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

7 Women the Golden Globes Snubbed for Best Director

The Golden Globes Best Director nominations, announced Monday, are nothing if not boring and predictable choices that fail to recognize women. While Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water has garnered solid reviews and is a fantasy piece that celebrates otherness, the others are more predictable. A few of Hollywood’s favorite men are nominated: Steven Spielberg picked up a nomination for The Post, Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk, and Ridley Scott for All the Money in the World (which was reshot with Christopher Plummer so recently it’s hard to believe many critics have seen it) while Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri‘s Martin McDonagh appears to be the dark horse of the nominees for directing a film about a woman seeking justice/revenge for her daughter’s rape and murder. 

But if the Globes wanted to reward a woman’s story or even a story interpreted through the eyes of a woman, there were plenty of female directors the Hollywood Foreign Press could have recognized. But in the year of the #MeToo movement, when Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird nabbed the highest Rotten Tomatoes score of all time and Wonder Woman captivated critics and audiences for an entire summer moviegoing season, the Globes directing nominations are sadly and stupidly shortsighted.

In a year that was loaded with excellent films from women, including documentaries like Agnes Varda’s Faces Places, Catherine Gund and Dareshi Kyi’s Chavela, and Sabaah Folayan’s Whose Streets? as well asforeign films like Petra Volpe’s The Divine Order and small films like Maggie Betts’s Novitiate, we compiled a list of women directors who could/should have been on the collective radar of Globes voters but who were ignored in a category that is disappointingly trite and male. 

Angela Robinson for Professor Marston and the Wonder Women 

Out director Angela Robinson (D.E.B.S.) and a powerhouse producing team that includes Jill Soloway and Andrea Sperling retell the story of the professor who created the Wonder Woman comics and the women who loved him and each other. The period piece stars Luke Evans as Professor James Marston, Rebecca Hall as his wife, Elizabeth Marston (an attorney and psychologist), and Bella Heathcote as Olive Byrne, the student they love. The film intertwines the rise of their polyamorous relationship with the creation of Wonder Woman, which was loaded with bondage and kink it its nascent stage. Connie Britton and Oliver Platt costar in this thoughtful film. 

Sofia Coppola for The Beguiled 

All of Sofia Coppola’s auteur markers were on display in the eerie female-centric reboot of a 1971 Clint Eastwood vehicle that was helmed by Don Siegel. Colin Farrell plays a wounded Irish-American soldier adrift in the South during the Civil War until Nicole Kidman’s Martha, the head of a school for girls, offers him shelter. Psychosexual games and torture ensue in the deliciously twisted flick that costars Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, Angourie Rice, and Oona Laurence. While the film, in and of itself, is a shrewdly helmed, delicious slice of revenge fantasy, Coppola was rightly, roundly censured for her decision to write out a slave character who appeared in the book and original film. 

Kathryn Bigelow for Detroit 

The only woman to ever win a best directing Oscar (for The Hurt Locker) out of just a few who’ve been nominated throughout history, Kathryn Bigelow, who also directed Zero Dark Thirty, excavated the true events around police brutality that resulted in the deaths of three black men in 1967 in Detroit. The film, the message of which was that history repeats itself and that society should learn from it, was not exactly a critical darling, but Bigelow is as capable a director as any, and she could certainly give someone like Martin McDonagh, nominated for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, a run for his money. 

Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton for Battle of the Sexes

Beyond trouncing proud male chauvinist Bobby Riggs in the legendary 1973 Battle of the Sexes tennis match, Billie Jean King was a proponent for equal pay early in the game. The crowd-pleasing film from Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, the directing team behind Little Miss Sunshine, recounts the story of how that famous battle came to pass at the same time it tracks King’s love affair with hairstylist Marilyn Barnett. And it does it with a whole lot of heart and the hope that is indicative of King’s brand of do-something-about-it feminism. Emma Stone (who is nominated for a Globe) stars as King, while Steve Carell (also nominated) plays Riggs and Andrea Riseborough portrays Barnett. Sarah Silverman, Alan Cumming, Elisabeth Shue, and Natalie Morales costar. 

