Dr. V Is Dead, Caleb Hannan Is Celebrated: Why We Can’t Accept Lazy, Transmisogynistic Journalism

By now you’ve probably already heard about Dr. V, Caleb Hannan, and “Dr. V’s Magical Putter.” It’s an 8,000 word Grantland piece that begins with writer Caleb Hannan describing his late night viewing of YouTube videos about golf and ends with him announcing the death by suicide of a trans woman named Dr. Essay Anne Vanderbilt.

Not sure what to say other than this is the strangest story I’ve ever worked on. http://t.co/3x9FXS2dy1— Caleb Hannan (@calebhannan) January 15, 2014

A few hours later, when Wire editor Bill Wasik suggested on Twitter that Hannan’s investigation of Dr. V’s work and life contributed to her death, he replied “ouch.”

The story purported to be about a fancy, physics-defying golf club created by Dr. V, who is initially presented as mysterious and reclusive. She agreed to an interview for the piece only if Hannan promised to focus on the product and science and not write about her as a person. He agreed, but as he continued reporting he began to find details did not add up — she claimed advanced degrees that he couldn’t verify, and one investor said he was worried he would never see a return on his money. Hannan continued to dig, and Dr. V became very resistant to working with him. When a source indicated Dr. V was trans, Hannan writes, “A chill actually ran up my spine.” As feminist blogger Shakesville wrote, it was “a piece of information he found so interesting that he broke his agreement to focus on the science and not the scientist.”

Hannan details Dr. V’s history of lawsuits, relationships and a suicide attempt. He describes outing her as trans to at least one investor without her consent, and without any acknowledgement of the fact that that’s what he was doing. And then, as the linchpin of the piece, he writes “What began as a story about a brilliant woman with a new invention had turned into a tale of a troubled man who had invented a new life for himself. Yet the biggest question remained unanswered: Had Dr. V created a great golf club or merely a great story?”

“A tale of a troubled man who had invented a new life for himself.”

A troubled man.

Just like that, Hannan did what so many people do: he called into question the reality of Dr. V’s gender as if her being trans was as suspect as her missing degrees, engaging in the deplorable and time-honored practice of depicting trans* people, and especially trans women, as duplicitous and deceitful.

It’s not the first time a journalist — especially one used to a mainstream “beat” like sports — has written about trans* people in an inappropriate and dehumanizing way. In fact there was an epidemic of this very recently, when Chelsea Manning disclosed her trans status in August and a legion of news and politics reporters realized they had to figure out how to write about a trans woman. Many of them did so very poorly, misgendering Manning and writing about her in cruel, sensationalist ways. But even then, those reporters were in the wrong and engaging in poor journalistic practices they could have easily corrected; in order to write about Manning the way they did, they had to ignore easy-to-find resources, like the Trans Media Watch’s helpful style guide for cis journalists. Hannan deserves even less benefit of the doubt than those journalists did. According to his Grantland story, the piece took at least eight months to put together before it went to press, which means that Hannan was working on it all through the Manning story — a story that was so big no one, let alone a professional journalist, would have been able to ignore it — less than six months ago and learned nothing from it, or the public conversation around good reporting practices that followed it. At no point in the story does Hannan ever refer to Dr. V as what she was, a trans woman, choosing instead to use offensive, inaccurate and dehumanizing terms like “born a boy” and “used to be a man.” Thirty seconds of Googling would have given Hannan at least enough information to know how inappropriate that was.

But Hannan didn’t just make line-level copy mistakes as a cis journalist — getting someone’s pronouns wrong or using their dead name is inexcusable, but it’s not even the whole story of what Hannan did.  The Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics makes it explicitly clear that a journalists’ responsibility is to minimize harm, which includes:

— Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage.
— Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance.
— Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy.
— Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.

It’s difficult to understand how Hannan, or his editors at Grantland, could have thought that any of these ethical requirements were being met. It’s technically possible that Hannan could have not understood the gravity of what he was doing by outing Dr. V to her investors and to the entire American public — the degree to which she would be “affected adversely” and would without doubt experience “harm and discomfort.” But the only way that could be true is if Hannan hadn’t bothered to do even the barest minimum of research into trans* experiences and realities, and the real danger that trans women deal with from cultural stigma and transmisogyny. He would have to have looked for literally zero information about the lives of trans women and the challenges they face. Given that Hannan was willing to devote almost a year of his life researching every private detail of Dr. V’s, ranging from her interpersonal behavior at previous jobs to her personal financial history, it strains belief that he was unable to do the basic level of research that would have brought him to something like this National Transgender Discrimination Survey. Given how eager Hannan was to connect disparate dots about Dr. V’s schooling, personal life, family, court records, and business in order to paint a portrait of her as a con artist, it strains belief that he wasn’t able to connect the dots and conclude that someone who had already attempted suicide once, who put a great deal of effort into remaining private, and who explicitly warned him that he was “about to commit a hate crime” might be a suicide risk. If he were that committed to research, it seems like he should have been able to find out about Lucy Meadows, who committed suicide after being outed by a journalist last year. In fact, these things strain belief so much that it seems much more likely that Hannan was fully able to do both of those things; he just didn’t want to, because a trans woman’s life was less important than his byline potentially making it onto Longform (which, yes, it did).

