These Schools Get Millions Of Tax Dollars To Discriminate Against LGBTQ Students

LYNCHBURG, Va. ― Sunnie Kahle used to think that if she promised to be good, she could go back to her old school.

She’d plead with her great-grandmother to let her enroll again at Timberlake Christian Schools, where she had gone since she was 3 years old. Even if teachers were mean to her, even if other kids said bad things about her, she wouldn’t be mad. She just wanted her old life back.

Her great-grandmother and guardian, Doris Thompson, 74, didn’t know how to tell Sunnie she wasn’t allowed back at the school. Administrators didn’t want her there. In a 2014 letter to Thompson that essentially expelled Sunnie, the school referenced several passages from the Bible as to why they wouldn’t take her back. They suggested Sunnie wasn’t acting “Christlike” by wearing her hair short and preferring pants to skirts.

Sunnie was 8 years old. She wasn’t traditionally feminine enough for them.  

Timberlake Christian Schools in Virginia is one of over at least 700 religious schools in America currently receiving public money while openly advertising and practicing anti-LGBTQ policies, HuffPost has found in a new investigation.

HuffPost has been examining private schools that receive taxpayer dollars through voucher or tax credit programs. We created a database of more than 7,000 schools in 25 states and the District of Columbia with private school choice programs that give public money to private religious schools. 

In the first story of this investigation, which we published earlier in December, we looked at what was being taught. We discovered thousands of schools that used evangelical Christian curricula, largely considered inaccurate and unscientific. In our second article, we singled out a handful of schools that purported to be secular but maintained strong ties to the Church of Scientology. For this story, we researched the number of schools in our database that practice discrimination toward LGBTQ students and staff members.

We visited every website of each school in search of evidence of their attitudes and policies on gender-nonconforming and LGBTQ students. If a school did not advertise a specific policy, we followed up via email or a call. For Catholic schools, we looked for diocese-wide policies on these issues. Often, these schools had policies against heterosexual sex before marriage, as well.

We found at least 14 percent of religious schools take an active stance against LGBTQ staff and students. Some of these schools have policies on their websites generally broadcasting their opposition to same-sex marriage or even stating their belief that homosexuality is a sin on par with bestiality. Others have harsher policies ― specifically stating that students can face punishments, like expulsion, for displaying signs of a “homosexual lifestyle” or “alternate gender identity.” At least 5 percent of these schools also have explicit policies against hiring or retaining LGBTQ staff.

On the other hand, we also found many schools that have policies specifically protecting students from discrimination based on sexual orientation.  

Many more of these schools belong to larger churches that preach anti-LGBTQ sentiment. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is “opposed to homosexual practices and relationships,” per the denomination’s website. The Roman Catholic Church says marriage can occur only between a man and woman. We did not assume that schools identifying with these groups were hostile places for LGBTQ students. In our count, we included only schools (or dioceses) that had a specific anti-LGBTQ policy. In that way, our numbers represent a bare minimum of schools where LGBTQ students may encounter hostility.

Religious schools are generally exempt from the types of regulations that would protect students and teachers from discrimination based on sexual orientation. It’s only in recent years, though, that these schools have received an injection of taxpayer funds with the rise and expansion of state-level private school choice programs.

Since President Donald Trump and his secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, have expressed the desire to use federal dollars to increase private school choice, it’s worth closely examining which students are served and which are not. 

After Sunnie was kicked out of Timberlake, her great-grandma transferred her to public school. Thompson, who is emphatic when she talks about Sunnie, in the way only proud grandmas do, has a tattoo on her wrist that says, “Family is forever.”

Sitting in her living room, the walls lined with photos of Sunnie, here in this city just a couple of hours from Richmond, the Virginia capital, Thompson explained how she came to be Sunnie’s guardian. It’s a complicated tale of mental illness and addiction, but since Sunnie was 2 months old, Thompson has been her protector.  

In February of 2014, when Sunnie was in the second grade, the school principal sent a letter home to Thompson saying that, although Sunnie was a “very bright girl,” she recommended that Sunnie not re-enroll the next year if she wasn’t able to “dress” and behave accordingly with her “God-ordained identity” as a female.

Thompson pulled her out of the school immediately.

“They pretty much ruined a little girl’s life,” said Thompson, who helps with her husband Carroll’s truck repair business.

Sunnie didn’t attend Timberlake using a publicly funded scholarship through Virginia’s tax credit program for low-income students. But the year she was kicked out, other students did. During the fiscal year of 2014, Timberlake received $104,121.57 in scholarships. That number has increased. For the fiscal year of 2017, the school received $237,500, per the Virginia Department of Education.

In Virginia, tax credits are given to individuals and corporations that donate to scholarship programs. These scholarship groups then help low-income students attend private schools. Voucher programs are more direct: Taxpayer funds help provide voucher scholarships for students who meet certain requirements to attend private schools.

A 2016 analysis of voucher program rules conducted by Indiana University professor Suzanne Eckes found that not a single one had protections preventing discrimination for LGBTQ students. Eckes did not include tax credit programs in her research.

So HuffPost conducted a similar analysis including programs that were left out by Eckes. We found the same trend. Only one state’s program, Maryland’s, protected students from discrimination based on sexual orientation. While in our research we found a handful of Maryland schools that expressed opposition to same-sex marriage and homosexuality, each stopped short of saying they would deny these students admission.

DeVos has been pressed before on if private schools receiving federal money under a possible voucher program would be required to prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination. In June, testifying before a Senate subcommittee, DeVos said that such a program would have to follow federal law.

Indeed, in an email to HuffPost, a spokesperson for DeVos emphasized the fact that there is no federal voucher program and that, if there were, it “would have to comply with federal law.”

The problem is federal law is murky.

The Obama administration interpreted Title IX ― the federal law banning sex discrimination in schools ― to include protections for LGBTQ students. The Trump administration seems to think these decisions should be made at the local level.

“There’s no federal protections for LGBTQ students outside of Title IX,” said Nathan Smith, director for public policy for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. “We still think it covers LGBTQ students, despite the fact that this administration doesn’t think so.”

Advocates of school choice emphasize that anti-LGBTQ bullying is a problem in all schools, not just private religious ones that participate in voucher programs. They preach the bigger cause of giving parents the ability to choose the most appropriate school for their child. Indeed, voucher programs are typically targeted to low-income families who normally wouldn’t be able to afford the private school of their choice.

“I abhor discrimination and I would hope that schools would not discriminate against LGBTQ students even if the issue is part of their statements of faith,” wrote Robert Enlow, CEO and president of EdChoice, an education reform group, in an email. “I also recognize, though, that we live in a pluralistic society that values choice, individual freedom and an abiding respect for all faiths. I trust parents to make the best choices for their kids based on their shared values and goals.”

But Thompson hopes leaders at Timberlake know that their interpretation of faith is one without merit. 

I feel sorry for them,” Thompson said, referring to administrators at Timberlake, “if they have to answer and stand before our God one day.”

The 74-year-old describes Sunnie as the great love of her life. Even after raising two kids and helping with three grandkids, Sunnie is her ultimate baby. The child has always been fiercely loyal and unfailingly independent, and she has a heart as sweet as apple pie, Thompson said, beaming with pride when asked about Sunnie’s personality.

But now, at 12, Sunnie is also angry and sad.

Life was never going to be easy for Sunnie. Sunnie’s mom had her as a teen. Sunny’s father has not been a consistent presence, Thompson said.

Sunnie’s story of being kicked out of Timberlake was largely covered in the media when it first happened in 2014. Headlines screamed outrage. Sunnie was another victim of homophobia, another viral story here today and gone tomorrow.