Dee Rees for Mudbound 

Pariah and Bessie director Dee Rees should be Oscar bound with this epic, important look at the lives of black sharecroppers and white landowners in the Mississippi Delta following World War II, but the Golden Globes failed to recognize her. However, Mary J. Blige earned two nods, one for her breakout role as Florence Jackson in the film, and one for “Mighty River,” the song she wrote for the movie.  Rob Morgan, Jason Mitchell, Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, and Jason Clarke round out the cast of this modern masterpiece. 

Patty Jenkins for Wonder Woman 

A critical favorite and a blockbuster smash, Wonder Woman is so deeply of the moment, shattering the myth that women can’t direct big action or superhero flicks. Wonder Woman is not only the first film starring a female superhero in more than a decade; it’s the first-ever superhero film directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins, who directed Charlize Theron to Oscar (really, all of the acting awards that year) glory in Monster. Gal Gadot donned Wonder Woman’s bracelets and lasso of submission to lead a cast that includes Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, and Lisa Loven Kongsli (Force Majeure) as the women who advise young Diana on existing in the world of men in this origin story that inspired little girls and boys around the world to aspire to be like Wonder Woman. Action films are rarely nominated for Best Picture awards, but if cultural significance in a really well-directed package won prizes, then Wonder Woman should be the recipient.  

Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird

Actress Greta Gerwig’s first feature as a writer-director stars Saoirse Ronan as a sardonic, recalcitrant Northern California teen navigating family, love, sex, and college applications and is universally critically acclaimed, earning it the highest Rotten Tomatoes score of all time. A pristinely executed bildungsroman, Lady Bird bears the markers of films that have come before it but with surprises, twists, and subtlety. The film costars Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Timothée Chalamet, and Lucas Hedges. Gerwig was nominated for a Golden Globe for her screenplay, but snubbing her for best director is a particularly out-of-touch move on the part of the Hollywood Foreign Press. 

Jeffrey Tambor Must Step Down From 'Transparent'

Jeffrey Tambor may not be leaving Transparent after all.

The actor previously said “I don’t see how I can return” to the acclaimed Amazon series, after facing three accusations of sexual misconduct. Two accusers are transgender women from the Transparent universe: his former personal assistant Van Barnes and actress Trace Lysette.

His statement, which condemned the accusations against him as part of “the politicized atmosphere that seems to have afflicted our set,” was interpreted as a declaration of resignation.

However, a representative told The New York Times in a Wednesday article that Tambor actually had no plans to quit at present, leaving the show’s fifth season in limbo.

The accusations rattled the team of Transparent, which helped bring trans issues to the mainstream and employed trans talent both on and off screen. “It was devastating,” former producer Micah Fitzerman-Blue told the Times.

And the news that Tambor might stay on the production has angered and unsettled trans activists.

Dawn Ennis, The Advocate‘s former news editor and a blogger at LifeAfterDawn.com, has used her platform in the past to defend the cisgender actor and his casting as the transgender matriarch Maura — a divisive decision criticized by many as “transface” from the onset.

“I feel duped and betrayed,” said Ennis, who declared, “I can’t fathom how I can watch another episode of Transparent ever again.” The show is now “tainted by Tambor” if he stays, she said.

“I believe his refusal to step aside reveals his utter hubris, cis male privilege, and his complete ignorance of the perils we women actually face,” Ennis said. “There is no award for acting like you really care, when all you’ve done is prove you’re no better than any other cis het dude who lets his dick do all his thinking. I had expected better.”

Ashlee Marie Preston said she was “sickened but not surprised” by the allegations against Tambor. “Sexual abuse and violence at the hands of those we trust, even in the workplace, is part of our narrative,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that it happened off script, out of role, and in a designated safe space meant to empower trans people.”

The trans writer and media personality, who hosts the Shook podcast, called on Transparent to make Tambor leave, if he refuses to do so volunterarily. Otherwise, the production would be complicit in any wrongdoing.