We’ve emailed Hannan to ask for comment, and I’ll update this piece if he replies.

Friday, after the backlash began in earnest, he tweeted again:

The fact remains that even if Dr. V had been a fraudulent businessperson selling scam golf clubs, her gender would have remained completely irrelevant to that potentially newsworthy story. She may have been a con artist in her business and academic life, but being trans is not a con.

At the end, Hannan calls his piece a eulogy. A eulogy, by definition, praises a person for their contributions and life. The only nice thing Hannan has to say about Dr. V in 8,000 words is that she made a golf putter that may or may not be extra special. This falls rather flat, though, given that Hannan stops talking about the golf club in question almost completely after Dr. V’s gender enters the picture. For the rest of the piece, he mocks her way of writing and speaking, misgenders her, and calls into question everything she told him about herself. Her gender is the big “aha moment” of his long-studied mystery, and her death is the falling action of the story. The piece was never about Dr. V, a golf putter, the science, the controversy, transgender experience, or even her death. This story was about Caleb Hannan, his desire to unwind a mystery that perplexed him, and the things he discovered along the way.

That’s bad journalism, and it’s bad humanity. A piece of this length has multiple editors and coaches, and it seems not one thought to question the merit of a piece that was essentially the drawn out tale of a trans woman’s suicide disguised as a piece about golf clubs wrapped in its writer’s own enthrallment.

Neither Hannan nor Grantland have apologized. The story is still up on Grantland’s website. On Twitter, users are organizing with the hashtag #JusticeForDrV. Some people have said the author may be legally culpable if it can be proved his actions contributed to her death, though I won’t hold my breath. It would be great if this story set off a greater awareness and call to action among cis people for compassionate, human treatment of trans women in journalism and in the real world. Even if that comes to pass, however, it won’t make Dr. V’s death worthwhile. No more trans women should die because a journalist fell down a rabbit hole and couldn’t find his own way out.

Avatar of Audrey

Audrey is a Texan living in Managua, Nicaragua. She loves journalism, country dancing and talking to strangers. Follow her on Twitter @audreywhitetx.

Audrey has written 35 articles for us.

48 Comments

  1. Thumb up 9

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    This article is so reprehensible for so many reasons. Not the least of which is that the premise for delving so deeply into Dr. V’s life is that Hannan (ostensibly) wanted to make sure that everybody was aware of the credentials of somebody who invented a golf putter. A GOLF PUTTER. If Dr. V hadn’t been trans*, would Hannan still have published the article, or been so indignant about the fact that she didn’t graduate from MIT or Penn? (As an aside- if the putter works, does anybody care if the inventor’s credentials are fabricated? It isn’t medicine. It’s a piece of metal on a stick.)

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      Caleb Hannan, a purported journalist, states in his article that he had to look up the definition to many words Dr. V used such as, “Communique! Nuncupative! Collogue!” Perhaps Dr. V wasn’t the only one beefing up her resume and credentials. And before the trolls come out and try critique my spelling and grammar, don’t waste your time. I’m not the “journalist”. I majored in aviation and don’t get paid to write 8,000 word pieces of tabloid fodder under the guise of sports journalism.

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    I’m glad you mentioned the editors and coaches involved with with a piece this size because that’s something I haven’t heard talked about much. It baffles my mind to think about how many people had to sign off. I mean, really, this didn’t raise any red flags with anyone? Sadly, I probably shouldn’t be surprised at all.

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    Hannan’s piece filled me with what I can only describe as helpless fury.

    He doesn’t even get it. He only sees his perspective: he’s a dashing Sherlock Homes who uncovers a great fraud that has been committed and exposes it to the world. This is a man so drenched in his own male privilege that it is literally impossible for him to see this story from any perspective other than his own.

    Here’s what actually happened: He became curious about the inventor of a new golf club, and he pursued her despite her explicit statement that she didn’t want the story to be about her. He dug his grubby fingers into everything he could find out about this woman, backing her farther and farther into a corner. He lied to her about his intentions, and ignored her wishes because trans people are liars who deserve to be exposed. He tore down every wall this woman had ever put up for her own safety. He wouldn’t stop until he had “gotten to the truth,” never realizing that the truth was that he was bullying and harassing a woman who never asked for the attention in the first place. He wouldn’t stop until she destroyed herself, and he published his article as a crowning glory.

