Caleb Hannan, Gender Identity and Journalistic Ethics

Jonathan McLeod

Jonathan McLeod is a writer living in Ottawa, Ontario. (That means Canada.) He spends too much time following local politics and writing about zoning issues. Follow him on Twitter.

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151 Responses

  1. Mike Schilling says:

    I admit that I don’t know quite how to think about this one. Some of it’s clear: Hannan’s ignorance of and disrespect for the reality of transgender people is unacceptable. And his outing her as transgender feels like an unwarranted invasion of privacy. But the backlash you link to concludes that Hannan had no right to investigate Vanderbilt’s life (as opposed to her invention) at all. And I don’t see that. She’d lied about her credentials and used those lies both for publicity (a venal sin) and to extract money from investors (a cardinal one.) It was while he was trying to verify her false claims that he discovered that she’d changed her name, explaining why there were no earlier records under the name Essay Anne Vanderbilt.

    So, documenting the lies is solid reporting. Mentioning that she’d changed her name is part of that documentation. Should Hannan redact the previous name to avoid outing her? I can’t see a conclusive argument for that. Should he downplay her transgender status? Probably. Was it out of line to ask whether Kinney, someone who’d entrusted her with tens of thousands of dollars, knew about it? I’m not sure. Was it out of line to describe her as high-strung and unable to take constructive criticism? If that was his honest assessment of what he’d learned about her, I don’t think so.

    Really, if you tell the same story but replace Dr. V with a guy named Bill Smith, it becomes a tale of a guy who was at least 50% con man. He might or might not have invented something amazing, but if so his dishonesty got in the way of his talent. And no one would criticize Hannan for doing the legwork to put that together.Report

  2. Kazzy says:

    Thanks for this piece, JML. I had seen this article at the top of Grantland and assumed it was a technical piece on golf clubs and passed. I saw it start to pop up on FB with tags like “interesting” but still wasn’t moved. Like Mike, I’m not quite sure what to make of it. I found additional offensive paragraphs to the ones mentioned here. One thing remains unclear: How many of the lies about Dr. V’s past were said by Dr. V and how many were said by McCord? I got the impression that McCord might have more drastically misrepresented Dr. V than she herself did — the tales of putting her on the phone with Vice Presidents or discussing her work with four-star generals were almost certainly completely fabricated by McCord, not Dr. V. Yet it was Dr. V who was raked over the coals.

    The cynic in me is tempted to think that Hannan might not have been as ignorant about Dr. V as he lets on. I can’t find a ton about him online, but a lot of the articles I’m finding seem to be biographical in nature… or perhaps better described as character studies. This guy suddenly decided to write a technically article on the science of golf clubs? And just so happened to stumble upon the creator’s remarkable past — including her status as a trans woman? I dunno… it makes me wonder. Did he know — or have some inkling — that this was the ultimate or likely destination if he dug enough?Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

      I don’t want to become Hannan’s defender here, but I don’t know why you’d assume it was ever intended to be a technical article. There are lots of ways to give the invention of a revolutionary piece of equipment human interest: focus on the unlikelihood of it being invented by a woman scientist with no direct connection to the sport, interview the players that have adopted it, explore how such a thing is marketed, introduce it to your regular foursome and play a round, etc.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        I could be wrong. The “science not scientist” assertion idicated it would not be a character study, in contrast to the brief survey of articles I could find of his. I may well be wrong… That is my hyper-cynical response, but not neccesarily my fully-formed one.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy says:

      @kazzy : “One thing remains unclear: How many of the lies about Dr. V’s past were said by Dr. V and how many were said by McCord? I got the impression that McCord might have more drastically misrepresented Dr. V than she herself did — the tales of putting her on the phone with Vice Presidents or discussing her work with four-star generals were almost certainly completely fabricated by McCord, not Dr. V. Yet it was Dr. V who was raked over the coals.”

      I’m not sure why you feel this way. It was Dr. V. who started off her talks with Hannan by saying that her work as a physicist on the sleath-fighter at the DOD was so top secret that they were not allowed to be discussed.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        The original article describes stories McCord told about seeing Dr. v on the phone with Quayle or he himself talking to generals. He was describing his own experiences.Report

  3. Stillwater says:

    Wow, that was a whole lot of fascinating reading. I don’t really know what to say.

