home
arts
literature
social sciences
special features
discussion
about glbtq
   search

 
   Encyclopedia
   Discussion
 
 
 
 
Advertising Opportunities
Press Kit
Research Guide
Terms of Service
Privacy Policy
Copyright
 
site guide
search tips
research guide
editors & contributors
contact us
send feedback
write the editor
 
 
 
 
subscribe
Subscribe to our free e-mail newsletter to receive a spotlight on glbtq culture every month.
e-mail address:
 
 
 
  unsubscribe
 
 
Popular Topics in The Arts
Drag Shows: Drag Queens and Female Impersonators Drag Shows: Drag Queens and Female Impersonators
Female impersonation need say nothing about sexual identity, but it has for a long time been almost an institutionalized aspect of gay male culture.
 
Photography: Gay Male, Pre-Stonewall Photography: Gay Male, Pre-Stonewall
Although sparse in images documenting the gay community, pre-Stonewall gay male photography blurs the boundaries between art, erotica, and social history.
 
Erotic and Pornographic Art: Gay Male Erotic and Pornographic Art: Gay Male
Given the historic stigma around making, circulating, and possessing overtly homoerotic images, the visual arts have been especially important for providing a socially sanctioned arena for depicting the naked male body and suggesting homoerotic desire.
 
New Queer Cinema
Independent films that aggressively assert homosexual identity and queer culture, the New Queer Cinema can be seen as the culmination of several developments in American cinema.
 
White, Minor
Renowned photographer, teacher, critic, editor, and curator, Minor White created some of the most interesting photographs of male nudes of the second half of the twentieth century, but did not exhibit them for fear of scandal.
 
Halston (Roy Halston Frowick)
The first international fashion superstar, Halston dressed and befriended some of America's most glamorous women.
 
Surrealism Surrealism
An artistic movement that grew out of Dadaism and flourished in Europe shortly after World War I, Surrealism embraced the idea that art was an expression of the subconscious.
 
Winfield, Paul
Film, stage, and television actor Paul Winfield was openly gay in his private life, but maintained public silence about his homosexuality.
 
Topics In the News
 
Sensationalistic Sports Story Raises Crucial Questions
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 01/21/14
Last updated on: 01/22/14
 
Bookmark and Share

Caleb Hannan's sensationalistic story in the sports blog Grantland entitled "Dr. V's Magical Putter" has raised serious journalistic questions about the representation of transgender people, and, more particularly, about the ethics of outing a person who has transitioned from one gender to another.

Hannan's story originated in his curiosity about a golf club that allegedly utilized the advanced scientific knowledge of its inventor, a tall, red-haired woman known as Dr. Essay Anne Vanderbilt. In the process of investigating the golf club and its inventor, Hannan discovered that "Dr. V" had lied about almost everything she told him. Not only had Dr. V not attended M.I.T. or the University of Pennsylvania as she claimed, but she also had not worked in the defense industry. Instead, Hannan discovered, Dr. Essay Anne Vanderbilt had worked as a mechanic, had been married to a woman, and "was born a boy."

When Hannan confronted Dr. V about his discoveries in an email, the inventor became angry, tried to get him to sign a nondisclosure agreement, and wrote him a note saying that "his deportment is reminiscent to schoolyard bullies." Not long after that, Hannan learned that Dr. V had committed suicide.

Some readers have praised Hannan for having exposed a con artist and told a compelling story, but others have severely criticized him for outing a trans woman and have even alleged that the reporter hounded Dr. V to death.

As Josh Levin observes in Slate, "Dr. V was a con artist and a trans woman. Hannan conflates those two facts, as if they both represent a form of deceit." He criticizes the story for its lack of empathy, its sensationalistic presentation of its subject's transition, and for its lack of curiosity about her suicide.

The frenzied reaction to the story in the blogosphere led Bill Simmons, Grantland's editor-in-chief, to reflect on how the story came to be published in "A Letter from the Editor," which apologizes for "one massive mistake."

That mistake, Simmons writes, is this: "Someone familiar with the transgender community should have read [Hannan's] final draft. This never occurred to us. Nobody ever brought it up. Had we asked someone, they probably would have told us the following things . . . ."

Simmons then details some of the things that a transgender reader might have noted, including the disproportionately high suicide rate in the transgender community; the ethics of outing; several pronoun errors in referring to Dr. V; the sensationalistic way in which Dr. V's birth gender is revlealed; and the failure to consider how Hannan's reporting may have affected Dr. V and her decision to take her life.

Simmons concludes his "Letter" by saying, "To my infinite regret, we never asked anyone knowledgeable enough about transgender issues to help us either (a) improve the piece, or (b) realize that we shouldn't run it. That's our mistake--and really, my mistake, since it's my site. So I want to apologize. I failed."

Grantland has also published a guest editorial entitled "What Grantland Got Wrong" by Christina Kahrl, a transgender sportswriter who covers baseball for ESPN.com and who serves on the board of GLAAD.

Kahrl states unequivocally that Hannan should not have outed Dr. V in the first place. But having gone there, she continues, he had a responsibility to inform readers about transgender issues, including "the desperate lives that most transgender Americans lead."

Kahrl points out that Dr. V. was "a transgender woman in deep stealth, a term that means she did not want to be identified as transgender publicly, and probably not on any level personally. 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."

Describing "stealth" as an unhappy legacy of an earlier age, when psychiatrists recommended that people in transition leave their hometowns to begin life anew as someone else in their new gender, Kahrl notes that the resultant isolation is often very damaging.

Kahrl concludes her editorial by noting that Hannan failed to seize an opportunity to educate his readers. "We're talking about a piece aimed at golf readers. So we're talking about a mostly white, mostly older, mostly male audience that wound up reading a story that reinforced several negative stereotypes about trans people. For an audience that doesn't usually know and may never know anyone who's trans and may get few opportunities to ever learn any differently, that's confirmation bias of the worst sort."

The controversy sparked by the story may, however, lead to the very kind of education that Kahrl says is so needed. Simmons, at any rate, seems determined to learn from his "massive mistake."

The video below features the "magical putter" invented by Essay Anne Vanderbilt.

 
Related Encyclopedia Entries
 
browse:   arts   literature   social-sciences   discussion boards
 
learn more about glbtq       contact us       advertise on glbtq.com
 
Bookmark and Share

glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2014, glbtq, Inc.

Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.