    Here’s what actually happened: He destroyed a trans woman’s life.

    As a trans woman myself, nearly everything this woman did makes perfect sense. All she ever wanted was to be treated like a human being. She knew what would happen if anyone started “digging into” her past. She knew what happens to trans women in this culture. She knew what Caleb Hannan’s little report would become if he focused on the scientist instead of the science. But she took a risk and agreed to a story, evidently extending the hope, the fucking pure hope that for once, FOR ONCE what happens to trans women in our society wouldn’t happen to her.

    She was wrong.

    The piece as it was published was exactly the kind of story she was afraid would result from Caleb Hannan’s curiosity. A shameless exposé of the private life of a private citizen, one that paints her as a liar and a deceiver, a confused and sad “man” who lived a fake life.

    The reason why I feel so helpless is this. Dr. V. spent nearly a decade trying to build a life where she would be safe. She kept her old identity to herself, she kept out of the spotlight. She took every precaution that a trans woman could take to keep herself safe. Well, except one. She had the audacity, the SHEER audacity to invent a better golf club, and to try to make a profit from it. And all it took to undo all the work this woman did to protect herself, all it took to tear down every wall she ever put up, was the curiosity of one solitary straight, white cisgender man.

    This is why it’s terrifying to be a trans woman in this world. No matter how hard you work; no matter how safely you try to live your life, this could happen to you. All it takes is for some straight white man to get “curious.” All it takes is someone who wants to get to the “real truth” and you can kiss that safety goodbye.

    A trans woman is dead. Caleb Hannan gets a paycheck.

    I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.

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      Audrey, thank you for this.

      I, too, could not help but imagine myself in her shoes. Perhaps because they are so close in size to those I wear, everything she did was cast in vivid relief.

      One pattern I notice in the lives of MANY trans women is this meticulous attempt to evade scrutiny. We modestly fade into the woodwork as much as we can. Anonymity can be a

      blessed balm. And yet we live in tension with our inner genius, fraught with the impulse to create courageous lives in every other way, too. So many of us go back and forth between

      these strategic positions, often pushed and pulled depending upon situational dangers.

      Dr. V certainly did what she could to vouchsafe her position. The brief window in which she found success with her invention must have soothed her just enough to let down her guard

      long enough to entertain this viciously voyeuristic reporter’s inquiries. I worry that many trans women (myself included) will see this as yet another object lesson as to why we should

      abandon all hope of living openly while also garnering the excellence as the fruit of the simple human life which is due every person.

      Cis people prove over and over they are incapable of regarding us with basic respect and compassion. They will throw us into the gears of their machine with a chuckle. I know that

      sounds bleak, but… When a cis person learns your history, more often than not their eyes can be so cold… like daggers… :(

      Perhaps the only life-affirming choice is to live boldly and reject the cis gaze with firm rejection. But that takes an inner metal not all of us can summon all the time. Poor Dr. V couldn’t.

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    I just don’t understand how so many people read through this article and thought “this is okay”. I mean I DO understand. It’s a terrible horrifying truth. But not ONE PERSON? He completely violated her privacy!! He didn’t even bother to investigate into the trans* experience, or even ask her personally, not even a little bit. This is just a fucking mess. I am angry. Is there a link or email I could get a hold of? I have angry words to share with people. I probably need to calm down a little so my angry words make sense, but still.

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    Wow. Reading Hannan’s article was really difficult. It was really disgusting the way he was so obviously enjoying gradually building up the ‘mystery’ of this poor woman’s identity. I can’t even articulate my feelings right now but thank you Audrey for bringing this to our attention. I emailed the editors at Grantland too, although it’s really much too late for things like that. How can he have spent so long on this piece and not realised the damage he was causing, same goes for all the editors who probably read it through and gave it the go ahead.

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    This is a really sad and fucked up incident. I can’t see it as a big surprise though. It depresses me because of Dr. V’s suffering, not because of what it reveals about our world. Because what it reveals about our world has unfortunately already become common sense to me at this point. And there will be no way to avoid tragedies like this until our society is completely restructured. This sort of thing is the norm, not a fluke. So what people who care about ending tragedies like this need to do is to work toward a revolution in the way we all think about ourselves, a revolution in the way our institutions are built. Cis people ESPECIALLY need to totally alter the way they think about themselves.

    I don’t think it’s particularly useful to focus on Caleb Hannan as an individual being some heinous person or irresponsible journalist. Now, the guy does sound like an ass, and what he did makes me sick. Honestly, I’d probably be happy if he was burned alive in a car crash. But I think he also simply did what most cis folks would do to a trans woman if they had the chance, probably even what some cis people who read Autostraddle would do (as much as I hate to say it). So I guess the real question for me is why do (most) cis people hate trans women so much? Why do they view us as subhuman, why do they like it when we die?