    The cautious part of me wants to second both of Mike S’s comments and leave it at that. I, like him, don’t want to be Hannan’s defender.

    The less cautious part of me thinks that attributing malicious intent or willful ignorance (or the deliberate commission of a hate crime) to Hannan might be a bit harder to establish, given the limited evidence we have.Report

    • greginak in reply to Stillwater says:

      It is really odd to me that the Dr V person would so bald faced lie and do something that would, if successful, lead to a very high profile while wanting to keep something hidden. If the putter thingee took off, being in the press and having a ton of publicity at least in the golf world would be inevitable. Keeping a secret, lying about things that are easily checked and seeking fame and publicity don’t work well together.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to greginak says:

        It happens: Look at all the high-profile people that have been fired for lying on their resumes about schooling or previous jobs. In fact, it’s much safer if you own a business and all you risk is embarrassment.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to greginak says:


        I am not an expert, but I understand that recognizing one’s identity as trans and the subsequent complications (physical, social, emotional, psychological, etc.) that accompany the process of transitioning can be remarkable. Suicide (attempted or successful) is not uncommon. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that other psychological difficulties can emerge due to the societal pressures put on the individual, which might make seemingly inexplicable behavior, well, explicable.

        (Apologizes in advance if any of my terminology here is inaccurate.)Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to greginak says:

        @kazzy, I don’t buy this at all. There are plenty of trans or otherwise marginalized people that don’t engage in Dr. V’s behavior and their plenty of “normal” people that do. Dr. V’s transgender status should be treated as independent of her status as con person and liar.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to greginak says:

        You’re right, @leeesq . I retract my comment based on a wrongheaded way of thinking about this and apologize for any offense it caused.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to greginak says:

        There were plenty of people that defended ex-PFC Manning’s actions because of quote on quote confusion about gender identity in the quote on quote hyper masculine world of the US Army.

        Including ManningReport

      • Tod Kelly in reply to greginak says:

        @mike-schilling : “It happens: Look at all the high-profile people that have been fired for lying on their resumes about schooling or previous jobs. In fact, it’s much safer if you own a business and all you risk is embarrassment.”

        Yeah, but this is quite different than a Sprint customer service rep padding a resume or someone who owns a business and makes a brag that ends up being made up.

        This is someone who went out and both sought and acquired venture capital based entirely on a level of education and job experience that was fictional, to make a “scientific” product whose science seems dubious in retrospect.

        Also, I keep reading everywhere that Hannan agreed to cover the science and not the scientist, and I do not see that he ever did such a thing.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to greginak says:

        Did you read the article? Hannan himself acknowledged science-not-scientist.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to greginak says:

        Am I missing it? I read that it was requested by the inventor, and that rather than agree or disagree he contacted someone else.

        I have read it, but I guess I missed it. Where is it in the article?Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to greginak says:

        That someone else set up a phone interviewwith Dr. V., on that condition, and the author made the call. Either he agreed to that condition and later reneged or he made the call under false pretences, it seems to me.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to greginak says:

        McCord…even offered to arrange a phone call between us. “She will talk to you about the science and not the scientist,” he said after confirming with her that it was OK. […]. when I finally called.


      • Tod Kelly in reply to greginak says:

        @jm3z-aitch ,

        The interviewee saying they will only talk about about subject A if interviewed really isn’t the same as the interviewer promising not to write about it. And when they spoke, according to Hannan, she was the one who initiated talking about her past (and, for that matter, lying to him).

        Again, I’ve read it three times now, and I’m not seeing where he says he agreed not to write about anything.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to greginak says:


        She said she’d talk to him only under condition X. He knew that and called her. Sounds to me like her agreement to talk was predicated on condition X and the reporter knew that. So if he didn’t agree, and there’s no indication that he told her he didn’t but she agreed to talk anyway, then either he did agree–if only implicitly–or he let her assume he agreed in order to get her to talk.

        I don’t think he wrote maliciously about her, but I can’t see that he behaved with admirable integrity.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to greginak says:

        I have to say, I really don’t understand any of this reasoning.