What wasn’t covered is what happened next. Sunnie didn’t want to leave Timberlake. From her point of view, it was a place where she was loved and accepted by her friends.

At her new public school, she was teased. The other students would call her “it” and “gay.” Sunnie made one friend ― he used to come over on weekends, and they would play games, Thompson recalled. Then, suddenly, the boy’s father stopped letting him come over. The father said Sunnie needed to “find out her gender” before they could hang out again.

Things didn’t get better. First, Sunnie faked being sick so often that truancy became a problem.

Sunnie didn’t talk to HuffPost for this article for reasons that HuffPost is not reporting to protect the privacy of a minor.

But Thompson wants Sunnie’s story to be heard.

“Being so young, she really doesn’t know how she feels. She doesn’t know what she wants to be. Or who she wants to be,” Thompson said as her eyes welled with tears, reliving the trauma Sunnie experienced. 

Sunnie still doesn’t talk about feelings she may or may not be having. She’s on the verge of puberty. But Thompson worries about what will happen next.

At the time that Sunnie was kicked out of school, lawyers for Timberlake Christian Schools told the media: “Parents and guardians send their children to the School because of our Christian beliefs and standards. We have a duty to create an environment that is supportive of these Christian values.”

HuffPost reached out to the school and asked if they had anything further to add about Sunnie’s situation, years later. They said they did not.

The school’s anti-LGBTQ policy remains in place.

Punishable behaviors include, “but is not necessarily limited to, living in, condoning or supporting sexual immorality; practicing homosexual lifestyle or alternative gender identity; promoting such practices; or otherwise having the inability to support the moral principles of the school,” according to the school’s website.

Sunnie’s story is unusual because of how young she is. She had adult thoughts and projections pushed on her before she was even close to having them herself.

But a similar version of this story plays out around the country regularly.

In 2012, the same year 15,000 Indiana students used vouchers, Warren came out to his family and friends as transgender, he told HuffPost. At the end of his junior year, he informed the principal at his Catholic school that he would be returning as a boy for his senior year.

The bishop from the diocese overseeing Cathedral High School thought this was unacceptable. But instead of kicking Warren out, or telling him not to come back, administrators ignored the way he chose to identify, Warren said.

Teachers were told that if they called Warren by his chosen name, they would face reprisal. Those with whom Warren was close, who wanted to respect his new identity, were afraid to buck the diocese, he said. Some found workarounds by calling him by his last name or initials.

Warren was deeply involved in the school marching band as well as the school’s plays. During the marching band performances, they would announce the performers. Warren asked announcers to leave his name out, since he knew only his “dead name” would be announced. He asked not to be listed in the programs for the school plays.  

“I was pretty depressed a lot of the  time. I had horrible social anxiety,” said Warren, who’s withholding his last name because his college peers are not aware of his transition.

Even after Warren got his name changed legally that school year, the school refused to accept it. They sent off his high school transcripts to colleges with the wrong name, compelling Warren to explain the confusion to admissions offices, thereby being forced to out himself.

A representative of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis said that it opens its doors to “all who are committed to a quality Catholic education, regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, gender, socio-economics, religion, learning differences, etc. Our admissions policies and practices at each local site conform to this approach.” The high school did not respond to requests for comment on the situation.

The diocese does, however, have a policy against employing staff members in same-sex unions, a representative told HuffPost during data collection.

For Warren and Sunnie, other kids at their private schools were not the problem. They were supportive.

It was the adults.

Thompson only hopes the adults at Timberlake learn to treat children with kindness and empathy.

“God wants you to love everybody,” she said. “Especially his children. He loves his children.”

Thompson is attending regular counseling sessions to educate herself on how to be the best parent she can be to her great-granddaughter. 

Course, now I’m 74 years old, so I don’t know that I’m going to be around here 10 years, when she’ll be 22 years old. I hope to God that he will let me stay here until she is grown. But I hope that she will make something of herself. Be somebody, and be proud of who she is.” 

Data and graphics by Alissa Scheller.

If you have experienced discrimination in schools, email rebecca.klein@huffpost.com.

This is the third story in a HuffPost investigation on the policies and curriculum of schools that participate in private school choice programs. The first story, looking at the curriculum used in evangelical Christian schools, is here. The second story, dealing with schools with strong ties to Scientology, is here

Rotten Apples Database Tracks Sexual Predators in Your Favorite Films and Shows

Gone are the days of blissfully consuming content that may or may not be attached to serial predators since the launch of Rotten Apples, a database that allows users to search films and TV shows to discover if anyone in front of or behind the camera is a sexual harasser or abuser. 

So if there’s that one movie you still love despite the presence of say Kevin Spacey or Dustin Hoffman, or the Weinstein Company’s name in the producing credits, search for it on Rotten Apples and the site will tell you if the content you want to consume is either “fresh apples,” meaning no serial sexual predators are attached to it, or if it’s “rotten apples.” Those movies and TV shows that earn a “rotten apples” rating also provide the name(s) of the attached predators with a link to a story about their transgressions and crimes. If you’re a lover of classic cinema who still has a soft spot for Annie Hall, Chinatown, or any number of Alfred Hitchcock’s films, Rotten Apples is there to remind you just which type of monster helped create the content. 

Since The New York Times published its expose that revealed Weinstein’s serial predation, there’s more of a push than ever to completely eschew projects with predators attached. And Rotten Apples is an invaluable tool to boycott the bad guys (and a few women) of TV and film, but it’s also sobering to come face to face with the fact that some of your faves are problematic. 

“The Rotten Apples is a searchable database that lets you know whether or not a film or television show is tied to a person who has been accused of sexual misconduct. In the case of this website, the ‘person’ is defined as a cast-member, screenwriter, executive producer or director,” Rotten Apples mission/about statement reads. “The goal of this site is to further drive awareness of just how pervasive sexual misconduct in film and television is and to help make ethical media consumption easier.” 

The statement goes on to clarify, “By no means is this site meant to serve as a condemnation of an entire project.”  And that’s where it gets interesting. For instance, search Carol, out director Todd Haynes’s Cate Blanchett-Rooney Mara lesbian-themed masterpiece with a screenplay from lesbian screenwriter Phyllis Nagy, which also stars beloved out actress Sarah Paulson, and the “rotten apples” rating comes up over a famous still from the film. The film is cherished for its artistry and its queer representation on and off screen, yet it’s not easy to look away from the names Harvey and Bob Weinstein (the serial sexual abusers who executive-produced the film) and all that they represent.

 

Despite Rotten Apples‘ eye-opening mission that holds a mirror up to what consumers of content are willing to support, the site is a bit of marvel for its thoroughness, assuming it was created post-Weinstein. Search something recent like Manchester by the Sea and it comes up “rotten” for Casey Affleck’s participation in it. Or toss it back 60 years and search Rear Window and that classic turns up a “rotten apples” rating for Hitchcock having terrorized several of his lead actresses, particularly Tippi Hedren on The Birds and Marnie.

But it’s not just film. The TV section is already rather comprehensive. Searches for Transparent and House of Cards turn up “rotten apples” scores for their predatory lead actors, while a show like the CW’s Arrow gets a rotten rating for producer Andrew Kreisberg’s history of harassment. 

While it seems like an exercise in becoming increasingly disgusted to continue to search content with harassers attached to it, there is a bright side. Searches for new and old popular content like Will & Grace, Queer as Folk, The L Word, Orange Is the New Black, Big Little Lies, Stranger Things, and so on yield a bright green “fresh apples” rating with a line that reads, “This TV show has no known affiliation to anyone with allegations of sexual misconduct against them. If you believe this is an error, please let us know by clicking here and we’ll fix it as soon as possible.” 