    I believe it is because trans women’s degradation–even our deaths–serves an important cultural and economic function in the operation of “the System.” Trans women are one group who represent the ultimate freaks, the ultimate deviants, the ultimate disturbing and exotic variation from the norm (although I’m not saying we are the only ones who fulfill this role). Caleb Hannan himself admitted, this was the “strangest story” he’d ever worked on. I’m sure that’s true. Trans women ARE strange, and trans women’s strangeness helps normalize “normal” people, it keeps them in line. Our existence sends the message “don’t be too weird, don’t give into your inner freak, your inner deviant, or you could end up like this. An ugly, deceitful mess who everyone hates, who is ultimately doomed to die.” What cis women is going to want to not shave, to not wear makeup (or to wear “too much makeup”) knowing that it will bring her closer to resembling a freak like me? What cis man is going to want to appear highly sensitive, or wear a floral shirt, or cross his legs tightly together if he knows that it will bring him closer to resembling a freak like me? And I actually think this has a big effect on the majority of cis people, even if they know next to nothing about trans women (ESPECIALLY if they know next to nothing about trans women), even if the effect is happening on a subconscious level. Trans women’s existence frightens and disturbs most cis people enough to make them want to be normal. And if they do manage to pull off being normal, at all, it gives them a nice self-esteem boost. They get to feel superior to freaks like me. Caleb Hannan isn’t the only cis person who gets chills up his spine because trans women exist.

    Of course, all queer people play this function to some extent in our society, but trans women are usually painted by the mainstream as the most freakish of the freaks. We are the most extreme queer people. There is a spectrum of normalness and freakishness. . .this also allows the different queers to be played off against each other, and it keeps people aspiring to move to the “normal” side of the spectrum (i.e. the side that reinforces patriarchy, heterosexism, capitalism, white supremacy), regardless of who they are. In fact, even I feel the pressure to take advantage of the ways I am a “good” trans women and become more normal. I can more easily meet Western beauty ideals than many trans women can because I am white, thin, and able-bodied; I can get medical treatments to more easily blend into normal society because I am not poor. And it’s tempting to want to spin these structural advantages I have, these privileges, into ways in which I can see myself as a better person than others, ways I can feel superior, more normal, more genuinely female.

    But it’s hard to really counteract who I am. Whatever else I may have going for me, I’m still just “a troubled man who had invented a new life for himself,” to quote Hannan. And of course, presenting these “troubled men” as freaks is a big business. Caleb Hannan almost certainly did what he did not only out of a horrified curiosity but also out of economic self-interest. A lot of people make a lot of money out of degrading trans women–so all this is driven by economic factors as much as cultural factors. And it all upholds capitalism as part of a broader pattern of entertaining and distracting people with over-the-top spectacles, especially spectacles that obscure an important aspect of how our society functions. Jerry Springer, Law and Order, every standup comedian, pretty much every sitcom–they’d all we losing a ready source of material, a surefire way to entertain their audience and gain dollar bills–if trans women didn’t exist and we didn’t exist in our current degradable state.

    One time I was asked, in a job interview, if I was planning on getting my “dick chopped off.” The person wasn’t joking; it was a sincere question. Most cis people’s voyeuristic curiosity about trans women knows no bounds. I firmly believe that the majority of cis folks don’t actually view women like me as human, they see us as one-dimensional spectacles that solely exist for their entertainment and to help them feel more normal. In this sense, Caleb Hannan is not even personally morally responsible for his actions, in that he is likely incapable of telling right from wrong when it comes to trans women, just like most cis people are. If trans women aren’t human beings, what cause would he–or anyone–have to think our wishes, our privacy, or our survival even matters?

    Of course, trans women ARE human beings. Our wishes, our privacy, and our survival DO matter. This is why cis people–even cis people who are not journalists, even cis people who think they are allies–need to completely change the way they see themselves and the world around them. Otherwise women like me will continue to die.

    You need to let go of your desire to be normal. You need to let go of your desire to have a freak show you can look at. You need to understand that, your “normalness,” your very cis-ness, is far from being a positive thing you can feel proud of. It’s actually a pretty negative thing, a thing engineered by historical and cultural and economic forces, a thing that’s ultimately holding you back, too. To paraphrase the teacher and activist Paolo Friere, oppression takes away the humanity of both the oppressed person and the oppressor. Transmisogyny degrades both the freak and the person who gets to be normal–both the fake, rip-off of a woman and the actual, “biological” woman.