“Jeffrey Tambor had a lucky run, but it’s time for him to go,” Preston said. “The fact that he became the expert on our vulnerabilities through his role and consciously exploited them for his own pleasure makes Jeffrey a predator.”

“Refusing to leave the show is an act of intimidation and subjects those victimized to further violence,” she stated. “Anyone with the authority to remove him that doesn’t is an accessory, and they are actively promoting rape culture.”

In addition to a compromised work environment, Preston warns about the message Tambor’s staying would broadcast to viewers, which would run counter to the show’s spirit.

“It sends the message that trans women aren’t worth protecting,” said Preston. “It breaks the promise to all 24+ trans people who’ve lost their lives [this year]  that as a society we will do better.” She also believes that if Lysette and Barnes were cisgender, “the consequences would be heavier.”

In contrast, Tambor’s removal would proclaim that trans “lives matter, that we are believed, and that we are worthy of the dignity and respect the show claims to strive for through its storyline.”

Warwick Rowers: Russia Banned Naked Calendar for 'Gay Propaganda'

A calendar featuring naked athletes that benefits an LGBT sports charity has been banned in Russia for “gay propaganda,” claimed its makers.

Angus Malcolm, photographer and producer of the annual Warwick Rowers calendar, told The Independent, a British newspaper, that so far, six of 23 calendars shipped to the Eastern Eurpean nation have been rejected and returned without explanation.

Malcolm believes the country’s anti-LGBT laws are to blame. In 2013, Russia passed legislation that bans “promotion of non-traditional sexual relations among minors.” In other words, it bars positive mention of LGBT issues in materials and venues accessible to young people, and has been used against Pride parades and even Facebook posts.

“My heart goes out to the rowers’ Russian fans, who are increasingly subjected to acts of hatred and discrimination that shouldn’t be tolerated in any society anywhere across the globe,” Malcolm told The Independent.

“The fact Russian customs rejected our calendar is nothing compared to the suffering some LGBT+ people face every day, but it acts as a signifier of the wider problem.”

In addition to the returned mail, which can cost up to 25 pounds per rejected item, WarwickRowers.org was also recently targeted by a denial-of-service attack, which temporarily disabled the website with a flood of traffic. The I.P. address was reportedly traced to Russia.

“If they can’t cope with a few naked bums, then frankly that’s quite sad,” Malcolm added.

The calendar in question features naked portraits of rowers from the University of Warwick, and it supports a good cause. A portion of sales benefits Sport Allies, which fights homophobia in sports.

Malcolm said that this spirit of acceptance was “heretical” in Russia. He said its president, Vladimir Putin, fueled “precisely the kind of toxic masculinity that Sport Allies and the Warwick Rowers want to challenge.”

Indeed, since the adoption of its “gay propaganda” laws, hate crimes against LGBT people have doubled in Russia.

See a preview of the 2018 calendar on Advocate.com.

Jeffrey Tambor Quits Transparent, Attacks 'Politicized Atmosphere' After Accusations

Jeffrey Tambor Quits Transparent, Attacks ‘Politicized Atmosphere’ After Accusations

Actor Jeffrey Tambor has quit Transparent, according to Deadline, and is condemning the accusations against him of sexual misconduct as part of “the politicized atmosphere that seems to have afflicted our set.”

Tambor’s performance as Maura Pfefferman on the show has won him a Golden Globe and Emmy for acting. The show was headed into its fifth season, though it’s future will now be uncertain. 

“Playing Maura Pfefferman on Transparent has been one of the greatest privileges and creative experiences of my life,” said Tambor, according to the statement issued by his publicist. “What has become clear over the past weeks, however, is that this is no longer the job I signed up for four years ago. 

“I’ve already made clear my deep regret if any action of mine was ever misinterpreted by anyone as being aggressive, but the idea that I would deliberately harass anyone is simply and utterly untrue,” he said. “Given the politicized atmosphere that seems to have afflicted our set, I don’t see how I can return to Transparent.”