For all of the correct results the site yields, there are swaths of content that have yet to be fleshed out for good or bad, particularly in foreign cinema. The site fails to recognize famous foreign films by the greats like Jean-Luc Godard, Federico Fellini, Francois Truffaut and even the early work of Pedro Almodovar, to name a few. 

The site does allow that there’s room for error and correction with some of its results. For instance, search any Mel Gibson project and it comes up with a “fresh apples” rating, which is debatable since he’s well known to be a racist, anti-Semitic misogynist who threatened to kill and rape his wife. For the record, his name has now been submitted for review on several of his films. 

Consumers of content often develop blind spots when it comes to their favorite movies, actors, and shows, but like it or not, Rotten Apples makes it all painfully clear. 

White House Omits LGBT, People of Color From World AIDS Day Proclamation

The White House excluded LGBT people and people of color from its World AIDS Day proclamation.

The letter, signed by President Donald Trump, was released on the eve of the December 1 event raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic, which has taken more than 35 million lives in over three decades.  

“On this day, we pray for all those living with HIV, and those who have lost loved ones to AIDS,” stated the letter, which lists a general review of statistics and the work of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. It concluded with a call from Trump “to remember those who have lost their lives to AIDS and to provide support and compassion to those living with HIV.”

There is no mention of gay and bisexual men, transgender women, or people of color, who are more affected by the virus than other groups in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. This exclusion is a departure from the Obama administration, which listed these groups in its 2016 proclamation for World AIDS Day.

“Gay and bisexual men, transgender people, youth, black and Latino Americans, people living in the Southern United States, and people who inject drugs are at a disproportionate risk,” stated the letter signed by President Obama. “People living with HIV can face stigma and discrimination, creating barriers to prevention and treatment services.”

Obama’s proclamation also listed clear commitments to fighting HIV that were excluded from Trump’s, including “encouraging treatment as prevention, expanding access to pre-exposure prophylaxis, eliminating waiting lists for medication assistance programs, and working toward a vaccine.” However, there was no mention of PrEP or TasP by Trump, who only vaguely promised “to invest in testing initiatives” for HIV in the U.S.

Moreover, in his letter, Obama touted how access to health care is expanded by Affordable Care Act, as “no one can be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions like HIV.” Trump has actively worked to dismantle Obamacare, and unlike Obama, has no National HIV/AIDS Strategy. In fact, the National HIV/AIDS Strategy was deleted from WhiteHouse.gov shortly after Trump’s inauguration.

When asked by The Daily Beast why LGBT people and people of color were not included in the World AIDS Day proclamation, the White House press secretary’s office stated, “HIV/AIDS afflicts people of all types.”

This is not the first time Trump has exercised an “All Lives Matter”-esque logic to exclude marginalized groups. Jews were purposely omitted from the White House’s official statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day in January. At the time, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said Jewish people weren’t mentioned because, “despite what the media reports, we are an incredibly inclusive group and we took into account all of those who suffered.”

In addition, Trump’s Columbus Day proclamation failed to mention Native Americans and the devastation they endured as a result of European colonization.

Hate Crimes Rose About 5 Percent In 2016, FBI Report Says

Hate crimes across the U.S. rose nearly 5 percent in 2016, according to the FBI’s annual tally, marking the first time in over 10 years that the country has experienced consecutive annual increases in crimes motivated by bias against race, religion, sexuality, national origin or disability. 

The FBI’s annual hate crimes report, published Monday, counted 6,121 hate crime incidents in America last year, up from 5,850 such incidents in 2015, a rise of 4.6 percent. 

About 58 percent of the hate crimes in 2016 were motivated by racial bias, with more than half of the race-based incidents targeting black Americans, the report said. Hate crimes targeting Latinos rose 15 percent, and hate crimes targeting Arabs and whites rose 38 percent and 17 percent respectively. 

Twenty-one percent of the hate crimes the FBI counted last year were motivated by religious bias. Of those religious-based incidents, 54 percent were anti-Jewish and 25 percent were anti-Muslim. 

There was a 3 percent increase in anti-Jewish incidents, and a nearly 20 percent increase in anti-Muslim incidents. (Last year, the number of anti-Muslim incidents rose 67 percent, increasing to levels not seen since the period directly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.)  

Nearly 18 percent of the hate crimes last year were motivated by sexual-orientation bias, 62 percent of those targeting gay men. The FBI also counted 105 anti-transgender incidents last year, a rise of 44 percent. 

The much-anticipated FBI report is the most comprehensive hate crime data available for the divisive 2016 election year, and backs up earlier evidence of rising hate in America. The Southern Poverty Law Center documented a wave of hate incidents in the months following the November 2016 election. 

“We now have an unbroken streak of presidential election year increases [in hate crimes] going back to 1992, around the time national data collection commenced,” said Brian Levin, a professor at the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. 

But what makes 2016 stand out, Levin previously told HuffPost, is the steep rise in hate crimes around Election Day itself. Los Angeles, for example, saw a 29 percent increase in hate crimes in the last quarter of 2016, and New York City saw a five-fold increase in hate crimes over a two-week period around the election. 

Corey Saylor, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told HuffPost that “we cannot see such data and forget the humans whose lives were changed by an act of hate.” 

“Americans have to act to ensure that these hate crimes numbers go down by standing up to fear mongers,” he said.  

“It’s deeply disturbing to see hate crimes increase for the second year in a row,” Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement. “Hate crimes demand priority attention because of their special impact. They not only hurt one victim, but they also intimidate and isolate a victim’s whole community and weaken the bonds of our society.”

About 29 percent of hate crimes last year, according to the FBI, were acts of intimidation; 26 percent were acts of destruction, property damage or vandalism; 23 percent were simple assaults; and 12 percent were aggravated assaults. The FBI counted 4 murders in 2016 that it considered to be hate crimes. 

The FBI’s annual hate crime statistics, while the best measurement of hate in America, are deeply flawed. That’s because the FBI relies on local and state police departments to voluntarily report their hate crime numbers to the FBI, which over 3,000 law enforcement agencies don’t bother to do on a yearly basis. 

In 2015, of the agencies that did report hate crimes to the FBI, 88 percent reported zero. Moreover, federal law enforcement agencies like Customs and Border Protection and the Drug Enforcement Administration often fail to send their own hate crime statistics to the FBI, even though they are required to do so by law. 

A national survey by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics found that over half of hate crime victims don’t report incidents to authorities at all. There were a staggering 250,000 hate crimes each year in the U.S. between 2003 and 2015, according to the survey. 

“FBI data showing 6,121 total hate crime incidents and 7 anti-Sikh hate crime incidents in 2016 represents the tip of the iceberg,” said Sim Singh, the Sikh Coalition’s national advocacy manager. “The only way to bridge the data gap is for law enforcement agencies to adopt mandatory hate crime reporting.”

“If law enforcement agencies fail to document the true extent of hate crimes against our communities, our nation will have a hard time mobilizing the political will and resources necessary to prevent and combat the problem,” Singh said. 

In a statement Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that “no person should have to fear being violently attacked because of who they are, what they believe, of how they worship.” 

He stated that the Justice Department’s Hate Crimes Subcommittee will continue to “explore ways to expand and improve training for federal, state, and local prosecutors and investigators; improve data collection of hate crimes; and to create even better partnerships with local law enforcement and affected communities.” 

Meanwhile, the hate crime numbers for 2017 aren’t looking great. Levin, the UC San Bernardino professor, conducted an analysis in September that found that 827 hate crimes had occurred so far this year in 13 large cities, a rise of nearly 20 percent compared to the same period in 2016 for those locations.