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      Wow. Thank you very much for sharing your opinion. I really liked what you said about cis-people needing to change the way they think about THEMSELVES. That made so much sense to me. I will definitely use that in the near future.

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      Rebecca, I love this analysis and love you through it. <3

      In a small counterpoint, one thing which struck me in Mr. dudebro's article was how several of his sources evinced a level of erotic attraction to Dr. V. She wasn't "ugly" to at least 2 of them, but rather fascinated them due to her height, miniskirt, etc… Of course you are correct that most cis people view us as inhuman freaks.

      But there's something else to this article: whiffs of the sports talk in an old boy's locker room. In comes a "babe" who just so happens to unleash a full fury of critique against their "irrational" customs. These golf boys must have been flipping their lids, some with derision, some (as in one of the videos) with palpable crushes.

      There's a peculiar tension to the misogyny of such a situation, in which such a woman can gain attention only by her person, not by the merits of her work, perhaps unless she can leverage such men's eroticized attention *just so*. It seems this was what Dr. V was attempting; she sounds canny enough to have realized the reactions she would get as a woman in sporty tech. Hence her proliferated advanced degrees. Sadly, the same gaze on her body – instead of her substance – were what killed her…

      This story is dripping with not just cissexism, but good old woman objectifcation.

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        Hmmm. . .those are interesting points, Brighid. I’m a bit embarrassed to say I didn’t even read (didn’t even glance over) Caleb Hannan’s article. I only read the article about it here on Autostraddle. And though my initial comment may have conveyed a sort of detached, intellectual ease with this topic matter. . .I actually find people’s transmisogyny to be extremely scary, disturbing, and triggering. I deal with it enough in my everyday life. I don’t think I could handle reading Hannan’s article. So trying to emotionally distance myself from this stuff as much as possible, while trying to intellectually analyze it, is the way I aim to protect myself from it and regain power from it.

        But anyway, I find what you are saying very interesting. My initial comment did really focus on the ways in which trans women are degraded for our trans-ness. . .it didn’t touch on as much the ways we are degraded that happen to all women. But the male gaze, men’s relentless objectification of women. . .I know that’s something I’ve certainly been subjected to. And it can be particularly scary as a trans women because you always think. . .well. . .what will these guys do if they keep examining me, keep examining me, keep examining me, keep examining me, and then BOOM! They finally put two and two together. It rarely ends well. Either they won’t find out and I will just be subject to standard sexism, which already sucks and is demeaning, or I will be exposed to the particularly dangerous version of sexism that happens when people realize a woman is also trans. You can’t win for losing. I could see how Dr. V being a woman and trying to enter a traditionally male space, sports technology, could have engendered an intense wave of sexist examination of her. . .one that ultimately uncovered her transness and killed her.

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          Oh. . .and I also just want to add, Brighid, that I’m really glad you loved what I had to say!! That’s very sweet of you; you seem like you a smart woman as well. Also thank you to Rachel and Alycea for your kind words. I appreciate it.

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          Well, you’re missing very little by not reading that bit of tripe. It’s got very little to commend it either in literary or journalistic merit. I understand the need to strain the cissexist soup that gets poured into our faces each day. Protect your heart first above all. Our own nightmares are bad enough.

          I do think it’s worth, should we have the spoons to venture it, an inquiry into the ways that we as trans women touch on some common thread in the hetcis mind which links the sexual objectification of women to the coldest homocidal impulses rooted in masculine shame. That seems to me to be the slimy green root of rot in this man’s article.

          We often talk about the “trans panic” which supposedly drives hetcis dudebros to slash our throats with such ready abandon. But what’s interesting to me in this text is how it reveals how titillated he was even as he held on to his outrage at being “deceived”. This buxom, tall, redheaded female interloper captured his attention as she entered a space that was marked for the boys. Even after he knew (or at least suspected) that she was in his mind “born a man”, he pursued her as a conquest. Especially after. The tripe article was written in an embarrassingly egotistical mode which revealed his irresistible passion; he could not help destroying Dr. V. His article was practically pornographic in grammar; the denouement creepily physical (with his spine aquivering) and the climax suggestive in his arousal before the little death he created.

          I’ve seen this dynamic in all its flinty danger, imposed upon me personally by men. (Thank the gods, I survived, if scathed.) It seems important to gesture toward, but I yet can’t fathom it: What is this deep nexus in straight cis men which roots sexual attraction with the most profoundly jealous violence as a total union? Again, perhaps a thing all women must grapple with someway. But it’s a phenomenon revealed to “women like us” in the strangest ways…

          So, yeah, we can’t win for losing. Keep fighting anyway, hon.