        There’s some assclown that linked to Jonathan’s piece who says that the woman got whatever was coming to her because she’s transgendered, and that’s what those people deserve. The apparently common notion on our own sight is that if a journalist catches someone committing fraud in the course of investigating his story that, if the person is transgendered, that person is somehow entitled to have that fraud kept private — and that reporting things she doesn’t wish to have reported is a sign of a lack of the journalists “integrity.”

        Both of these things seem like two sides of the exact same coin to me.

        If I am interviewing a subject who says she I can’t write about part of his past or his company because of X, and X turns out to be a lie — worse, a lie being used to illegally defraud investors — I can’t imagine why I should feel obligated to keep their secret.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to greginak says:

        From what’s in his article, Hannan didn’t break any promises. Vanderbilt agreed to speak to him only if the article was about science, not scientist. Hannan was unwilling to agree to that, so he spoke to McCord instead, who got Vanderbilt to agree to an interview that was about science, not scientist.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to greginak says:


        I can’t really see that claiming to have credentials one doesn’t have is equivalent to trying to hide one’s past as a person in the wrong sex body. One is relevant to the issues of the science behind the club–even if the mechanic got the science right without the training (in fact that’s particularly interesting)–whereas the other not only has no relation to that issue, but is a deeply personal issue that in our day is still something a person can be–unfortunately–justified in hiding. Fraudulent credentials are not a privacy issue, sexual identity is until such time as the individual chooses to go public.

        If I learned that a female(male) colleague of mine had falsely claimed an appropriate degree and that the person used to be identified as a male(female), I’d feel justified notifying my college administration about the falsified degree, but not about the sex-identity change. The one is relevant and non-private; the other is non-relevant and private.

        Honestly, I don’t understand the interest in justifying outing someone’s private life that’s got no bearing on the issue of whether she was a mechanic or a physicist, whether she designed a great putter or a run of the mill one. If the answer is that the story wasn’t really about the club but about her, then haven’t we justified putting anyone’s private life on public display just because it titillates us?Report

  4. Maribou says:

    FWIW, I recently read an article by a genderqueer person (about wikipedia transphobia) in which they stated (as an aside to a larger point) that they made a habit of changing “born male” or “born female” to “assigned male at birth” or “assigned female at birth” in Wikipedia articles about trans people, as that phrasing makes the fewest possible assumptions.

    I wouldn’t normally bring it up since I try to avoid making copy-editor level comments on people’s posts, but considering that this article is complaining (justifiably) about someone else’s transphobic phrasings, it seems like something you might want to consider.Report

  5. Herb says:

    No one wants to defend Hannan, so I will.

    “Even a charitable reading of this would not reflect well on Hannan. His switch to “him” and “he” demonstrates a startling ignorance towards gender identity.”

    Here’s a chartiable reading: When Hannan switches to male pronouns in this paragraph, he is referring only to Dr. V’s male identity.

    When describing Dr. V’s actual biography in the previous paragraph, Hannan uses female pronouns, even for periods when “she” was living as a “he.” Example: “She was once a mechanic at a Sunoco station that she also may have run in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.”

    This is not a “startling demonstration of ignorance towards gender identity.” It’s a fair one.

    Also, this didn’t sit well with me:

    “…still decide to drape them in incorrect pronouns–pronouns which represent deep personal struggles that, no doubt, contributed to Dr. V’s past suicide attempts–is callous. It is uncaring verging on cruelty. I assume no malice, but I detect no basic decency.”

    “Incorrect pronouns” I understand the sensitivity on this issue, trust me, but you’ve basically accused Hannan of being callous and uncaring “verging on cruel” and lacking in basic decency simply because he used a male pronoun to describe a person who was, at that time, male.

    How is that even remotely fair to Hannan? Have you considered the possibility that he was just trying to be concise?Report

    • Herb in reply to Herb says:

      Lemme rephrase something, you know, to be more concise:

      “simply because he used a male pronoun to describe a person who had, at that time, a male identity.”Report

    • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Herb says:

      I’m inclined toward Herb’s point of view. Let’s face it, most of us are still trying to figure out how to talk about this issue, and talking about it is fraught with minefields for the non-conversant. I rather wish the author had simply left the transgender issue alone–I get that it’s interesting, hence newsworthy, but I think journalists also, as a group, are trained to have not one iota of respect for an individual’s private life, and I don’t like that–but I think implying that he was being extra cruel and indecent to Dr. V is a great overstatement.

