” says superintendent Dennis Carlson, who blames right-wingers and gay activists for choosing the area as a battleground, describing the district as the victim in this fracas. “People are using kids as pawns in this political debate,” he says. “I find that abhorrent.”

That is explicitly Barb Anderson’s approach. If LGBT kids are being bullied and committing suicide, that’s the fault of the kids themselves and of schools that permissively tolerate the pied piper of perversion and that GSAs [Gay-Straight Alliances] will draw more confused and questioning youth into gay experimentation which will lead schools to affirm sexual disorders, which is why all those kids killed themselves.

Anti-gay backlash was instant. Minnesota Family Council president Tom Prichard blogged that Justin’s suicide could only be blamed upon one thing: his gayness. “Youth who embrace homosexuality are at greater risk [of suicide], because they’ve embraced an unhealthy sexual identity and lifestyle,” Prichard wrote. Anoka-Hennepin conservatives formally organized into the Parents Action League, declaring opposition to the “radical homosexual” agenda in schools. Its stated goals, advertised on its website, included promoting Day of Truth, providing resources for students “seeking to leave the homosexual lifestyle,” supporting the neutrality policy and targeting “pro-gay activist teachers who fail to abide by district policies.”

Asked on a radio program whether the anti-gay agenda of her ilk bore any responsibility for the bullying and suicides, Barb Anderson, co-author of the original “No Homo Promo,” held fast to her principles, blaming pro-gay groups for the tragedies. She explained that such “child corruption” agencies allow “quote-unquote gay kids” to wrongly feel legitimized. “And then these kids are locked into a lifestyle with their choices limited, and many times this can be disastrous to them as they get into the behavior which leads to disease and death,” Anderson said. She added that if LGBT kids weren’t encouraged to come out of the closet in the first place, they wouldn’t be in a position to be bullied.

It’s deja vu all over again. The Anoka-Hennepin catastrophe, fomented by Barb Anderson and her cronies, was nine years ago. So she pulled up stakes and moved to another school district to dispense her venom. The latest episode? The Becker school district invited the MCPL and Barb Anderson to present an alternative view point at a meeting of the school board.

That’s right. The fools running the Becker school district invited a known hate group to speak to the board about adopting their hateful policies. So they did.

The school board invited the Child Protection League to speak at a special meeting following outrage from some community members when OutFront Minnesota — an organization supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights — presented at an August meeting.

The Child Protection League describes itself as an organization committed to protecting children from exploitation and indoctrination. Barb Anderson helped form the group, along with the Parents Action League, which was designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its anti-gay rhetoric and involvement in the Anoka-Hennepin School District when it saw a rash of suicides and a lawsuit claiming the district didn’t respond to harassment on the basis of sexual orientation.

GLAAD, an LGBTQ advocacy organization, also lists Anderson on an anti-LGBT watchlist for saying LGBTQ antibullying efforts are the “pied piper of perversion” and affirm sexual disorders.

Anderson was not at Monday’s meeting but Child Protection League Board Chair Julie Quist spoke about children’s books she said violated the beliefs and norms of the community by accepting different gender identities. Quist previously served as district director for U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann. Also speaking were former Becker board members Betsy Armstrong and Chris Klippen.

Armstrong spoke for about 50 minutes and was interrupted several times by protesters — mostly Becker students — questioning her statements or chanting “gay rights are human rights.”

She spoke mostly about what she called the “worrisome” increase in the number of transgender youth in the last decade and cited possible reasons as anxiety, autism or sexual trauma exacerbated by peer and social media influences — something Armstrong called a “social contagion.”

Armstrong also referenced a Bible quote that says God created two sexes — male and female — and said people who follow religious teachings are constitutionally protected and their opinions ought to be given equal consideration.

Notice one aspect of their tactics: emphasizing trans kids. Focusing on gay kids, while still something they do, has had diminishing returns as homosexuality is gradually, increasingly acceptable. Trans kids are fair game! Let’s pick on them until the community wakes up to the fact that this all the same horrendous game of finding someone to ostracize and abuse.

The kids are all right, though. They showed up to protest, and were a lot more intelligent than the sick grownups who brought on this spectacle.

