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Pittsburgh based filmmakers are seeking funds to finish Same Difference, a documentary that contrasts two life situations for LGBT teens.

The film will chronicle the anti-LGBT bullying and violence that hit Anoka-Hennepin School District between 2009 and 2011 through the lens of Justin Aaberg, a young gay man who took his own life after being bullied. The film contrasts Aaberg’s experience and suicide in a non-supportive school environment with that of Graeme Taylor, an 18-year old gay man who has grown up in an LGBT-supportive environment.

The film is being directed and produced by Kyle Wentzel and Joshua Sweeney.

“Our film presents the issue in an entirely new way with an incredible look into the lives of two LGBT kids growing up,” Wentzel, told HuffPost Gay Voices last week. “The stories contrast in a clear way that highlights how communities and schools play a role in growing up LGBT.”

The synopsis for the film:

Same Difference is a feature length documentary that presents the lives of two adolescent boys who identify as gay from a young age. 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 (1995-2010) unfortunately grows up and goes to a school filled with intolerant backwards policies and scandal. Justin was just one of nine teens that took their lives while attending the Anoka-Hennepin School District between 2009-2011. This resulted in state health officials declaring the school district a suicide contagion, leading to a department of justice investigation. The role the school played in these deaths is explored through Jefferson Fietek, the only openly gay teacher in the district at the time. Additionally Mellisa Thompson, a parent in the district, highlights the shortcomings of the school board and the administration. Dr. Dorothy Espelage, Ph.D, Dr. Antoine Douaihy M.D., and Dr. Liz Winter PhD, LSW, examine the current research on anti-bullying and offer solutions to handling gender issues among adolescents within schools.

The film’s trailer:

The filmmakers are looking to raise $135,000 to complete the project which is in post-production. To date, they’ve raised just over $9,000. Those interested in helping support the project can visit the film’s Indiegogo page.

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Andy Birkey

Andy Birkey has written for a number of Minnesota and national publications. He founded Eleventh Avenue South which ran from 2002-2011, wrote for the Minnesota Independent from 2006-2011, the American Independent from 2010-2013. His writing has appeared in The Advocate, The Star Tribune, The Huffington Post, Salon, Cagle News Service, Twin Cities Daily Planet, TheUptake, Vita.mn and much more. His writing on LGBT issues, the religious right and social justice has won awards including Best Beat Reporting by the Online News Association, Best Series by the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and an honorable mention by the Sex-Positive Journalism awards.

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