Welcome back to our weekly round-up of the most infuriating bits of anti-LGBT rhetoric to grace our news feeds in the past seven days. This week, sexism and homophobia in the classroom once again takes center stage. Read on to see what made the cut in this week's outrageous headlines, but expect a healthy dose of snark in the following pages — sometimes it's the only way we can get through the day.
5. Google Still Thinks 'Bisexual' Always Equals Porn
So for all you bisexual folks out there who were hoping to find resources and community by using the world's largest search engine, well… tough luck.
Despite Google's 2012 claims to the contrary, the search giant's autocomplete function still doesn't recognize the word "bisexual." That means when you start to type in "bi," you won't receive any of those handy suggestions about what you might be looking for. And just to be clear, Google's autocomplete does recognize numerous other terms related to sexual orientation and gender identity, including "gay," "lesbian," "transgender," "pansexual," "genderqueer," "cisgender," "FTM" and "MTF."
A Google spokesperson told our sibling publication The Advocate Thursday that search terms often do not show up through the autocomplete function because they may be highly correlated with searches for pornography. But activists first raised this issue with the Google Gods back in 2009, and were told three years later that the term had been unblocked from its autocomplete feature. But apparently the autocomplete algorithm has reverted to its old, biphobic ways.
What's more, the claim that "bisexual" correlates more strongly to pornography than other terms doesn't really seem to hold up. (Side note: Why so sex-negative, Google?)
As SheWired writer and Advocate managing editor Michelle Garcia reported on Friday:
A search for the word "gay" yielded 302 million results, "lesbian" had 155 million results, while "bisexual" had 43.1 million, and "transgender" had 12 million. While Google has explained that the autocomplete function has dropped off for bisexuality because of its high correlation to porn, other words with a high correlation to pornography are still available with the autocomplete function. Searching "gay porn" will produce 527 million results. A search for "lesbian porn" yielded 69.1 million results, and "transgender porn" yielded 19.2 million (though one could argue those are not necessarily the terms a person would naturally use). Meanwhile, searching for "bisexual porn" came up with 40.1 million results.
As numerous bi activists have pointed out, having the world's largest search engine act like there are "no suggestions" for those searching for information about bisexuality does indeed perpetuate the very real problem of bisexual invisibility — you know, that thing where people say bisexuality doesn't exist, or isn't a legitimate orientation, or can only exist when people are single and/or non-monagamous? Yeah. You're not helping that, Google.
For those who do want to do something to help, sign this Change.org petition to get Google to reinstate bisexual as a non-porn-related search term.
4. Catholic School Peers Inside Teachers' Bedrooms
The Cincinnati archdiocese is apparently looking to nip any gay behavior in the bud and avoid controversies like this or this, where gay teachers or administrators were fired for marrying (or in this case, getting pregnant with) their same-sex partner and daring to return to work.
Teachers at Catholic schools in Cincinnati will be asked to sign a contract promising to refrain from any so-called scandalous behavior that the church disagrees with — even when they're not on school grounds or at school functions.
The new contract, which all new and returning hires will be required to sign, forbids personnel from "from any conduct or lifestyle which would reflect discredit on or cause scandal to the school or be in contradiction to Catholic doctrine or morals." The contract also clarifies that the school district considers teachers ministers, even if they haven't been ordained or, you know, aren't actually Catholic.
But then those loving Christians get explicit about just what scandalous behavior is prohibited from its ad-hoc ministers — or janitors, lunchroom staff, secretaries, or anyone else employed by the school, for that matter.
Those verboten behaviors include "improper use of social media/communication, public support of or publicly living together outside marriage, public support of or sexual activity out of wedlock, public support of or homosexual lifestyle, public support of or use of abortion, public support of or use of a surrogate mother, public support of or use of in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination, public membership in organizations whose mission and message are incompatible with Catholic doctrine or morals, and/or flagrant deceit or dishonesty."
Admittedly, as a private, parochial district, the diocese behind these schools has every legal right to impose such restrictions. That's one of the perks of being a religious organization that kinda-sorta serves the public, but doesn't have to pay taxes. But if they're going to try to police their hardworking staff like this, well, the least we can do is call attention to their hypocrisy.
And did anyone else notice that "public support or promotion of" divorce is notably absent from the list of forbidden advocacies? OK, fine, no one really "advocates" for divorce, but we wonder how unilaterally this district will really apply the guidelines, or if they'll pick-and-choose which sins are the most grievous. (Hint: It'll be the latter, and those sins will all involve LGBT people.)
Find more outrage on the following pages...
3. Middle-School Girls Use Their Cattyness for Feminism
It's no secret that middle-school girls can be mean. Sure, the age is a time of physical and emotional upheaval that often pits young people against one another, their parents, and hell, even the world at large.
But when Illinois middle school decided to ban leggings — for the ridiculous, victim-blaming reason that they were "Too distracting for boys," a group of female students fought back in a brilliant, snarky way that proves the good that come when emotional tweens put their angst to good use.