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          Thank you for the solidarity, Brighid! And yeah. . .I agree, this is all very interesting and significant territory. It does seem that many straight men seem to get off on viewing women as dirty, disgusting, untrustworthy, and inferior. Which–not coincidentally–are some of the stereotypes most frequently attached to trans women specifically. So in a sense, a guy finding out a women is trans is not stumbling into some huge surprise. He is probably shocked, of course, and probably hadn’t seen it coming. But. . .he thought this person was a woman. . .and the only person who could have pulled that off was someone who was “naturally” dirty, disgusting, untrustworthy, and inferior (a cis woman) or who had “chosen to become” dirty, disgusting, untrustworthy, or inferior (a trans woman). So a trans woman, even if she didn’t come to this place “naturally,” still embodies all those alleged traits of women that so many straight men find so disgusting, yet so irresistible. Those traits that make they want to violate a person, to control a person, to own a person. And I think they can feel even more license to do this with a trans woman. . .because after all, this person supposedly willingly put herself in this situation. She is a woman “by choice.” Society is so committed to viewing gender as totally determined by the body you are born with–as seen through the cissexist lens of medical science–that a guy might conjure up some sort of condescending sympathy for a “real” woman. . .after all, she had no choice but to be such a lowly creature as she is, right? But a trans woman willingly decided to debase herself by “becoming a woman”. . .surely she must–at some level–welcome others debasing her as well. Right?

          Many straight guys seem to view women and trans women in this sort of fucked up, sexist way. While it seems absurd to me, it does also seem to have its own terrible, internal logic I guess (just no grounding in the external world of women’s actual lives).

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    Thank you, Audrey, for a great analysis, and to everyone here sharing further analyses and reactions. Articles like Hannan’s don’t just affect their subjects, they propagate violence against transwomen. This is unacceptable and infuriating.

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    As I’ve always said, if Hitler were trans, he would be forever known in history as a transsexual who also happened to be a murderous dictator. This is why many trans people (if they have the choice to do so and most of us don’t) aren’t especially happy broadcasting their trans history in the same way gay cis people might. Creeps like Hannan think they own our stories and get to use them for their career advancement. But he’s not unique in that regard… there are many cis filmmakers and writers who do similar things in terms of exploiting what they think is a “fascinating story” about “a man who thinks he’s a woman.” Whether they’re doing so to make a cheap buck or because they think the world has anointed them as “the person who’s going to tell this story the RIGHT way and I’m going to help those poor people.” There is a strong element of exploitation and benevolent patronizing stewardship in virtually all cis portrayals of trans people, especially trans women. Which is one reason why I could care less when some cis queer people pompously explain “you should be trying to educate your allies and people who are curious about the trans community.” My response to them is, the more information I give to people, the more they think they own my story, have a right to spread it to anyone else and use it for their own benefit. No thank you. Let them find some other “strange” story on which to make their reputation.

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    This article deeply upset me.

    So many trans* people live extraordinary lives beyond the normal narratives of what constitutes identity. Living so long in our heads, many of us stretch out into fantastic geographies where potential reigns. Is it any wonder Dr. V set herself up with such a backstory? When we finally take the jump into living, we burst forth in unruly relief at the sudden revelation that potential may be possible. When one’s skin becomes one’s own for the first time in a lifetime, we may find ourselves ready to take leaps of faith. A mechanic may become an aeronautical physicist, if only she dares add three little letters to her new name.

    But it’s more than yearning inspiration which drives such constructive fantasy. When cis bullies can come out of the blue to tear assunder your precious and tenuously established life in the national press, is it any wonder that we feel DRIVEN to the old habits of stealth histories? Seeing the palpable intelligence of Dr. V, probably long submerged beneath oceans of despair, only to finally be given freedom in a new name, a new life, a new skin, can one really say her identity was so simply a lie?

    For those of us who have been driven to stealth lives, these concocted histories and half-truths always breathe with regret. We know what this shameful reporter does not: that his “magic” positive contagion is built of the harshest biases and systemic bigotries. Who in the floating world of golf snobbery would possibly have listened to Dr. V if she DIDN’T concoct academic legitimacies to shield her? Some woman, some tranny prole, couldn’t possibly know such things in these mens’ limited view of possibility. We who have lived stealth know that what people want isn’t the “truth”, but a story which explains away our genius. And we know with a shiver of fear so visceral that it threatens to make us lose control of bodily functions that if we don’t provide a tale up to expectation, that it might mean the loss of our life and livelihood up to our very literal death. The weedling questions which cis people believe are so innocent (asking trans women about their genitals on national television, for gods’ sakes), these are all dire attacks meant to imprison and perhaps destroy our freedom. If you think that’s hyperbole, you aren’t paying attention to current events. We live with our masks because cis people demand us to, even after we transition. These are the wages of “passing”, and they are paid in sobs in the night; herstories unspoken to all but one’s teddy bear.