Hundreds of students, parents, and residents in the Becker, Minnesota School District showed up, mostly to protest, a special presentation by an anti-LGBTQ group that offered what it called an “alternative viewpoint” on transgender people. The group, the Minnesota Child Protection League, has been cited by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“This is disgusting,” said Skyler Seiler, identified by Fox9 as a transgender student at the school. “I can’t believe this, we are humans too. I don’t know why they’re treating us like we’re not. Is it not your job, as school board members, to make students feel safe and welcome?”

The school board on Monday voted to allow the group, which Fox9 says is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBTQ hate group, to deliver the special presentation. It’s unclear why the school board agreed to allow a third party organization to deliver a message of hate and discrimination that directly affects the students and families it is supposed to support, protect, and defend. It’s also unclear if that information was vetted or fact-checked before being delivered. Attendees say the group’s information was not from credible sources.

“Human rights don’t have two sides so bringing in another side just doesn’t make sense to me,” Heather Abrahamson told Fox9.

“They were not credible sources that they were citing, and it was completely biased and really offensive and insulting,” Maggie Seiler said. “This is painful, I’m sure those kids in there feel even more ostracized and like the school doesn’t back them and like they have even less rights.”

Those kids would be right. It was school board members who brought in the hate-mongers and who argued that “free speech” trumps the kids’ right to learn in a safe environment. They don’t care about the students, prioritizing the horrid discriminatory religious beliefs of people like Barb Anderson over the experiences of people who have to live with the discrimination.

Look, people, you probably don’t like the optics of citizens turning out en masse to call you a bigot. There’s a solution: never ever pay attention to hate groups like the MCPL or the Parents Action League or the Minnesota Family Council. Don’t invite them to your meetings. Burn their recommendations. Drive them out. Or get more of this from the families you claim to support.


  1. bodach says

    Gods damn these people! You don’t have a constitutional right not to be offended! Don’t allow these groups into your school districts.

  2. PaulBC says

    If you’ve never heard of her,

    Right. The first image that came to mind was Pamela Anderson as Barb Wire. But I get the difference. One is moronic and exploitative. The other is a thankfully forgotten movie from the mid-90s.

  3. Akira MacKenzie says

    Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that when the MSM reports on any culture war issue, from LGBTQ rights to abortion, there has been absolutely NO mention of the bigot’s actions being motivated by religion?

  4. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 1

    You don’t have a constitutional right not to be offended!

    The Right certainly loves to use that line whenever they’re defending the freezepeach of their own bigots, fascists, and hate mongers.

  5. raven says

    It’s unclear why the school board agreed to allow a third party organization to deliver a message of hate and discrimination that directly affects the students and families it is supposed to support, protect, and defend.

    It is quite likely that the school board has been captured by right wingnut/christofascist haters and that they agree with the hate group.

    That has happened in a lot of places and it is everywhere.

  6. elizabethmarie says

    Not surprised by any of that. I went to both of those school systems, back in the early ’70s. In the Anoka-Hennepin district, anyone who was seen as “different” in any way was horribly bullied, and even back then school administrators just ignored it. As a trans kid just trying to figure myself out, I was bullied almost to the point of suicide myself. My parents had the good sense to get us out of that toxic environment when I was 16, and we moved to Becker. Things were better in Becker back then, but it was probably mostly because I was only there a couple years until I started college. I’m surprised, though that it’s taken this long for this shit to start in Becker. It’s always been a cesspool of ignorance, and there are a lot of fundy churches in the area. They probably have managed to get a few more seats on the school board and maybe even the current superintendent.

  7. crimsonsage says

    I can only imagine how bad it is getting for kids dealing with the hurricane of genocidal transphobia. I am a grown ass adult and it it genuinely makes it hard to get out of bed some days, and I know this is true of all the other trans women I am connected to. I think that the environment of unrelenting hate the legislation creates is as much of a weapon than the actual violence the legislation itself perpetuates.

  8. says

    “Burn their recommendations.” What a good idea. Can I suggest tying the bigots to a stake. piling up their hate pamphlets around them and tossing in a match or two. Fire is a good disinfectant.