Of those crimes, 526 happened in America’s six largest cities, amounting to a 22 percent rise, Levin said.

Trump Voters Believe Sex Allegations Against Weinstein, But Not Against Trump

Most Americans, regardless of political leaning, believe the sexual harassment and assault accusations against film producer Harvey Weinstein, according to a HuffPost/YouGov poll. But there’s a conspicuous partisan split when it comes to similar allegations that have been made against President Donald Trump.

Sixty-two percent of Americans polled consider the accusations against Weinstein credible, with just 3 percent saying they’re not credible and the rest uncertain. The vast majority of both Clinton voters (74 percent) and Trump voters (66 percent) think that Weinstein’s accusers are credible, with just 3 percent in either group saying that they’re not.


But it’s a different story with sexual harassment and assault allegations made last year against Trump. While 83 percent of Clinton voters find the allegations credible, just 8 percent of Trump voters feel the same. A 51 percent majority of Trump voters say outright that they don’t think the accusations against the president are credible, with the remainder uncertain. 


Trump voters are also far more likely to say that workplace sexual harassment is a very serious problem in Hollywood than they are to see it as an equally serious issue nationwide.

Read more on the results of the HuffPost/YouGov poll here.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Oct. 12 and Oct. 13 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error. 

Democrats Like Clinton And Sanders, But Don’t Want Either To Seek Presidency Again

Most Democrats still like both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, but few want to see either run for president again, a new HuffPost/YouGov survey finds.

The poll comes as both of the former Democratic presidential candidates have garnered headlines: Clinton for the promotion of her campaign book, What Happened, and Sanders for his most recent effort to introduce single-payer health insurance.

Seventy-one percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents hold a favorable view of Clinton, with 24 percent viewing her negatively. Sanders holds a similar favorability rating, with 73 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaners rating him positively, and slightly lower unfavorables, with 18 percent rating him negatively. (Among just Democrats, Clinton’s favorability rating is 76 percent, with Sanders at 71 percent.)

Democrats and Democratic leaners say by a 10-point margin, 49 percent to 39 percent, that Clinton was not the party’s best option for a nominee last year. Fourteen percent say she was mostly to blame for Trump’s victory, with 37 percent calling her somewhat at fault, 24 percent saying that she’s not very much at fault, and 16 percent saying that she’s not to blame at all.

Looking forward, just 20 percent want to see Clinton run for president again, but 47 percent say they’d like to see her remain active in politics in other ways, while 23 percent want her to retire. Thirty percent want to see Sanders take another stab at the presidency, with 46 percent preferring him to engage in other facets of politics, and 12 percent wishing he would retire.

Both the “Clinton wing” and “Sanders wing” of the party ― defined as those who view one of those politicians positively, but the other negatively ― are relatively small. A 54 percent majority of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents view both Clinton and Sanders favorably, according to the poll. Sixteen percent like Sanders but not Clinton, while 12 percent like Clinton, but not Sanders. Another 6 percent hold a negative view of both.

Americans as a whole give Clinton a negative rating, with 52 percent viewing her unfavorably to the 36 percent who rate her favorably. Sanders is seen more positively, with 42 percent of the American public viewing him favorably, and just 37 percent unfavorably.

Use the widget below to further explore the results of the HuffPost/YouGov survey, using the menu at the top to select survey questions and the buttons at the bottom to filter the data by subgroups:

MORE OF THE LATEST POLLING NEWS:

POLLS PAINT A MIXED PICTURE OF VIRGINIA’S GUBERNATORIAL RACE: Four new polls of this year’s upcoming Virginia gubernatorial election show differing views of the race between Ralph Northam, Virginia’s Democratic lieutenant governor, and Ed Gillespie, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, though all find Northam tied or ahead.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday gives Northam a 10-point lead, while Suffolk University and Mason-Dixon show the race as effectively a dead heat, with Northam even with Gillespie or up by 1, respectively. In between, the University of Mary Washington gives Northam a modest 5-point edge. With the exception of Quinnipiac, Northam’s percentage has remained relatively consistent at between 42 and 44 percent in recent polls, while Gillespie’s numbers have varied more significantly.

NOT ALL TRUMP VOTERS OPPOSE DACA ― BUT HIS STAUNCHEST FANS MOSTLY DO: HuffPost: “President Donald Trump’s supporters are far from united in opposing the goals of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a new HuffPost/YouGov survey finds. But those with anti-immigration views are the ones who feel most strongly about the issue. More than likely, they’re also among the core backers who helped propel him to victory over his more mainstream Republican rivals. … Trump voters who currently ‘strongly approve’ of the president’s job performance oppose DACA by a 33-point margin. Those who only ‘somewhat approve’ of the president, by contrast, are 7 points likelier to support the program than they are to oppose it. … Hard-line views on immigration were among the touchstones differentiating Trump’s primary supporters from the Republicans who fell in line only after he became the party’s official standard-bearer.” [HuffPost]

PLUS ÇA CHANGE, PARTISANSHIP EDITION: Kabir Khanna and Anthony Salvanto, on a review of a CBS panel study tracking the partisan affiliation of thousands of Americans: “Party attachments have remained very stable in 2017, with neither Republicans nor Democrats able to draw many independents over to their side so far. Democrats aren’t becoming Republicans en masse, nor are Republicans becoming Democrats, and the few who have vacillated between parties aren’t as likely to vote in the first place ― which sheds light on why today’s politics often seems dominated by partisans. … Overall, 91 percent of respondents identified with the same party in their most recent interview as they did the first time we talked to them this winter.”  [CBS]

WHAT THE POLLING AVERAGES SAY AS OF TUESDAY AFTERNOON:

Trump job approval among all Americans: 40% approve, 54% disapprove

Trump job approval among Democrats: 10% approve, 86% disapprove

Trump job approval among Republicans: 82% approve, 16% disapprove

Trump job approval among independents: 35% approve, 57% disapprove

Generic House: 41% Democratic candidate, 34% Republican candidate

Obamacare favorability: 47% favor, 42% oppose

‘OUTLIERS’ – Links to the best of news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:

-A slim majority of Americans approve of President Trump’s handling of the economy. [Gallup]

-Polls find relatively positive remarks for Trump’s hurricane response. [SurveyMonkey, Marist]

-Most people don’t understand the procedure for the president to order a nuclear strike. [Ipsos]

-GOP voters still want to see Obamacare repealed. [Politico]

-California Democrats want to see limits on white nationalist demonstrations. [SacBee]

-Sarah Ruiz-Grossman reports on polling about white supremacy. [HuffPost, data via Sabato’s Crystal Ball]

-Michael Tesler finds evidence that Jemele Hill’s comments represent the mainstream opinion. [HuffPost]

-A plurality of Americans think Trump’s remarks have made racist comments more acceptable in the U.S. [PBS]

-Jacob Bogage and Emily Guskin look at Americans’ mixed attitudes toward the dangers of playing football. [WashPost]

-Danielle Kurtzleben rounds up public opinion polling on DACA. [NPR]

-Emily Badger writes on misconceptions about the wealth gap between black and white Americans. [NYT]

-David Byler reviews polls suggesting that Trump’s approval could be a midterm ceiling for the GOP. [RCP]

-Ron Brownstein examines the possible cracks in Trump’s foundation of support. [CNN]

-Pew Research dives into the differences between consistent voters, “drop-off” voters and nonvoters. [Pew]

-G. Elliott Morris asks how much Democrats can rely on young voters. [NYT]

-John B. Judis issues a mea culpa for arguing demography meant destiny for Democrats. [TNR]

-Adam Marcus reports on a health specialist demanding payment for the use of his questionnaire. [Science]

Find the latest polling stories, updates and charts here. Want to get stories like this in your inbox? Sign up here.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Sept. 13-14 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

Few Americans Think Transgender Troops Shouldn’t Be Allowed To Serve

The American public leans in favor of allowing transgender people to serve in the U.S. military, new polling finds.