      It’s wrong to talk about people’s private lives in public, I’d say, but that’s what Hannan’s whore-iffic occupation requires, and within the bounds of that requirement, he talked about her private life awkwardly, but not–based on the quotes above–with any particular malice. Or so it seems to me. Obviously others mileage varies.Report

      • Michelle in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        I wasn’t bothered by Hannan’s use of pronouns either as Hannan used “he” only when describing Dr. V’s previous life as a male. Whenever he talked about Dr. V in the present, he used “she,” unlike Dreher and some of his commenters in one of Dreher’s overwrought pieces on the issue (he’s written three so far). Dreher purposely referred to Dr. V as a con man, and referred to her as “he” or the even more offensive “he/she” after she started living as a woman.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Herb says:

      The essence of concision is brevity alloyed with accuracy. The issue here is whether use of the male pronoun when referring to pre-operative Dr. V is accurate. It is not.

      I can think of three explanations for this error: 1) malice, perhaps unconscious, towards transsexual people; 2) ignorance of the appropriate language to use; and 3) ignorance of the nature of trans sexuality. While 2) and 3) are charitable enough interpretations, my question about that is “where is the editor?”Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Burt Likko says:

        You seem to be treating a social convention (and a minority one at that) as incontrovertible scientific fact. At the time in question, Dr. V had the genetic, physiological, and biochemical hallmarks of masculinity, and also socially identified as male.

        We may, as a social courtesy, decide that we should use female pronouns to refer to such a person, but the idea that it’s objectively wrong or beyond pale to do so strikes me as rather silly.Report

      • Herb in reply to Burt Likko says:

        “The issue here is whether use of the male pronoun when referring to pre-operative Dr. V is accurate. It is not.”

        Well, that’s where it gets sticky. As Brandon points out, this is a social convention, and it’s also one where the pronoun is “accurate” but inappropriate. These things tend to be controversial, and confusing.

        Not only that, but some allowance for individuality should be made. Sexuality exists on a spectrum and it does no one, transpeople especially, any favors thinking it comes in a one size fits all box or that it’s permanent and unchanging.

        It seems to be an objective fact that Dr. V lived the first 50 years of her life as a man named Stephen Krol. It’s a guess, an educated one of course, that she spent every day of those 50 years internally identifying as female.

        My guess, based on the spectrum angle, is that her transition was something more gradual, more subtle, more complicated.

        So I can abide “You should use the feminine pronouns because that’s respectful.” But I’m not sure I can abide, “You should use the feminine pronouns because that’s more accurate.”

        Because it may not be.Report

      • Brooke in reply to Burt Likko says:

        I’m not sure why it’s considered accurate. At the time, the person who change identities to Dr. V. was a male. The pronoun seems accurate for that time period and for who the person was from an objective standpoint then. We all have ideas about ourselves that aren’t objectively true, but none of us get indulged when we ask to be referenced as though they are true.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Did Stephen Krol metamorphose into Essay Anne Vanderbilt at some point? Or on some given day, did Stephen Krol die and then on the same day Essay Anne Vanderbilt was born? Or is it more accurate to say that on a given day, Stephen Krol’s name changed to Essay Anne Vanderbilt? My vote is for this last option because there was only one person all along.

        At what point did Stephen Krol stop being a man and become a woman? Was it upon undergoing sex reassignment surgery? I don’t even know from the OP, the underlying article, or the guest editorial at Grantland commenting on the superfluity of outing Dr. V as a trans woman in the first place, whether surgery was necessary or had been done.

        Seems to me that if we’d have asked, Stephen Krol / Essay Anne Vanderbilt would have said that she was always who she was. The change was a legal change of name; if there was a reassignment surgery that is a physiological transition; a self-outing or adoption of a female social role was a cultural transition — to her true identity, an identity that she had all along.

        The analogy is a bit like a bisexual. Tom (a man) is dating Michael (a man). Then Tom and Michael break up, and Tom dates Julie (a woman). Was Tom “gay” when he dated Michael? Is Tom “straight” now that he’s dating Julie? No, he was bisexual the entire time.

        So too do we have a trans woman. She was not a man at one point who became a woman. She was a woman the whole time. She had male sexual organs and was identified by others as a child as male; over time she came to realize that she was, in fact, a woman, and took steps to adopt her true identity. Painful and difficult steps, steps that go contrary to a lot of socialization, steps that meet with a lot of cultural resistance.