Tambor faced two accusations by trans people of harassment. The first was made by his former assistant, Van Barnes, who accused Tambor of saying “I should be sleeping with him if I want a Hollywood industry appropriate pay grade.” Then came an account on Thursday by actress Trace Lysette, who said that while on set, Tambor “came in close, put his bare feet on top of mine so I could not move, leaned his body against me, and began quick, discreet thrusts back and forth against my body. I felt his penis on my hip through his thin pajamas and I pushed him off of me.”

Numerous famous transgender people had publicly expressed support for Lysette on Thursday, including model Isis King, Sense8 actress Jamie Clayton, journalist Janet Mock, and Orange is the New Black actress Laverne Cox. The entertainment world wasn’t the only to react to the allegations, with the National Center for Transgender Equality issuing a statement on Friday.

“Van Barnes and Trace Lysette are friends and my sisters. That this sort of thing has happened to them is heartbreaking for all of us at NCTE. That it happens so frequently—particularly to trans women—should horrify all of society,” said Mara Keisling, the group’s executive director. 

GLAAD last week issued a statement already looking into the next life of the show without Tambor, saying it hopes “future seasons will focus on more of the many brilliant characters that audiences love and care about.”

Indeed, a writer for the show, Our Lady J, who is also transgender, echoed Lysette’s call for Transparent to go on without Tambor in her Instagram statement, reiterating that “we cannot let trans content be taken down by a single cis man.”

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.

Senators Tell of Sexual Harassment, But One Analyst Warns of 'War on Men'

Claire McCaskill

AP Photo by Jacquelyn Martin

October 22 2017 4:16 PM EDT

Four female U.S. senators shared their experiences of sexual harassment and intitmidation today on NBC’s Meet the Press – while a conservative political analyst, also a woman, claimed sexual harassment revelations are in part a “war on men.”

Sens. Claire McCaskill, Heidi Heitkamp, Elizabeth Warren, and Mazie Hirono told of enduring harassment at various points in their careers. McCaskill said that when she was a young state representative in Missouri, she went to the speaker of the House to ask for advice on how to get her first bill out of committee. “And he looked at me, and he paused, and he said, ‘Well, did you bring your knee pads?’” McCaskill recalled. “I do think he was joking. But it was shocking that he would make that joke to a colleague, even a very young colleague.”

Warren told of being chased around the office of a senior faculty member when she was beginning her career as a law professor. Hirono recalled being propositioned by colleagues. And Heitkamp noted that at an event where she had spoken on domestic violence as North Dakota’s attorney general, “a law enforcement official came up to me and he pretty much put his finger in my face and he said, ‘Listen here, men will always beat their wives and you can’t stop ‘em.’”

But Danielle Pletka, a senior vice president of the American Enterprise Institute, expressed concern about a “war on men” and said that some women participating in the #MeToo campaign in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment allegations “want to get on the gravy train.”

“I have no doubt that sexual harassment is real and that many women suffer from it,” she said. “But I have a strong suspicion that this is yet another one in a series of isms and complaints and grievances in our society that are used as wedges, that are used as bludgeons, that are part of, frankly, what many men feel is a war on men, certainly in universities.

“So, you know, do we need a cultural change? If women want to stand up for themselves, women should stand up for themselves for equal treatment. And if that means that someone’s going to harass them, they should stand up and call them out. This whole ‘Me, too, I want to get on the gravy train, Harvey Weinstein looked at me meanly too but I didn’t have the guts, Gwyneth Paltrow, to stand up and do anything about it,’ I’m not really into that.”

New York Times reporter Helene Cooper noted that when, where, and how to go public about sexual harassment and other abuse, such as domestic violence, is a deeply personal decision. She was working on a book about Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman elected president of an African country, and Sirleaf was reluctant to discuss that she was a survivor of domestic violence, Cooper said.

“There’s so much wrapped up into this that I think every woman who wants to speak up should be allowed to do so and should feel that she can speak up when she wants to,” Cooper said. “But to … it’s also very difficult to put the onus on the woman to talk at a time where she may not want to.”

Watch clips below; the one of Pletka is courtesy of Media Matters.