Last week, Haven Middle School in Evanston, Ill., revised its dress code to ban leggings, unless they were worn underneath skirts or shorts that were "fingertip length." Why were girls no longer allowed to wear the ultra-comfortable, if fashionably questionable, bottoms? Because they were "distracting for the boys," obviously. Because when little Jimmy is too busy staring at Suzy's ass to answer a question in math class, it's clearly Suzy's fault, right? That hussy really should cover up to keep those wild, uncontrollable hormones of adolescent boys at bay. It's her responsibility as a young woman who men might possibly find attractive, right?
Luckily, many of the girls of Haven Middle School felt exactly the same way — so they organized a protest of the new discriminatory dress code. While more than 500 people signed a petition to reverse the dress code, a contingent of students showed up to class in leggings or yoga pants, carrying simply brilliant signs like "Are my pants lowering your test scores?"
And as 13-year-old Haven student Sophie Hasty so poignantly noted, "Not being able to wear leggings because it’s ‘too distracting for boys’ is giving us the impression we should be guilty for what guys do."
Damn straight, Sophie.
2. After School Refuses to Publish Gay Student's Profile In Yearbook Citing 'Bullying' Fears, Teen Is Harassed In Class and Online
Rather than publish a student-written profile on a gay classmate in the forthcoming yearbook, administrators at Sheridan High School in Arkansas decided it was better to do away with student profiles all together. In doing so — and defending that decision in the face of criticism from the likes of the Human Rights Campaign — school officials said they were worried that the student profiled would be a target for bullying if his story was shared… Apparently disregarding the fact that the student has been out for about a year — and hasn't reported any negative incidents with classmates.
But that student, 17-year-old junior Taylor Ellis, says that since the school very publicly refused to let his story be heard, he's suddenly become a target of the very harassment administrators claimed to want to protect him from.
The school environment has been "horrible" since his situation was covered in the media, Ellis told the online magazine Slate. He returned to classes last Wednesday after a school trip. "People were talking about it while we were on our trip, texting all of us, making comments,"he said. "I was about to lose it."
In his fifth-period class, he told Slate, "I got in the Instagram page someone made that said 'Sheridan School = No Gays.' I was looking at all the people [at Sheridan] who liked it and who followed it — people I don’t need to talk to. Three of them were in that class, sitting right across from the room from me."
He asked several students why they were following the page, and a teacher told him he shouldn't be talking about the subject in class… Following up with the school's apparent tactic to silence Ellis.
He also says one student said Ellis was "giving the school a bad name." After spending some time "shaking and crying," he went to see his former Spanish teacher, an ally who acknowledged that he was being bullied, offered him comfort, and took him to see a school counselor. He talked with the counselor "about how there are really dumb people in the world," but "they’re going to have to accept you whether they support you or not."
Find the most outrageous story on the following page…
1. Christian School Kicks Out 8-Year-Old for Not Dressing Girly Enough
In this week's installment of "Christian 'love' gone wrong," we'd like to introduce you to Sunnie Kahle, an 8-year-old girl who, until recently, attended elementary school at Timberlake Christian School in Timberlake, Va. From what we know, Sunnie has been a good student and hasn't had any disciplinary issues at the school. But she does like to play sports, wear her hair short, and prefers pants and t-shirts to frilly dresses.
And in the eyes of the "faithful" folks leading Timberlake Christian, that means the child is an abomination and distraction who they simply cannot tolerate inside their hallowed halls. The administrators of TCS sent a letter to Sunnie's grandparents, who have legal custody of their granddaughter, telling them that Sunnie was no longer welcome at the school — unless she learned to dress according to her "God-ordained identity."
"You're probably aware that Timberlake Christian School is a religious, Bible-believing institution providing education in a distinctly Christian environment," the letter read, noting biblical condemnations of homosexuality, "sexual immorality" and gender nonconformity before going on to inform Kahle's grandparents that Kahle would not be welcomed back at the start of the 2014-2015 school year.
"We believe that unless Sunnie as well as her family clearly understand that God has made her female, and her dress and behavior need to follow suit with her God-ordained identity, that TCS is not the best place for her future education," the letter continued.
Like any smart, thoughtful guardians, Sunnie's grandparents pulled her out of TCS, and she now attends a local public school. But they say the little girl gets on the bus each morning crying, and then comes home in tears, because she doesn't understand why she can't be with her friends back at TCS.
Just to be perfectly clear, Sunnie identifies as a girl, consistent with what her school deemed as her "God-ordained identity." She is not transgender, though the letter sent to her grandparents makes it clear that transgender students would similarly be denied admission.
Nevertheless, according to one school administrator who would not speak on camera to Roanoke's WSET TV, the school claimed that Sunnie's gender expression "disturbed the classroom environment." We wonder if the short-haired boys in her class who were wearing pants, t-shirts, and sneakers were similarly "disruptive?" We're willing to bet those kids are still enrolled.