    One thing almost all trans people seem to share is that when we come out to live our lives, we must say goodbye to the conceits of safety in the herd. So passing or not, stealth or out, we are given the bitter gift of genius, to paint our world with the colours teacher told us never to use. I personally know trans women who are nomadic shamans, socialist revolutionaries, revolutionary biologists, inspired poets, compassionate clergy of all religions, artististic activists… We often live in poverty economically and yet somehow learn to invent our own languages to give voice to a world surpassing in glory the drab stories we were handed. This is the natural outcome of lives lived in defiance of the normative hegemonies. I see that will to genius in this simple putter which Dr. V invented. We take imagination seriously because we must, as the flame that lights all progress, the inspiration which nurtures possibility. Isn’t that a good thing? When will society begin to take US seriously? To love us and the variagated truths we draw from our lives?

    I don’t know anything about Dr. V, but I would bet anything her terror of living through this hack’s public bashing wrenched her to the core. Those 8 months must have been absolute agony.

    Shame on this hack Caleb Hannan. He knew exactly what he was up to, tearing apart a trans woman for salacious points and reporter cred. His article reeks of hetcis bullying. If it were on printed paper, it would line my doorstep right now.

    But forget that thud.

    Dr. V, wherever you are, I wish I could have met you. I wish with time you would have come to trust the world a bit, to ease down from your furies. I wish we could have shared the consolations of the intellect, some reciprocal collogues in service of the noble idea. If nothing else. But this is not a world to trust for people like us; and perhaps the consolations are not enough. I can’t escape the weight of your final argument…

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    I regret giving Grantland the page view when I read the article on Friday to figure out what people were talking about on Twitter. Just . . . ugh. You really nailed it with this:

    “The fact remains that even if Dr. V had been a fraudulent businessperson selling scam golf clubs, her gender would have remained completely irrelevant to that potentially newsworthy story. She may have been a con artist in her business and academic life, but being trans is not a con.”

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    Is there some kind of petition to grantland to take the piece down? I’ve been unable to find anything.

    I just found out about this entire situation. I came across a slate article and it actually recommends that you read the grantland piece. I cannot fathom why that is still up. It’s sickening.

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    The official statement of Serena:

    The journo is a prime heimnarr candidate in my book. As in Norse practice of nonlethally severing all 4 limbs in case of someone being despicable enough not to deserve even death.

    I actually read what it’s about – and there was no fraud besides absent credentials – which even if they were there would be impossible to confirm because of them being part of previous records. How many of you haven’t creatively improved your CVs? The golf club she made actually worked. but what you should have really looked at is this:

    “Champions Tour player David Frost had once received an hour-long putting lesson from Dr. V and four days later had won a tournament by tying the lowest score ever recorded on that course. The information Dr. V had imparted to him was so valuable, Frost told me, that he wasn’t even willing to share it. Maybe if I’d had the same access, the Oracle would have remained as effective for me. But positive contagion, at least in my case, only seemed to work when I believed I was still infected. When I was under the impression that Dr. V was a brilliant engineer, my putting improved dramatically. As soon as I learned she had simply been a struggling mechanic, the magic was lost. Today, Dr. V’s Oracle is collecting dust in my garage.”

    ‘Struggling mechanic’? See this is classism and dehumanisation at its finest, complete with all the squeamish psychosomatics of a full-blown caste system.

    She did everything she could in this oppressive world, made a positive contribution, despite all the classism and her revolting subhuman family – and all she got was a piece of refuse like this journo writing her eulogy. rest in peace sister – and that is a word i never use lightly, one does not get called that on ‘feminist’ grounds because of genitals. you’ll be missed.

    P.S. And my sympathy to you all transsexual women on here who had to read that atrocity.

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      I agree with your comment wholeheartedly but be careful calling this 8,000 word personal expose a “eulogy”. The writer called it that but that does not make it so. A eulogy is typically written by a family member, loved one, or friend. This would be the first example I’ve ever seen where the bully ends up writing the eulogy. Caleb Hannan’s writing could be called a lot of things (many of which would be NSFW) but a eulogy is not one of them.

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    When I read stories like this I always wonder: as a people who are marginalized, do we *really* know what we are asking for?

    And question two:

    When I say this, I ask of everyone who benefits from some type of privilege, do you know what you are giving up?

    You give up being a default [the ultimate privilege] where you can function and by “function” just breathe easily in your society.

    Because reading Rebecca Weaver’s post just reminded me of the questions I ask myself, my loved ones and my friends, “holy shit, what world are we looking at/for if we give everyone and everything the thought of the notion that you are worth living and you matter.”

    I shiver at the thought.