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. 

The Intersection of Queer Identity and Atheism

I didn’t always know I was queer — not everyone realizes it right away — but I’ve been wondering where I fell on the spectrum of religious belief since I was a kid.

When I was 11 and just starting middle school, some of my new friends were strongly Christian. I didn’t have much of a religious leaning; my mother’s family is Catholic and my father’s family is Jewish, so I grew up celebrating twice as many holidays but lacked grounding in any particular teachings. So when my new friends told me about a Bible study guide they loved, one that was targeted toward “hip” Christian teens, I thought it would be a neat way to join the youth-group-going in-crowd. As far as I was concerned, I was passively agnostic, but I thought having the tools to find faith might make me feel more certain one way or the other. A friend’s mom bought me the trendy teen Bible as an early birthday present.

I was ecstatic to receive it. It was brightly colored, used wacky fonts, and had discussion pages at the ends of some sections, making parallels between Scripture and teen issues like school and dating. But there were some red flags right off the bat that made me think this might not be for me. For example, I’d never had strong feelings about premarital sex, but my friends — and this Bible — did. I figured sex would happen when it happened, and between talking with my parents, my lackluster public school sex ed, and Seventeen magazine, I had a decent grasp on how not to get pregnant. My Bible’s all-or-nothing take on sex and dating made me uneasy, like a stranger giving me serious advice I hadn’t asked for. I didn’t even bother looking at the discussion notes on gay people; I didn’t know yet that they applied to me. (I recently dug that Bible out from my pile of rejected childhood items to find that section. It’s not pretty.)

Then I found something that I took more personally. A small section of the sex and dating chapter included a stern footnote about dating non-Christians. “Don’t do it,” it said. “It’s never a good idea.”

I asked my parents about it, about whether or not God thought their interfaith marriage — and therefore, my existence — was a bad idea. They said they had talked about it a long time ago and decided that because they both believed in God, the details didn’t matter. But it was enough to turn me off of religious exploration for a long time. When I came out as bisexual in high school, I felt even less connected to my friends’ stories about church programs and their excitement about applying to Christian colleges. And eventually, I realized I didn’t need to explore anymore. The belief just wasn’t there.

This isn’t to say I disparage or disrespect those who do find comfort in faith. There are thriving communities of LGBTQ people of faith around the world, some of whom belong to progressive houses of worship and others who practice independent spirituality, who find that their faith and their LGBTQ identity strengthen one another. Today, more and more religious groups celebrate diversity, actively support LGBTQ people, and speak out against the institutions that use scripture to oppress and demean. Unfortunately, these groups are in the minority. While there are avenues for LGBTQ people to work with faith groups, the potential for allyship between LGBTQ people and atheists is far more intuitive, and certainly presents fewer institutional boundaries.

When I started writing about LGBTQ issues for Hemant Mehta’s blog, “Friendly Atheist” — which is how this book came to be — I was often stumped by the lack of news about the explicit overlaps between LGBTQ people and atheists. Stories about active collaborations between these two groups were sparse. All I seemed to read (and write) were stories of outrageous homophobic and transphobic behavior by conservative churches and evangelical politicians, all in the name of God. What I didn’t immediately realize, though, is that religious groups oppressing LGBTQ people is an atheist issue. Any abuse of religious freedom, particularly at the expense of a marginalized group, is an atheist issue.

Over and over, LGBTQ people have been berated, belittled, and bullied on the faulty premise that God frowns upon them. This erroneous explanation not only targets LGBTQ people but also contradicts ideas many atheists hold dear.

For example: When a pastor preaches that God unleashed Hurricane Sandy as punishment for same-sex marriage, as anti-gay preacher John McTernan did, that’s not just an affront to LGBTQ people; it’s an affront to science. When a county clerk cites religion as an excuse to deny LGBTQ people equal treatment, as Kentucky’s Kim Davis did, that’s a slap in the face to the separation of church and state. And when Christian schools that receive state funding fire LGBTQ teachers, as we’ve seen across the country, it’s a clear abuse of power disguised as “religious exemption.”

