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How Grantland Helped Push a Transgender Woman Over the Edge

January 23, 2014 By Guest Contributor

transgolfBy Julian Cabrera and Josh Steichmann

A week ago, Grantland, a sports and culture website run by Bill Simmons, published a story by Caleb Hannan about a purportedly revolutionary putter invented by Dr. Essay Anne Vanderbilt, but Hannan was more fascinated with unraveling Vanderbilt’s mysterious personal life than her clubs.

He dug into her background, which she claimed was MIT physics with a dollop of top secret government work, but Dr. V got cagey, then angry. She pleaded and threatened, but Hannan kept going.

“The deeper I looked, the stranger things got,” Hannan wrote. And after tantalizing hints and incredulous foreshadowing, Hannan outed Dr. V as a transgender woman.

The story got stranger, and darker. Hannan learned that Dr. V had attempted suicide before, and her correspondence grew even more erratic. A few weeks after she last emailed Hannan, telling him he was committing a hate crime, Dr. V killed herself. Hannan describes Dr. V’s brother-in-law giving a brusque and cruel report of her death, then blithely wonders what it means about himself.

The backlash started nearly immediately, with Grantland editor-in-chief Bill Simmons writing a broad apology. In it, he acknowledged that Grantland and Hannan had made grievous mistakes.

“Caleb’s biggest mistake? Outing Dr. V to one of her investors while she was still alive. I don’t think he understood the moral consequences of that decision, and frankly, neither did anyone working for Grantland,” wrote Simmons.

“I didn’t know nearly enough about the transgender community — and neither does my staff,” Simmons wrote. “That’s not an acceptable excuse; it’s just what happened…We’re never taking the Dr. V piece down from Grantland partly because we want people to learn from our experience.”

Christina Kahrl, a transgender woman and baseball writer, wrote a blistering guest piece on Hannan’s article and Grantland’s carelessness.

“By any professional or ethical standard … it wasn’t [Hannan’s] information to share,” Kahrl wrote. “[He] really should have simply stuck with debunking those claims to education and professional expertise relevant to the putter itself, [and] dropped the element of her gender identity if she didn’t want that to be public information — as she very clearly did not.”

Kahrl also pointed out that the piece, aimed towards “mostly white, mostly older, mostly male audience,” did nothing but “reinforce several negative stereotypes about trans people.” And more than that, Kahrl also gave important historical context — up until fairly recently, transgender people were advised to adopt “deep stealth,” and completely abandon their previous lives in order to transition to their authentic gender identity.

“Stealth is tough to maintain, and generally involves trading one closet for another: You may be acting on your sense of self to finally achieve happiness, but the specter of potential discovery is still with you. And if you wind up in the public eye for any reason, stealth might be that much more difficult to maintain,” wrote Kahrl.

A story originally meant to be about a discovery that could have changed the world of golf unfortunately devolved into blind, unthinking privilege, and may have cost a woman her life.

More reactions: Shakesville: Careless, Cruel and Unaccountable.

Rebecca Schoenkopf: That Grantland Trans* Story.

Cyd Zeigler: How Grantland Failed the Trans Community.

Alyssa Rosenberg: Ten Questions Grantland Should Answer About Dr. V and the Magic Putter.

Paris Lees: Is it OK for a Journalist to Reveal the Birth Gender of a Trans Person?

Josh Levin: Digging Too Deep.

Gov. Brown Signs Law Making Accurate ID Easier for Transgender Californians

October 8, 2013 By Josh Steichmann

ab 1121It just got a little bit easier (and cheaper) for transgender Californians to live authentic lives.

Governor Jerry Brown just signed AB 1121, written by Assemblymember Toni Atkins, which streamlines the process for documentation changes, specifically name and gender changes on ID like driver’s licenses and vital documents like birth certificates. The law was cosponsored by Equality California and the Transgender Law Center.

Up until now, changes to birth certificates required a court hearing, and now California is in line with many other states that only require an administrative action, in this case from the Office of Vital Records. Since the court filing fee is $435, and the courts are already overburdened with actual cases, this is a win-win for transgender Californians and good governance.

The law also changes the requirement of public notice, which for many transgender people requires outing themselves to their entire community, which may not be safe and at the least is an unnecessary hassle.

“One step in enabling transgender people to live authentic lives consistent with their gender identity is to ensure that their names and their official documents are consistent with who they are,” said Atkins. “I am very pleased that the Governor signed my bill to move us forward toward equality and dignity for transgender Californians.”

“Today California made it easier for people who are transgender to live authentic lives by removing unnecessary barriers to name changes and identity documents,” said John O’Connor, EQCA executive director. “This is a common sense solution to ensure that transgender Californians are treated fairly and with respect. We thank Gov. Brown and Assemblymember Atkins for their leadership.”

100 Days Later

October 4, 2013 By Josh Steichmann

100 days from SCOTUS marriage100 days ago, the Supreme Court struck down the central portion of the Defense of Marriage Act, and dismissed the last gasp appeal of the Prop. 8 supporters, returning the freedom to marry to California. Across the country, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people cheered along with allies who supported the vision of an America where everyone could marry the person that they love.

Since then, we’ve seen a parade of victories at the federal level, from the Department of Homeland Security allowing same-sex spouses full immigration privileges to the IRS issuing new rules to make sure loving same-sex couples are recognized, to the first same-sex weddings on U.S. military bases. We’ve seen big marriage victories in New Mexico and New Jersey, and we’ve seen the roll-out of the biggest advance in LGBT healthcare in our lifetimes with the Affordable Care Act.

Here in California, we’ve seen the federal courts uphold SB 1172, which ended the psychological abuse of LGBT youth by licensed therapists, we’ve seen transgender students win both with the passage and signing of the School Success and Opportunity Act (AB 1266), which ensures that transgender students can participate as their authentic selves in school, and at the Arcadia Unified School District, which settled a lawsuit and implemented policies to ensure transgender equality.  Read the rest of this entry »

Labor Department Updates its Guidelines on Gender Identity

July 29, 2013 By Jesse Melgar
U.S. Department of Labor updates its guidelines on gender identity.

U.S. Department of Labor updates its guidelines on gender identity.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) updated its policies on gender identity recently, clarifying that transgender federal employees and applicants in the DOL have protections against discrimination. These additional policies build off of a previous policy signed by the Secretary of Labor on April 28, 2011 “making clear that the Department will not tolerate discrimination against, or harassment of, DOL employees or applicants for employment based on their gender identity.”

The amended policies:

  • classify discrimination and harassment based on gender identity as a form of sex-based discrimination and harassment;
  • are consistent with the policies of other Federal agencies, such as the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and the Department of Justice (DOJ); and
  • reaffirm the Department’s commitment to fair treatment of and equal opportunity for all its employees and applicants.

The new policy recognizes that transgender employees have the right to:

  • be be referred by their proper names and pronouns;
  • have their privacy and confidentiality respected;
  • proper restroom access;
  • changing of identity documents within the department; and
  • take sick leave for transition related treatment

The new policies a outlines instructs supervisors to not allow employees to engage in gossip or rumor spreading and prohibits supervisors from improperly questioning transgender employees about their personal or medical situations.

These updated guidelines is a major step in the right direction in addressing transgender inequality and harassment. For more information, please visit the U.S. Department of Labor Civil Rights Center’s DOL Policies on Gender Identity: Rights and Responsibilities.