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    I keep coming back to this and being horrified. This guy seems to have no idea of the gravity of what he’s done. He harassed a woman to death. Even if he wanted to be like HEY HER CREDENTIALS ARE FAKE he could have done it in a way without outing her and driving her to suicide.

    Fuck this guy.

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    Great responses in this thread everyone and thank you for your thoughtful words. I am usually a very peaceful ‘let’s work things out’ type of individual but Hannan’s posthumous character assassination piece brings out my fire and brimstone in abundance. Is the ultimate act of dehumanization: first you have a direct responsibility in killing the person physically then you attempt to kill the person’s legacy and identity after death. I am soooooooo filled with rage about this that I begin to grind my teeth when simply thinking about this outrage. Every day that Caleb Hannan’s article is still up is further reinforcement that the lives of trans women are not worth much in the eyes of many of the gatekeepers of US society. This tragedy is the epitome of clueless and casual cis male privilege.

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    Caleb Hannan, a purported journalist, states in his article that he had to look up the definition to many words Dr. V used such as, “Communique! Nuncupative! Collogue!” Perhaps Dr. V wasn’t the only one beefing up her resume and credentials. And before the trolls come out and try critique my spelling and grammar, don’t waste your time. I’m not the “journalist”. I majored in aviation and don’t get paid to write 8,000 word pieces of tabloid fodder under the guise of sports journalism.

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    I don’t know if anyone is interested in reading Grantland’s excuses as to why they posted the article, but here it is:

    http://grantland.com/features/the-dr-v-story-a-letter-from-the-editor/

    I’m still angry so this is in no way enough for me. They still completely forgot the simple fact that Dr. V’s gender had NOTHING to do with her invention. This could have been a simple article about “magical putters” that magically work. I’m pretty sure I don’t give a single fuck who invented the pencil and eraser or their gender. I’m just glad it’s here for me to fix mistakes. Grantland can’t erase this, though.

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      I also found the editor’s apology insufficient. Particularly the pieces like this: “Caleb reported a story about a public figure that slowly spun out of control. He never antagonized or badgered anyone. Any mistakes happened because of his inexperience, and ours, too.”

      To me, this reads as “it could have been worse.” And I just don’t think you get to use that excuse when someone’s life is taken. As Audrey said, Hannan knew that Vanderbilt had previously attempted suicide, and that she’d explicitly asked for privacy. How can people not see that these things connect?

      I keep coming back to this story and I feel utterly sick.

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        pure old boy cover for the piece of waste – with no other message besides: i’m sorry you think we’re to blame. Hate him almost as much as the POS who actually pushed the woman into suicide – and who was offered an opportunity to see her credentials but refused in hopes to earn more money by outing her.

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    So having gotten a chance to catch up on this a bit the last few days, I want to point out in addition that Hannan’s article violated the journalist code of ethics before the trans stuff entered into it. When a journalist agrees to work with a source, the source has a right to state what are their terms for participating in the story. A journalist then has the right to agree to those terms and move forward with the story, or reject them and not work with that source. Hannan agreed to Dr. V’s terms, then broke them and in doing so he violated the code of ethics.

    This whole thing is just utterly infuriating. Reading over all of the responses reminds me of why we were so furious in response to the UK press when it plastered Lucy Meadows story all over the tabloids– despite the fact that it had zero news content or relevance to anyone not directly connected to Lucy in the first place.

    I still haven’t read the piece itself, and probably won’t (I’m not planning to write a detailed response, and that’s the only reason I would subject myself to that trash), but I just want to point out:

    the title, “Dr V’s Magical Putter”… that’s innuendo, right? I just want to make sure I’m not the only one who sees it??

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    Gina’s opening comment about Hitler reflects a repeated theme most who are trans discover: nothing is more dispicable to cisgender people then a transperson, and from my paradigm, a transwoman.

    Almost all transwomen I have met have had someone tell them they would be better off dead then trans. My SO had her ex say she would have been less upset if she beat her, was a drug addict or alcoholic than confessing to being trans.

    Unfortunately, many of us trying to protect our identity, or in many cases our lives, have had to play with the truth about our past leaving the general public to perceive transpeople as duplicitouis and deceptive. But as seen from this story, when the truth of our lives is discovered it is hardly appreciated.

    So we learn, as W.T. Sherman said, “The truth is not always palatable, and should not always be told.”

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    I agree with the comments about the fumbling apology (which honestly reads like “Sorry we REPORTED SO HARD and that you didn’t educate us about stuff in advance. Our bad.”)

    They have also posted this on there: http://grantland.com/features/what-grantland-got-wrong/

    Which I actually appreciate further because a) it’s actually written by a trans woman and b) it finally points out that the correct thing to do was to bring up lack of credentials but that there was no reason for Dr. V’s gender to be mentioned at all.

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