Science, reason, and a government free of religious influence are some of the most crucial tenets of secular humanism. Atheists  — even those who believe that philosophy begins and ends with a rejection of God’s existence — should be deeply offended when those principles are so egregiously violated.

Atheism itself is still somewhat of a subversive practice. People of faith comprise around three-quarters of the U.S. population; about 24% are unaffiliated or religious “nones,” with self-declared atheists making up only 3.4% of the country. There are no openly atheist members of Congress. In some countries, being an atheist, being LGBTQ, or both are cause for persecution or even death. And, of course, there are LGBTQ atheists in the United States and elsewhere who are doubly marginalized for identifying as both. It is in atheists’ nature to eschew societal norms in favor of ideas that feel more true to them. Joining forces with others targeted by religious groups shouldn’t be controversial. In fact, it should be expected.

Some people — though not usually atheists — actually argue against taking religion out of politics, citing the civil right to free expression. And sure, the First Amendment has its place in these conversations. A person who pushes homophobia or transphobia under the guise of religion is allowed those opinions privately and even publicly, to an extent. But once religious beliefs are invoked to interfere with the civil rights of others — say, to justify firing a qualified employee, or to provide a legal loophole for segregating LGBTQ customers — the First Amendment exits the equation. Personal beliefs cannot infringe upon the rights of others to pursue life and liberty however they choose. If atheists sit idly by as religious Americans target LGBTQ communities, they are endorsing it.

And yet America’s failure to protect LGBTQ citizens is a direct result of the overstepping of religion into politics. It’s a flagrant rejection of the Establishment Clause, and a refusal to prioritize objectivity and fairness. Equal rights for LGBTQ people should come naturally to a society that operates on evidence and reason (the kind of society atheists generally advocate for). Atheists should be invested in removing religious influence from the rule of law. And they do their own cause a disservice when they fail to defend LGBTQ people, politically and personally.

As both an atheist and a queer person, I’m doubly baffled by the intensity of religious hatred against my people — all my people. I write a lot about LGBTQ issues, and I’ve received countless anonymous messages (and some not anonymous) outlining all the reasons I’m a hellbound dyke. Sometimes, the message is just a list of Bible verses — as if I’m going to take out my copy of the New Testament and flip through it to learn why my life displeases a higher power whose existence I reject. I’m lucky to have lived mostly in liberal parts of the country (not that religious bigotry doesn’t exist in all 50 states) and that I’ve never faced faith-based discrimination outright. But thousands of others aren’t as fortunate.

LGBTQ people are fired, kicked out of their homes, pushed out of local businesses, and refused social and health services because of the “religious consciences” of others. To make matters worse, we don’t even know exactly how many LGBTQ people face discrimination every year. As in other situations when victims must choose whether to report what’s happened to them, many people refrain out of the fear of retaliation, outing, or worse. (And just because it hasn’t happened to me yet, there’s no guarantee that it won’t in the future.)

LGBTQ people and atheists aren’t the only groups hurt by religious fundamentalism. For example, the Religious Right targets women with a similar fervor. Employers fight to deny insurance coverage for birth control on the grounds of religious freedom. Women are fired for being pregnant and unmarried. Puritanical beliefs about women’s rights and roles trickle down into other elements of society. The wage gap and sexism in the media aren’t necessarily a result of religious misogyny, but they’re peddled by a lot of the same people.

And historically — though not long ago at all — people deployed religious arguments to defend segregation and other manifestations of racism. “In the 1960s, we saw institutions object to laws requiring integration in restaurants because of sincerely held beliefs that God wanted the races to be separate,” according to the ACLU. Integration was seen as an affront to God. Bob Jones University, a fundamentalist Protestant school in South Carolina, didn’t drop its ban on interracial dating until the year 2000.