Half say that trans people should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military, while just 31 percent think they should be barred from doing so, according to a HuffPost/YouGov survey released Friday. For comparison, 59 percent think openly gay and lesbian troops should be allowed to serve. (A Reuters/Ipsos poll, also released Friday, found higher support for trans service members, with 58 percent of the public in favor.)

On Twitter Wednesday, President Donald Trump said that transgender people would no longer be allowed to serve in the military “in any capacity,” citing what he called “tremendous medical costs and disruption.”

LGBTQ rights groups have assailed his statement, noting that health care expenses for trans troops account for a minute fraction of the defense budget, and pointing out that gay and lesbian troops were once accused in the same way of undermining military cohesion. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Thursday that the Pentagon’s policies haven’t yet changed, despite the president’s tweets.

“It’s just a shot in the face,” Kasia Celeste, a U.S. Navy sailor who is trans, told HuffPost about Trump’s announcement. “A lot of us are scared and angry because we all signed up to do the same job. Who has the right to say you can’t fight for your country?”

Twelve percent of Americans think that allowing trans people to serve strengthens the military, the HuffPost/YouGov poll finds, while 25 percent say it makes the military weaker, and 50 percent say it doesn’t affect the strength of the military either way.

The 3 in 10 Americans who know at least one transgender person ― or who are trans themselves ― are more likely to be supportive of their inclusion in the military. Sixty-two percent of those who know a trans person think trans military members should be allowed to serve, compared to 45 percent of those who don’t know anyone who is trans.

There’s also a substantial divide along age and political lines. Seventy-two percent of those who supported Trump in last year’s election, but just 5 percent of those who backed Hillary Clinton, think trans people should be barred from serving. About 40 percent of Americans age 45 or older, but just 17 percent of those under age 30, think trans troops should be prevented from serving.

A majority of the public, 52 percent, say that trans people currently face a lot of discrimination in the U.S. 

Use the widget below to further explore the results of the HuffPost/YouGov survey, using the menu at the top to select survey questions and the buttons at the bottom to filter the data by subgroups:

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted July 27-28 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here. 

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

Why This Activist Is Biking 4,200 Miles This Summer

Trystan Cotten, the transgender founder of indie publisher Transgress Press, is spending the summer pedaling 4,200 miles across America to raise awareness of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and sex trafficking. He’s raising funds for Stand Up Placer, a Northern California organization that helps turn victims into survivors.

“I teach about gender-based violence as a professor,” Cotten says about why he felt compelled to take action for the cause. “It’s a part of my work. But last year I became sickened and disgusted by the news reports of rape and sexual assault exemplified by the allegations against Bill Cosby, the outcome of the Stanford rape conviction, and the election of a president who openly brags of assaulting women.”

Feeling “saturated by misogyny,” Cotten says he was “spurred to do something personal, and on a broader activist scale.” But, he admits, he also wanted to break out of the classroom and see how communities across the U.S. are dealing with violence against women and LGBT folks.

“I’m stopping at agencies and safe houses on my route to learn more about the issues they’re dealing with locally,” Cotten explains. “This gender-based violence is a worldwide epidemic and the single-most threat to humanity.”

You can empower survivors to change their lives by donating to StandUpPlacer.org or your own local providers. Follow Cotten (and his journey) on Facebook at bit.ly/TrystnFB.

What’s it like to be in a polyamorous relationship?

A small but growing community, in India and around the world, is challenging a foundational construct of society: that a monogamous marriage is the only way to have a fulfilling long-term relationship. Their experiences, which loosely fall under the umbrella term “polyamory”, have a lot to teach us about honesty, jealousy, acceptance, and love itself.

A 30 May Mint report on the extramarital online dating service Gleeden said that the website already had over 100,000 subscribers in India (up to 180,000 at the time of going to press). The numbers indicate the existence of, at the very least, a willingness by married Indian men and women to explore extramarital dating. But polyamory is different—it involves having more than one intimate relationship with the knowledge and consent of all those involved. This makes polyamory a form of ethical non-monogamy, as opposed to infidelity.

Infidelity is the more common way of responding to the strictures of monogamy. Given the sensitive nature of the topic, getting accurate numbers for the rate of infidelity in India is hard. Consider the 2014 survey conducted by Canadian online extramarital dating service Ashley Madison. According to reports in the media, of the 75,321 respondents from 10 Indian cities, 76% of the women and 61% of the men didn’t consider infidelity a sin. In contrast, a survey conducted in 2013-14 by the US-based research organization Pew Research Center, with 2,464 respondents, reported 27% of Indians as saying that extramarital affairs are either “morally acceptable” or “not a moral issue”. The numbers for consensually non-monogamous individuals are even harder to estimate, but may be as high as 10-12 million people in the US alone, according to a 2014 Atlantic article.

The numbers are hard to estimate in part because of the stigma around polyamory. Society, when it is not being hostile or outright abusive, tends to dismiss polyamorous or poly people as either sex-crazed or frivolous and incapable of commitment. On the contrary, I found poly individuals like Rishika Anchalia and Aparna Dauria, who agreed to be interviewed for this piece, to be engaging more seriously and thoughtfully with relationships than some of those who unquestioningly follow the norm.

What polyamory asks is, “Why does non-monogamy have to involve lies and deceit?” The main idea is that relationships need not follow templates. Consenting adults—two or more—can write their own rules. It is this focus on what love is, rather than what it is supposed to be, that pierces the veil of myths and conditioning surrounding this queen of all emotions.

Illustration by Jayachandran/MintIllustration by Jayachandran/Mint

Ethical loving

When Vidya (who asked that only her first name be used), an entrepreneur from Bengaluru, first acted on an attraction she felt towards a person other than her partner of five years, she was thrown into a maelstrom of confusion and guilt. As she struggled to make sense of what she was feeling, her primary relationship with her partner became strained.

Seven years later, Vidya, now in her mid-30s, successful, intelligent and well-read, brings to our conversation the independence of mind that I have frequently encountered in the poly community. Many friends advised her to forget all about it and move on, without telling her partner. This did not sit well with her. “Did my cheating mean I was no longer in love with my partner? Absolutely not, I still adored him. But still, if I believed in honesty and faithfulness, what was I doing? And then I realized that sharing love and sex with someone else didn’t feel wrong. The lying and deceit did.”

She discussed the episode with her partner, but he was not ready to open up the relationship. Vidya might have chosen to deny the part of herself that connected intimately with other people, and stayed with her partner. But if dishonesty towards her partner was reprehensible for Vidya, dishonesty towards herself was even more so. They parted amicably, and she has identified as poly ever since.

Honesty is important to the poly community, which means individuals cheating on their spouses are not welcome. Even relationships that have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule—where people agree to date others, but want to be kept in the dark—are frowned upon. The idea is that a barrier to communication implies an issue in the existing relationship that cannot be resolved by getting into another one.

It is this attention to ethics that complicates the assumption that polyamorous people are simply promiscuous. While the poly community is sex-positive—that is, it regards all consensual sexual activities as fundamentally healthy and pleasurable—and does not look down upon casual sexual relationships, promiscuity implies being less discerning in one’s choice of partner. The poly emphasis on honesty and communication often makes this community more discerning, not less.

Obsessed with sex?

The misrepresentation of polyamory as being only about sex is worsened by its portrayal in the media, with variations of the image of three pairs of feet poking out from under a blanket.