  9. opossumboy says

    If they had something beyond a high school education they could do a little research and learn that homosexuality is genetic. One is born gay: They have no choice in the matter. Is it really ok to bully teens into suicide for something they have no control over?

    For the christians in the crowd, I point out that Jesus never once mentioned homosexuality. In any case, homosexuality is a social construct, and who knows if said construct existed at the time.

  10. VolcanoMan says

    I dunno @opossumboy

    That approach doesn’t fly with me…for two (related) reasons. Firstly, the reasons why some people are homosexual appear to be influenced by genetics, but things are far more complex than that, and environment almost certainly plays a role…as we come to understand this issue more fully, the significance of the genetic component may increase or decrease, and tying ourselves to a “born this way” attitude could be counterproductive. And secondly, a trait being fully or partly influenced by environment doesn’t justify bullying people who display it.

    However, (secular) education is certainly part of the solution here, because it is positively correlated with progressive attitudes. The more you learn, the more people you learn from…the less the parochial attitudes that your parents and pastor taught you make sense. That’s why the most fundamentalist sects fear education (some even discourage people going to religious colleges, because most of them teach courses in science and the liberal arts that directly contradict the indoctrination so carefully instilled into their parishioners – they worked hard to brainwash those people, and anything that can potentially reverse the process is to be avoided…also, they may be exposed to the “wrong” version of Christianity at a religious school, and that’s seen as almost worse than deconversion to the nutjob sects).

  11. vucodlak says

    She added that if LGBT kids weren’t encouraged to come out of the closet in the first place, they wouldn’t be in a position to be bullied.

    I was deep, deep in the closet all the way up through high school, and it didn’t keep me from being bullied for being less than a perfect specimen of straight, cisgender manhood. Nor did it keep me from being assaulted for being gay.*

    Being forced into the closet offers absolutely no protection from the cruelty of others. But then, Barb Anderson and her followers know that. Just like they know the psychological toll it takes on children to have to pretend to be something they’re not, because they know their peers and the adults in their life will hurt them if they don’t keep up the façade.

    The Barb Andersons of the world also know that they and others like them are responsible for many suicides of LGBT+ people. Contrary to what they claim, they’re not concerned about the children they push over the edge- they’re concerned that many LGBT+ youth live to see adulthood. The goal of groups like the “Child Protection League” is genocide, pure and simple.

    I don’t have much else to say on the subject, except to say that people like those who make up the Child Persecution League are awfully big on the idea that, if someone is try to kill you, then you should blow them the fuck away with a big fucking gun. I don’t subscribe to any of their philosophies, but it does seem to me as though they’re playing with fire.

    *I’m actually pansexual, as well as non-binary, but, again, I was so deep in the closet at the time that I wouldn’t have admitted I was anything but the straightest, manliest of men at 17.

  12. anat says

    vucodlak, in these people’s views you weren’t doing ‘closet’ right, I suppose – they believe everyone should be a follower of the conservative guidebook of cishet-normativity to the point that nobody stands out. I’m sorry you went through that, I hope life is better for you now.

  13. cartomancer says

    One thing that has given me hope, recently, is becoming more aware of just how much the LGBT+ community (whatever that means) takes looking after its own seriously. And it runs both up and down the generations.

    Having grown up entirely under the auspices of Margaret Th*tcher’s Section 28, it became apparent to me in adulthood just how much the climate of silence and ignorance over LGBT+ issues in the 80s, 90s and 2000s affected me. I didn’t think it had at the time, but years later I am still suffering from the sense of awkwardness, shame and uncertainty that having my sexual orientation covered up and treated as inappropriate for public discussion caused. And I just had this pervasive sense of “that’s something we just don’t talk about”, rather than active, frothing hatred, to cope with.

    So, when I became a teacher, I resolved that the next generation would not suffer like mine had. I made my Classics lessons as gay as I could, and decided that it must be known in public that I am gay, and have no shame about that (The actual delicate state of my self-esteem must be suppressed for this). I then began to notice this was a common theme among LGBT+ people of my age – that we felt a powerful desire to ensure that what we suffered would not be inflicted on those coming up behind us. Maybe our lives were ruined, and we were so messed up and awkward that we couldn’t relate to others, pursue a relationship or expect anything much out of our sexuality, but the bigots would not have won if we protected the youth and stopped the cycle of shame.