When you consider how extreme the consequences of bigotry can be, the harassment and disrespect atheists face for their non-belief can seem pretty mild in comparison. Society certainly doesn’t embrace atheists, but there are far fewer attacks (physical, legal, and otherwise) on atheist “lifestyles” than on LGBTQ people, women, people of color, or even other religious groups. But plenty of atheists can be and are members of all these groups, facing attacks not for their non-beliefs, but for visible elements of their identity. Virtually every minority group in the world has faced some defamation, discrimination, or mistreatment at the hands of religious extremism, one way or another. It only makes sense that we would rally together in our respective times of need.

Why LGBTQ people in particular? Because when it comes to religious suppression of civil rights, LGBTQ people have too much at stake. In recent years, the Religious Right has focused much of its energy and resources on limiting — or even eliminating — the rights of LGBTQ people. Anti-LGBTQ ideals littered the 2016 Republican Party platform and continue to serve as talking points for many GOP politicians, even though religious beliefs are supposed to be absent from the legislative process. According to the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ rights group in the country, only four Republican senators and seven Republican members of the House of Representatives supported marriage equality in the lead-up to the 2016 election. Even Barack Obama, arguably the most progressive president in U.S. history (certainly on this issue), didn’t announce his support for marriage equality until the end of his first term, after a handful of states had already enacted same-sex marriage and Proposition 8 had twice been ruled unconstitutional.

LGBTQ issues have never been more visible, and anti-LGBTQ religious extremists have never been more fired up. If equal rights advocates don’t fight back aggressively, we can expect sweeping victories for state-approved religious bigotry. That kind of upheaval would deal a significant blow to atheism, too: imagine trying to defend secular education, the scientific method, or the separation of church and state in a country that explicitly favors one belief system over others (let alone over non-belief). We may be a long ways off from falling into an extremist religious dystopia, but it’s still worth keeping our guard up.

And it’s not enough for atheists and LGBTQ people to be allies in name alone. In order for both these groups to be treated with civility and humanity, we must support each other loudly and unapologetically, in our schools and our workplaces, at the dinner table and at the ballot box. In 2015, atheist writer Adam Lee penned an editorial for the Guardian with the headline, “If peace on earth is our goal, atheism might be the means to that end.” While that sentence might suggest a simplistic answer to a complicated problem, there is little evidence for more religious influence leading to social harmony. LGBTQ people have been political targets for decades. As society slowly begins to see us with more empathy than ever before, we deserve the peace we’ve been denied for so long. Atheists must help us get there.

A Kickstarter campaign is currently underway to help fund this book’s formatting and printing, tweaking the cover design, and helping with shipping and packaging fees. 

CAMILLE BEREDJICK is a nonprofit social media manager by day and a writer by nights, weekends and lunch breaks. Queer Disbelief is her first book. Beredjick has worked as a communications and digital media specialist at nonprofit organizations throughout New York City. Her work has focused on issues including LGBTQ rights, bullying, HIV/AIDS, PrEP, sexual assault, and domestic violence. Beredjick is the editor of GayWrites.org, a daily blog where she covers LGBTQ news, media, and culture for an audience of more than 200,000 subscribers. Her writing about LGBTQ rights, politics, health, identity, and other topics has appeared in The Advocate, In These Times, BuzzFeed, Time.com, Mic, Daily Dot, HuffPost, Patheos and the Establishment, among others.

'The Orville': When Representation Is Well-Intended but Problematic

Last week, Seth MacFarlane’s Star Trek-homage/parody TV show The Orville took on intersex and gender issues and the results were… far from perfect.

In “About a Girl,” second officer Bortus gives birth to a female child. Unfortunately, Bortus belongs to a male-only species, the Moclans, so he and his mate demand that a procedure be performed to change her sex. When Captain Ed Mercer, played by Seth MacFarlane himself, denies the request, the crew must defend the child’s right to choose her gender in front of a Moclan tribunal.

The tribunal argues that a female will face gender prejudice within an all-male society, that she will not be able to be as successful, and, oh yes, women are weaker and less intelligent anyways. Despite proving women’s equality to men in strength and intelligence, one of the parents reversing their opinion, and the crew finding proof within Moclan society that women can have productive lives, they are unable to stop Moclan sexist prejudice. The procedure is performed anyways. The episode ends on a somber note, with Bortus and his mate promising to love their newly-male child no matter what.