In a February interview to The Chronicle Review, Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins, a professor at the University of British Columbia in Canada, mentions her experience being interviewed by the Cosmopolitan UK magazine, where she distinguished between polyamory and promiscuity. The text of the story was fine, she said, but she was not prepared for the image that accompanied it—a spread depicting an orgy: “Not a small orgy. Like maybe 25 people.”

Closer home, this reduction of polyamory to sex is mirrored in a July 2016 Scroll.in article on polyamory. The article establishes that “getting enough of, or chasing, sex may not be a marker of success, happiness or liberalism.” The problem with this is the author’s assumption that polyamory is merely about “chasing sex” in order to portray oneself as “liberal”.

As K, who is in her late 20s, and works in social media advertising in Bengaluru, says, “Once you are poly, you are single.” K identifies as queer, and has found that monogamy holds sway even in the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and others) community in India. “To meet someone who understands poly is hard. Your dating pool reduces drastically.”

The reason for this is that poly people are upfront about their orientation, and the number of people who have overcome the societal norm of monogamy sufficiently to accept a poly partner is small. And as for sex itself, K says: “Poly relationships are all about communication. My friends always joke about how I am talking more and having less sex.”

The emphasis on sex also does a disservice to all forms of love that have not been consummated. For instance, Dauria, a Mumbai-based singer, composer and songwriter who runs the Egalitarian Non-Monogamy support group on Facebook, says, “I am engaged in three intimate relationships at the moment, two of which are platonic.” The poly community argues that platonic love can be as intense, as caring and as giving as any love involving sex. It is also evident that asexual people can have deep romantic attachments. We are all very aware of loveless sex. Why, then, is it so hard to embrace the concept of sexless love?

For G, who works as a biologist in Bengaluru, sex has repeatedly been a decisive factor in his relationships. “Romance, sexual attraction, platonic connections flow in their own way, and the issue of monogamy does not come up. But having sex is a different story. Sex tends to force a definition on to a relationship.” It is because our culture is obsessed with sex that it cannot see polyamory as anything but sexual. This prejudice can be an active annoyance. As K says: “Some of my friends refuse to take my capacity for loving more than one person seriously. They call me ‘greedy’, ‘a glorified player’, or dismiss my orientation as a ‘fad’.”

Poly communities tend to have a more enlightened view of sex too. Since sex is discussed openly, polyamory promotes healthy ideas of sex, including safe sex, and full and enthusiastic consent. Polyamory is also accepting of the entire bouquet of sexual activities between consenting participants, and poly communities do not find it difficult to celebrate sexless love.

Who’s afraid of whom?

Comments by monogamous people about polyamory can be paranoid and aggressive. Women, in particular, are targets of violence. Prof. Jenkins writes in Aeon, a digital magazine, about the trolls who started accosting her when she began writing about being polyamorous. “I have been called a ‘c**-dumpster’, a ‘degenerate herpes-infested w****’, and many other colourful names.” The false idea that polyamory is anti-monogamy seems to give some people a licence to be abusive.

The trolls seem to struggle to imagine life without a norm. This is why they see polyamory as threatening to become the “new norm”. But for the poly community, the problem is not monogamy, but, rather, the societal norm of compulsory monogamy. Compulsory monogamy propagates the myth that it is something everyone must aspire, and limit themselves, to.

G is very logical in his approach. “I just do not see why one relationship style needs to be held up as the only valid choice. What normative monogamy does is it makes people count out options when they don’t have to.”

The damaging regime of compulsory monogamy is propped up by existing Indian laws. Danish Sheikh, a Delhi-based lawyer and writer who works in the field of queer rights, says: “The law has a very rigid definition of what a non-marriage intimate partnership constitutes. As a result, crucial remedies such as those under the Domestic Violence Act are not available to women in polyamorous relationships.” From a legal point of view, unmarried partners face problems in renting apartments, and are not recognized as family in the case of medical or other emergencies. “Marriage provides many forms of legal protection, which are denied to alternative modes of being together. The institution of marriage needs to be challenged not just in terms of its heterosexuality, but also in terms of its definition as the intimate union of two individuals to the exclusion of all else.”

The perils of normative monogamy are many. And these perils are more present in India than we acknowledge. Let us conduct a thought experiment. Count the number of people you know who are stuck in unhappy marriages (but are afraid of the social stigma of divorce)—with abusive partners, cheating partners, or partners who are sexually or temperamentally incompatible. Add to this the people who are separated or divorced and face social condemnation, and those who are unhappily unmarried. Chances are that in spite of all the secrecy that shrouds failed marriages in India, you may know of more than a handful.

Now consider what these individuals go through. They are constantly exposed to opinions and judgements by a society that sees them as failures and their lives as somehow incomplete. The choice seems to be between the normative, monogamous marriage—and nothing. In response, polyamory is not propagating any norm.

It is important to distinguish between polyamory and polygamy. Polygamy is often an equally oppressive institution, where one person, usually the man, has more than one spouse (polygyny). Polyandry, where one woman has many husbands, is a comparatively rarer form.

One thing is for certain: Polyamory is not for everyone. Many poly people, in fact, are quick to acknowledge this. Vidya says, “I have respect for consensual, thoughtful monogamy. Some people prefer to cover the complete depth of intimacy with one partner rather than the breadth of multiple partnerships. Also, some who may be inclined towards polyamory may not have the fight in them to face the societal taboo around non-monogamous relationships. Either of these are valid choices.”

Normative monogamy is not usually as generous. Instead of recognizing the validity of multiple ways of living and loving, it, like a brutal conqueror, tends to force several separate ideas to merge into “the only one”, the only legitimate option. It lumps together love, sex, exclusivity, and throws in cohabitation and coparenting.

In fact, as Belgian psychotherapist Esther Perel mentions in her popular TED talk, “Rethinking Infidelity”, the norm of monogamy has become even stricter, because it is only recently that marriage has been linked to love—and love is something everyone wants to succeed at. “The fact is that monogamy had nothing to do with love,” Perel says. “Men relied on women’s fidelity in order to know whose children these are, and who gets the cows when I die.” She goes on to note that, ironically, adultery was where people sought pure love in the past.

For those who are polyamorous by nature, the norm of monogamy can make them feel extremely guilty and ashamed of feelings of desire and love. It can result in them suppressing their feelings till these erupt in unsafe behaviours, including ill-considered sexual escapades, or in them feeling trapped in a monogamous relationship and resenting their partners. The norm of monogamy can also separate them from their families, with parents often being unable to accept that their child is polyamorous.

It is possible for some lucky individuals to find in one person an emotional partner, a sexual partner, a partner in the household who does their fair share of the work, as well as a responsible and involved parent—but is this the only aim society must promote? Or can there be other ways of finding love, running a household and raising a family?

Standing in the way of any other approach is the chief concern of monogamous people with respect to sharing their partners—“How will I overcome the torment of jealousy?”

The heart of jealousy

Poly people are often asked how they manage jealousy. It appears that most poly people do not experience jealousy in the way society expects them to. “I’ve never been particularly jealous or possessive, not the typical girlfriend that is depicted in the media. I enjoyed hearing stories of my partners’ sexual experiences with others, whether past experiences or current attractions,” says Vidya. K adds: “I wouldn’t hang on to my partner at a party, I wouldn’t care if my partner had a crush. I hate how the world advertises jealousy, and people just mimic it.”

It is telling that we have so many words for the negative feelings that arise from sharing our partners—words like jealousy, possessiveness, cheating, infidelity and betrayal. But, as Anchalia, an advertising professional in her mid-20s who lives in Mumbai, says: “We’re already sharing our partners! With their friends, family, work and hobbies…. In fact, isn’t it common to say a partner’s work is their ‘mistress’?”

