Yesterday the editor of Grantland, Bill Simmons, produced an apology about the Dr.V. story. It hit Twitter just as I got back from the BristolCon Fringe event so I wasn’t up for much interaction at the time. I did notice a few people commenting on how the apology spent a lot of time praising the quality of Caleb Hannan’s journalism, but broadly the reaction I saw was of the form, “they’ve apologized, that’s good, trans stuff is so complicated and hopefully they’ll learn from this.”
This morning I read the “apology”, and I’m furious.
I do get that trans stuff is complicated. That’s why I am generally willing to talk about it, and will continue to do so. This story in today’s Bristol Post is awful in many ways, but it is clear that the journalist has no understanding of intersex conditions. That at least we can deal with.
The Grantland apology talks a lot about their lack of understanding of trans issues, but it also repeats some of the mistakes of the original article. I was particularly incensed by this:
When anyone criticizes the Dr. V feature for lacking empathy in the final few paragraphs, they’re right. Had we pushed Caleb to include a deeper perspective about his own feelings, and his own fears of culpability, that would have softened those criticisms.
Are you kidding me?
Simmons is saying that if the article had concentrated more on explaining how their journalist was the victim in all this, rather than the person who committed suicide, it would have made for a better story.
Besides, Hannan’s article wasn’t just ignorant about trans people, it was downright hostile. It used the fact that Dr.V. was trans as the lynchpin of his argument that she was a con artist. That’s saying that all trans people are lying about their feelings, in the same way that Faux News does. I find it impossible to believe that “between 13 and 15 people” read drafts of the article and did not see how hostile to trans people it was. If that was the main thrust of their article, the thing that made it worth running, no amount consulting with the trans community was going to change that.
I mean, what next? Nigel Farage admits that he had not spoken to any Romanians before accusing them of being scroungers? Rush Limbaugh expresses surprise that Muslims find his rants offensive? Would they get a free pass for lack of knowledge as well?
Besides, it so happens that Grantland had run a fairly positive story about the trans musician, Laura Jane Grace, the day before they ran the piece on Dr.V.. If they can do that, they are clearly not ignorant on trans issues.
So no, they do not get a free pass on transphobia by feigning ignorance, and by praising the quality of their own journalism. What they get from me, and they deserve from the rest of you, is utter contempt.