For better or worse, this marks Seth MacFarlane’s first attempts at emulating the spirit of the original Star Trek franchise instead of just its aesthetic and tone. Star Trek has always been known for tackling major issues of the day and it’s clear that MacFarlane wants his show to follow in that vein, while hiding behind an extremely-thin veneer of comedy and parody to lure in fans of MacFarlane’s typically irreverent humor brand. 

Reaction to MacFarlane’s attempts have been extremely mixed, with many thinking he tried too hard and others arguing that he didn’t try hard enough. The only thing that most critics agree on is that they didn’t like MacFarlane’s take.

On the one side, MacFarlane’s approach is extremely heavy-handed. The characters spend most of the episode just going over talking points and making arguments for or against the issue. The approach lacks nuance, even within the world itself. Bortus’s change of opinion on gender issues comes from watching “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and understanding that a “birth defect” like being born a girl can actually be productive. This change of mind completely misses the point, that being a girl isn’t a birth defect, but just goes for the quick and easy approach to get to what MacFarlane clearly wants to say.

Yet, on the other side, in the eyes of many critics, when actually trying to delve into the issues, MacFarlane also fails. The arguments play into many stereotypes of women versus men. The episode sometimes even confuses intersex and transgender concerns which, while sometimes being related, are completely separate issues. To many, the episode feels like it might have been progressive 10 years ago, but falls woefully short by today’s standards.

For many of us in the LGBTQ and feminist community, much of MacFarlane’s approach was woefully outdated. Yet, we sometimes forget that this episode was not made for those who already know all about intersex and transgender issues.

The episode aired on primetime television, a world that is still a barren wasteland devoid of any transgender and intersex representation. Many of the audience watching these shows are still not used to having to look to niche platforms to find their representation. They don’t immerse themselves within LGBTQ culture on a daily basis and still lack basic understanding of what being transgender or intersex even is, let alone the prejudices that those communities face. So to showcase these issues in a heavy-handed way helps to give voice and acknowledgement to what is going on outside of a non-queer, cisgender person’s worldview.

Taking a look at a similar example, the recent return of Will & Grace brought up mixed emotions with in the gay community. On the one hand, Will & Grace was an incredibly problematic show that leaned into stereotypes of gay people. Yet there no denying that Will & Grace helped to make the idea of a gay man in today’s world a much more commonplace and palatable idea to many Americans who had never knowingly met or talked to an out person. Mainstream media many times gives far from the best representation. Yet, if the representation is at least on track in the right direction and with the right intentions behind it, it can still greatly improve the acceptance of ideas and people.

There should also be acknowledgement of the bold choice of having the crew fail in stopping the procedure from taking place. By ending the episode on a somber note of failure and disappointment, it acknowledges that this isn’t a fight that can be one with a single grand gesture by well-meaning, mostly white, and cisgender outsiders. It’s a larger fight that may take years to truly make headway in. Finishing the story on the sadness felt by a single parent, the individual emotional ramifications are truly felt, and creates an impetus for the audience to want to do what they can individually to stop moments like this from happening in the real world.

This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be critical of our allies or constantly push them to be better. We should always point out problematic or offensive content in our media and culture from creators both within and outside the LGBT world. Yet we also can’t continually telling those making an attempt to help that we are upset that they aren’t doing enough or that they shouldn’t have tried because they fell well short of the mark. If we continuely do that, we run the risk of ostrasize those who want to be on our side and be a good ally. We need to reach out in kindness and, while pointing out what was wrong with their approach, acknowledge that they did indeed make an attempt to understand.

Seth MacFarlane was attempting to be a progressive ally with his latest Orville episode. Yet, while he may have failed on the progressive side, he still was being an ally to the intersex and transgender community. The opportunity given by MacFarlane’s attempt shouldn’t be used as a chance to push those trying to understand away but instead be used to continue education and understanding about gender, intersex, and transgender issues. 

JESSIE EARL is a video producer for The Advocate.