So much of love lies in taking pleasure in your partner’s happiness, even if it is inspired by something outside the relationship. But though we have all felt it—think of a time when your partner achieved a career milestone, or became fascinated with a new hobby—we needed the poly community’s open-minded attentiveness to give the feeling a name. That name is compersion. The question then ceases to be “What is making me jealous?” and becomes “What is preventing me from feeling compersion, which is such a warm and thrilling emotion?”

Anchalia says polyamory helped them see jealousy for what it really was (Anchalia identifies as genderqueer and prefers “they” and “them” as first-person singular pronouns). “When I was younger, I believed in the idea that my partner is supposed to be my everything. I would get jealous when my partner would hang out with his best friend!” Monogamy fuels jealousy in ways that make us believe we are experiencing it because of a third person in our partner’s life. “As I explored polyamory, I realized jealousy was not about the third person, but about my needs not being met… needs that I expected or hoped the relationship would fulfil.”

Vidya clarifies: “Polyamory does not mean an automatic absence of jealousy. Many poly-identified folk consider jealousy a healthy and natural emotion, often pointing them to their own deep-seated insecurities or fears.” And such emotions can arise in any relationship and at any time. She adds: “I learnt over time that ‘jealous’ is not a blanket adjective for a person. Each of us may have different triggers for jealousy—specific experiences of feeling excluded, or feeling threatened. My partner may be great friends with one of my lovers, but deeply jealous of another.”

In the poly approach to jealousy, people are encouraged to discover the fear that is at the source of their jealousy. Next, they must find ways, with the help of their partner, to feel reassured and manage their anxiety. “This is an ongoing process, involving lots of honest and loving communication between partners,” says Vidya. Compare this to the resentment, rage and desire for revenge that popular culture tells us is the natural response to feeling jealous.

What does overcoming jealousy look and feel like? Vidya reminisces about the time she spent with two of her partners. “I have vivid memories of how fulfilled I felt, hanging with both of them, feeling just…love all around,” she says. “We would do extended family-type dinners, with our core friend circle and our other lovers. It made me very proud that through all the usual relationship ups and downs, we could reach there.”

Deep soul work

“Polyamory made me more comfortable with myself,” Anchalia says. Jealousy is not the only internal emotion that poly-thought helps one to manage. It encourages us to be honest with ourselves, over and above fitting into a societal template. This honesty reveals more emotions that we would have otherwise neglected or denied. It is harder to suppress a part of you that you have already acknowledged exists.

As Dauria puts it: “What my experiences have taught me is to be mindful of myself. Taking the time to observe my emotions, and acknowledging their origins, has always led me to the awareness that the true source of my struggles is in my beliefs and expectations. This perspective reminds me that holding my partners responsible is futile—the true answers lie within. As a result, potential arguments turn into respectful, open-hearted dialogues about our fears and insecurities, which actually end up deepening our bond.”

This “deep soul work”, as Dauria terms it, is a progressive acceptance of the self, even those parts that society claims are “wrong”. Love leads one to accept the self in the face of societal sanction because love is the very force that has constantly broken down social barriers. Stories of transgressive love abound in all cultures, even in Bollywood’s depictions of interfaith, intercaste and interclass love. It is this irrepressibility of love that gave the LGBTQ+ community the strength to assert their existence in a society that attempted to criminalize and invisibilize them.

“We are talking about something called love,” Dauria says, “which is an incredible, transcendental force. What the societal norm of compulsory monogamy attempts to do is enforce rules and regulations on something genuinely profound. But that is impossible. Love is beyond any strategy we create to control it.”

***

Poly gets screen time

A handful of TV series and films that depict polyamorous relationships

A still from ‘House Of Cards’.A still from ‘House Of Cards’.

House Of Cards (Netflix)

While Frank and Claire Underwood are downright diabolical, their relationship often provides a soft counterpoint to their ruthlessness. In the early part of the series, Frank, Claire and Edward Meechum get entangled romantically, and later, Claire’s relationship with the writer Tom Yates receives Frank’s support and encouragement. Scenes with the three of them having breakfast together at the White House portray a healthy and familial equation.

A still from ‘I Love Dick’.A still from ‘I Love Dick’.

I Love Dick (Amazon Prime Video)

The Amazon series, created by Jill Soloway (‘Transparent’), is based on the eponymous Chris Kraus novel. To reduce ‘I Love Dick’ to polyamory or polyamory to ‘I Love Dick’ would do them both a disservice, but this witty comedy about a married couple’s mutual obsession with an artist has some poly resonances.

A still from ‘You Me Her’.A still from ‘You Me Her’.

You Me Her (Netflix, outside USA and Canada)

While the series is big on drama and outlandish coincidences, it does depict a “throuple”—a polyamorous triad—and brings up many of the questions and issues that individuals face when in an unconventional relationship.

A still from ‘Unicornland’. A still from ‘Unicornland’.

Unicornland (Unicornlandseries.com)

This Web series follows the experiences of a ‘Unicorn’—a bisexual woman who is willing to date couples. Unicorn is a word informally used in the poly community to refer to bisexual men and women, because they tend to be the rare and magical creatures couples look for when opening up their relationship. The series alternates between the Unicorn’s bad dates and her encounters with more caring couples.

A still from ‘Professor Marston & The Wonder Women’.A still from ‘Professor Marston & The Wonder Women’.

Professor Marston & The Wonder Women

Releasing in theatres on 27 October, this indie biopic tells the true story of the poly family that created Wonder Woman, which received a blockbuster film debut earlier this year. The Harvard psychologist W.M. Marston created Wonder Woman along with his wife, Elizabeth Holloway, and their partner, a former student of his named Olive Byrne. The three lived and raised children together. When Marston died in his early 50s, the two women continued as partners for the rest of their lives.

Partho Chakrabartty is a writer from Mumbai, currently pursuing his master of fine arts degree in fiction from Temple University in Philadelphia.

First Published: Sat, Jul 08 2017. 08 34 AM IST

Is Japan’s Naughty Knotty BDSM Scene Too Dangerous?

Rope and Photos by Leh

TOKYO—There’s a saying in Japan, Nama byoho wa kega no moto. That is, Half-baked knowledge of the martial arts is the cause of great injury.

It turns out the same is true in the realm of Japan’s fetish subculture. Half-baked knowledge of BDSM is also the cause of great injury—especially with ropes.

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Japan’s fetish scene has blossomed in recent years and become part of the popular culture. A member of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet appears to have frequented S&M bars, and even the HBO series Girls had an episode set in a Tokyo bondage club.

However, as the fetish scene has grown, so have the number of injuries, and in a culture of shame many go unreported.

For decades there has been one man in Japan’s BDSM underground who has acted as the “Doctor House” of dungeonland, offering treatment to the masters, slaves, and dabblers who have done damage to themselves or their partners: Golden-san, also known as Golden Rule S.M. or Doctor Golden, is calling for a “gentler, wiser, and kinder BDSM.”

Doctor Golden, who is an S&M practitioner and also a chiropractor, has been taking care of people, mainly women, injured in the pursuit of their pleasure for over two decades. Next month, the book he lovingly edited and oversaw, The Illustrated Manual Of (Japanese) Bondage: Avoiding Risk Edition, should finally be available in bookstores.

In a mere 129 pages, the safety essentials for binding your partner or client with rope are explained in great detail, with easy to understand illustrations. The sexy cover and comic book nudity inside don’t exactly make it a great coffee table book, unless that coffee table is located inside a shady bar frequented by Japanese politicians or your own home dungeon. But it’s a volume that is long overdue.