    And yet… this last month was LGBT History month. I asked some of my sixth-form students, who had founded the school’s Pride society, if they could put together a talk on an LGBT history theme to mark the occasion. I would have done it myself, but my particular brand of antiquarian pedantry isn’t exactly a crowd-pleaser. What did they choose to talk about? Nothing other than the baneful legacy of Section 28 and the psychological damage it had caused to LGBT people who had to live through it. My generation. There was me, thinking there was nothing more important than taking care of the next generation, and there they are thinking there is nothing more important than taking care of generations gone by. It was very touching indeed.

    In conclusion, fuck the bigots and all they stand for. That is all.

  14. StevoR says

    Just horrific. I hadn’t heard of Barb Anderson before.

    That she & her toxic, murderous, genocidal extremist followers have any power or influence or people who take her vile hateful bigotry seriously is the real, well, abomination to sue their word.

    To second #12. cartomancer :

    In conclusion, fuck the bigots and all they stand for. That is all.

    Seconded 100%.

  15. StevoR says

    ^ Typo fix that’s “use” of course, dammit. Not sue.. Although I do wonder if her victims and their families could mount some sort of class action against her and her homophobic cult maybe?

    What can we do to fight & stop Barb Anderson and homophobic bigots like her?

  16. Susan Montgomery says

    Bullies persist because they’re unofficial enforcers of the status quo. Look past the bully sterotype of some bogan kid who hasn’t been hugged enough and you find that the real bullies are the “respectable” ones who have favor with the school administration – why else do so many bullies go on to careers in law enforcement? They get away with it because their targets are the ones who stand apart and thus need to be punished in ways the administration can’t.

  17. magistramarla says

    cartomancer @13
    Like you, I found that my Latin classes were the perfect place to slip in a bit of acceptance of diversity into high school classes in deep red south Texas. We used the Cambridge Latin Series. I found that it gave me lots of opportunities to discuss the diversity of the people and cultures in the Roman world.
    When we discussed the ceremony of Isis in Alexandria, the students compared it to baptism, and asked if the Egyptians borrowed it from the Christians. I simply told them to compare the dates, and watched them get it.
    I used Black History Month to teach adjectives and other descriptive phrases, according to the students’ levels. I asked them to choose from a list of well-known African Americans, and to create posters with phrases describing them.
    We hung the posters in the hall, and shamed other departments into also celebrating Black History Month.
    The students trusted me enough to appproach me to sponsor the GSA group, which I did gladly. My classroom became the safe space for students to feel free to be themselves.
    Sadly, there were students and parents who complained, and I was reprimanded by the administration. When my husband was offered a chance to study for his PHD in another state, I helped the school to find another Latin teacher, and left.
    Texas has become a very unpleasant place for people like you and my sweet students, and for people like me, who care deeply for all of you.

  18. cartomancer says

    magistramarla, #3

    You will be pleased to hear that the forthcoming Cambridge Latin Course 5th Edition (released in the UK toward the end of next month, not sure about worldwide publication) has been thoroughly revised to emphasise ethnic diversity and women’s and enslaved people’s voices in the ancient world. I’ve only seen samples of the first two chapters from Book One, but one thing that stood out to me is that the friend Caecilius has over for dinner in chapter two is now no longer an identikit elderly white man (the number of times I’ve had students ask “which one of them is Caecilius, they both look the same”), but Barbillus, the Alexandrian merchant that Quintus visits at the end of Book Two – and he’s drawn quite unambiguously as a stylish black-skinned African gentleman (the cartoons are in colour now, more or less). Similarly, the itinerant painter Celer is now Clara, and there are many other minority ethnic and female characters added to the series.

    They have also rewritten “venalicius” so it shows the purchase of the slave girl Melissa from her perspective, not those of the men haggling over her, and Caecilius now has a daughter – Lucia – who becomes a second major point of view character alongside Quintus in the later books in the series. .I have not seen whether there is actual LGBT+ representation in there yet, but I live in hope. I’ll let you know when we get our new copies of the edition next month. .