Letter to Grantland editors

After reading the article on Grantland about Dr V, written by Calen Hannan, I decided to send an email to the site’s editors. I’ve included the text of the email below. Appreciate any thoughts.

“Hello,

This morning I’ve been reading the article on Grantland about Dr V, written by Calen Hannan.

As a big fan of Grantland, I’m saddened that you felt that publishing such an article that seemed to be entirely devoted to outing a trans person under the pretext of talking about a piece of golfing equipment.

Now, I’m not sure how much experience the editors at Grantland have with trans people, and reporting on or discussing trans issues, so I’m not going to make inflammatory accusations as to your motives.

However I would like to point your attention towards some information on how media outlets can best discuss trans people. I would point you towards Trans Media Watch (http://www.transmediawatch.org/avoid.html), but here are the highlights as to what to avoid when discussing trans people, and how incorrectly the article went about it:

Gratuitous Focus on Appearance
“She also cut a striking figure, standing 6-foot-3 with a shock of red hair” – given that this article was written after the fact, I’d be interested to know if the author would have included this piece of information had he not discovered that Dr V was trans? I highly doubt it. Ditto with “the pitch of her voice was strange too – deeper than expected.

Previous names
Did you know that here in the UK you can get a £5,000 fine for revealing the former name of a trans person? I don’t know if this is the case in the USA, but here’s a thought: there are reasons that trans people change their names, and one of them is that trans people do not want to be associated with that name any more. It isn’t identity fraud or anything criminal (in fact, it involves a ludicrous amount of paperwork). I include this, from TMW:

Why should you avoid revealing a previous name?

  • You may place the individual at risk or harassment.
  • You may place yourself at risk of prosecution.
  • It may be very difficult for you to undo your actions.

When a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) is awarded, it becomes a criminal offence to reveal the owner’s transgender history. At present the fine is £5000. It is the individual who reveals the name, not the organisation for which they work, who will face charges. There are no exemptions for journalism as there are with the Data Protection Act. Section 22 of the Gender Recognition Act was created with an “expectation of privacy” in mind.

It is important for a transgender person to be able to wipe the slate clean, to live a life free from persecution. Provided they have no outstanding debts, their credit history will be erased. They will be entitled to a new passport and driving licence. There is even a fresh birth certificate to help them through life. All of this is to no avail if their previous and current name are linked on a website. When this happens, such a person has no choice but to change their name again if they want the privacy to which they are entitled.

Add to that: it is just a shitty thing to do to someone.

Overall, this article sets up Dr V as deceitful and some form of fraudster, because she was trans. That is transphobic.

Comment on the quality of the putter, sure, but digging into a person’s background (one that they had moved on from) and hounding them is a horrible thing to do, just for the cheap thrill of being able to say “are you trying to tell me that Essay Anne Vanderbilt was once a man?” – and then printing as many details of possible about Dr V’s former name, while also adding the reason why she wanted to change her name: “OLD NAME DOES NOT MATCH ME”, and yet you published an article that went into plenty of detail about that old name, and used it as a justification for hounding her.

Is it a surprise that Dr V tried to get away from Mr Hannan’s questions, since he appeared determined to dig into her old name, and out her publicly as trans? I know a number of trans people who live in constant fear of having their old names outed, and face discrimination and assault when people discover they are trans. It can be terrifying, and is one of the main reasons for trans suicides (I can provide statistics on the high rate of suicide amongst trans people if you would like them). Being chased by a journalist who has decided to out you would be terrifying – imagine, for instance, that you did something wrong (let’s say you had an affair) and a writer decided that they wanted to out you for having that affair, which would destroy your family life, your professional life and cause people walking down the street to look at you as if you are a leper. You’d hide and avoid your calls, and grow to despise that writer, wouldn’t you?

Yours,

Adam”

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