The Daily Beast interviewed the Doctor about the need for such a book and spoke with one of his patients and friends, the diminutive fashion photographer, clothing designer, and dominatrix, Leh, aged 28.

Doctor Golden lives alone in a small flat inside of Tokyo, with one giant rack in the front room for rope tying. He was born in the 1950s but keeps his exact age and his full identity secret—although he’s a well-known blogger and writer of the fetish scene.

He contracted juvenile rheumatoid arthritis as a boy and when a judo therapist was able to cure his pain, he went to study under him.

The Doctor first became acquainted with Japan’s sexual underworld in 1999 at an orgy held at a luxury hotel. It was also a commercial event for which lawyers, doctors, and accountants paid the stiff cost of 50,000 yen ($500) to join. At the event, he was introduced to a nearly naked woman who confessed that her left hand was limp after an accident during her bondage act. He treated it and she was better after a few sessions. That was the beginning of his part-time life as an S&M chiropractor.

The Doctor’s home is what the Japanese call “the temple of last resort” for those who went a little too far. Many come to him rather than see an M.D.; he’s treated over 430 people since 2000. And there are reasons they’d rather visit his home than a hospital.

“Women in Japan are embarrassed to admit that their boyfriend ties them up or that they like it,” the Doctor says. “Men are ashamed to admit their dominatrix injured them. Some are not sure Japan’s national health insurance will cover their injuries. Things like damaged nipples are not easy to explain.

“There are many reasons those who are in the fetish world as a business hesitate to go see a real doctor—shame and fear for their professional reputation,” the Doctor says. “They also worry that the police will treat the case as an assault rather than an accident between two consenting adults. Of course, the issue of losing face is huge too.

“People in the industry, professional dominatrixes or performers in the BDSM scene, don’t want to talk about accidents. They fear losing trust and reputation if their accidents come out in the open, so they’ve been trying to keep it under wraps,” the Doctor explains. “I felt that it’s insincere to not show this side of our world beforehand, just like they show those videos of car crashes at driving schools. So if getting treatment is embarrassing for people, the best thing is preventive medicine—knowing when to stop and how to do things right.”

Leh adds, “It really looks bad as a dominatrix when you injure your slave… or as the submissive when you get injured. Sometimes both parties are at fault.”

A few years ago Leh herself was injured in a bondage show and the Doctor cured her in a few sessions.

It’s not surprising that kinbaku (rope-tying) results in injury, if you know your history, the Doctor explains.

“The roots of kinbaku come from the arrest techniques used by the police of the Edo Era [which lasted into the mid-19th century]. The police used to be very brutal. It wasn’t a democratic country back then and the cops were often just as likely to execute criminals as they were to arrest them. The authorities cut off their little finger sometimes so criminals would have a weaker grip on their swords. If people had a criminal record that would be tattooed on their faces. If police did just arrest them, they’d tie the criminals up—using rope.

“You don’t need steel handcuffs if you tie the ropes right so that the knots don’t move around,” says the Doctor. “It’s very effective if you run the rope across the vital points and places where the blood circulates. Since it was originally a technique to capture criminals, it sometimes resulted in limb necrosis. Of course, converting this into a form of pleasure would cause accidents.”

According to the Doctor, it was in the Meiji era, as Japan modernized in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, that kinbaku was adapted for entertainment and sensual delight. Over time, the masters worked out the safest ways to apply the ropes, but not everyone learns the ropes of the art with the diligence required.

The Doctor has been trying to change that in the last two years, giving lectures at clubs, at meet-ups of S&M adherents, and conducting safety seminars. He almost always refuses to take money for his medical work—and is offended by how many men won’t take responsibility for the damages.

“There are some injuries too much for me to handle. There are a lot of cases where the men who injure the women aren’t willing to pay the medical fees,” he says. “Since it was a consensual act and the accidents weren’t planned, they should hold 50 percent of the responsibility. The injured women are subject to a life of disability.”

Rope-related injuries aren’t the only thing BDSM practitioners have to worry about. People get whiplash, neck problems, burns from hot candle wax, jaw problems from biting the rope too hard, dislocated shoulders, elbows, knees, and nerve issues. Candles are often used for setting the mood in BDSM and dripping the hot wax on a naked body is classic stimulation, but it can result in burns.

Basic knowledge of anatomy also helps. “For example, the further you go down the ribcage, the weaker the bones get,” the Doctor explains. “If you tie someone around the lower ribs, they can get fractured or broken.”

Good to know.

You might wonder, if S&M is so dangerous, especially the rope-tying—why do it?

“The ropes, the whips, the candles, the role-playing—it’s all about mutual pleasure. Sometimes it’s love,” says the Doctor. “One thing I have to say is that I’m against dividing people into who is M and who is S and so on. S&M isn’t anything special.”

(The S derives from the name of the Marquis de Sade, seen as glorifying the infliction of pain for purposes of arousal, the M from the 19th century Austrian writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, who arranged to serve his mistress as a slave. His most famous book is Venus in Furs. And while we’re sorting acronyms, BDSM covers bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism.)

“When couples come to me for advice,” says the Doctor, “I tell them to develop the woman’s erogenous zones and learn rhythm. People good at sex are usually good with musical instruments. They can do different things with their hands at the same time and they have good rhythm and a sense of push and pull. In sex, the dynamism of the rhythms and timing is so important. Japanese people need to have a better sex life, so I want to make BDSM better, promote it, and make couples happy. If you don’t know a woman’s body and tie them up, you’re not going to have decent sex.”

It’s not only bad techniques that cause accidents, he points out. “Things go wrong because people don’t know enough about the other person’s body; they’re selfish. It’s not all about the reaction or the live performance aspect of it. There needs to be an awareness of how it feels for the other person and compassion. Both sides need to talk. There may be a master-servant relationship but we are all the masters of our own lives. You’ve got to carefully enjoy how the session unfolds,” he says philosophically.

In the West, there has been for obvious reasons a view of kinbaku as demeaning to women and the ropes as symbols of oppression (although it shows signs of becoming mainstream kink). The works of the photographer Nobuyoshi Araki, which often depict naked Japanese women tied up in contorted positions, are controversial even in Japan. Is the whole thing misogynist?

Leh disagrees.

“Everyone’s BDSM is different and everyone’s rope-play objective—what they hope to get out of it—is different. Yes, stereotypically it’s older, kinky guys tying up women. Tying them in sexual positions or even getting off from humiliating or controlling the girls in those positions.

“For me,” says Leh, “from a woman’s perspective that does nothing for me sexually. It was from a purely artistic perspective that I started learning kinbaku. When I’m on the tying side of rope play, I see it as an art form. I prefer to tie the girls in elegant poses and in sets which set the mood and create stories. Abandoned houses, rooftops, bamboo gardens. I really love seeing the girls’ happy reactions when I show them the pictures I take later. Of course during the shoot, it may be a sexually stimulating experience for the girls if they have masochistic or submissive tendencies.

“I also know this because I have masochistic tendencies. When I get tied up I experience what’s called nawayoi—being drunk on ropes. It’s like being high. You let go, empty your head, and leave yourself in the hands of another. There’s a real sense of trust and romance in that. At the end of the session you really don’t want to be untied. You want to stay tied to your play partner. The act of binding a person is not easy. After all, you cannot connect unless you understand loneliness and transient love.”

Love indeed is a naughty knotty thing. And the good doctor has taken a step in making sure that those love-knots are tied a little more safely, the candle burns a little farther from the skin.

Original article appeared at: http://www.thedailybeast.com/is-japans-naughty-knotty-bdsm-scene-too-dangerous