        The best-practice editorial convention can be observed in the wikipedia article about another trans woman who, as it happens, has behaved in a way that raises raises significant ethical questions as well, Private Chelsea Manning. PVT Manning is “formerly known as” or “was born as” Bradley Manning so the transition is noted, but the article consistently uses the female pronoun to refer to her at all phases of her life — because she has always been a trans woman, even before she knew that was a thing she could be.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Burt Likko says:

        What Burt said. This emphasis on “objective” over the individual’s own identification is really offensive, especially the suggestion that somehow a trans person is possibly mistaken in identifying themselves as they do. Really? You think a guy just “mistakenly” thinks “I know inside I’m female?” Would you consider telling them, “No, you’re wrong; you’ve got a penis, so you’re a male and ought to remain that way, regardless of the fact that every day of your life you feel female”?

        Who the hell are any of us to tell someone what they really are on the inside?Report

      • Shazbot9 in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Brandon is way off here, and his position is offensive, or at least close to it. I hope he retracts it.

        By analogy, imagine a man named Tim who is gay, living as straight:: has a girlfriend, calls himself straight on rare occasions, and is described by others as straight. But suppose while living like a straight, on the inside, Tim felt that his identity is gay even though he had a hard time saying so, for the understandable reason that he wants to avoid homophobia and he has internalized shame coming from his homophobic culture. Eventually he admits that he is gay now and was gay all along but just didn’t want to admit it.

        Your job is to describe Tim in an article. Should you say he became gay at a certain point, just because he was once misdescribed by the term “straight” and he went along with the charade out of fear of being shamed? No. You should say that Tim has always been gay. If there were a separate pronoun for gay men in English (“himg” let’s say) you would use that pronoun throughout the essay, even when describing him before he admitted he was gay. To do otherwise would be to imply that Tim is wrong to have thought himself as gay along. That would be homophobic for the same reasons that thinking that people choose to become gay even when they tell you that isn’t the case is homophobic.

        It would also be wrong to say that you were merely describing Tim’s straight persona. There was no straight person Tim, as Tim himself tells you. Tim was always gay but appeared to be straight and went along with the misdescription.

        But the fictitious case of Tim, the internal awareness of a gay identity, and the gay pronoun “himg” is no different than the real case of Essay Anne, the internal awareness of female gender, and the pronoun “her.”

        Perhaps Brandon is working under the assumption that there is no such thing as an internal awareness of gender, i.e. that gender is only a matter of chromosomes and sexual organs.

        If so, here’s a thought experiment. One day, aliens come to earth and infect you with a virus that changes your Y chromosomes to X chromosomes. But it changes none of your phenotypic properties, i..e you still have a penis, sperm, higher levels of testosterone, etc. You still feel like a male. You want to ware male clothes and feel uncomfortable in panties, skirts, high heels, etc. You do not want you children to call you mom, but rather dad. You have a lingering sense that you are male. Then Brandon Berg comes along and says that you are wrong to call yourself male. You aren’t a guy. How do you respond?

        If you’d like, imagine 20 years after the aliens change your genetics, you suffer an accident where the lower half of your body including your genitals are removed and you now need hormonal therapy because your natural levels of testosterone are lower. Are you now female?

        No, these admittedly strange thought experiments show that in addition to facts about genes and junk, we all have a deep internal, neurologically inscribed sense of our gender identity, which is linked to our sexual identity but is not identical to it.

        Nature is weird and wonderful. It makes gay, straight, XX, XY, XXY, XYY, penises, vaginas, both penis and vagina on the same person, those with a sense of being male, and those with a sense of being female, and all sorts of other wonders.

        Nature even makes those who can be cruel and unaccepting of the rare and unique because of prejudice and ignorance.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Is there testimony from Stephen Krol that she always considered herself a woman, or is the point being made here that the ethical way to write about trans people is to assume that they always considered themselves the gender they transitioned to regardless of whether we know an individual did or didn’t?Report

      • Herb in reply to Burt Likko says:

        I’m hesitant to wade into this anymore so as not to give offense, but let’s try:

        It’s a huge error to assume that all transgendered people are born with their gender identity issues. It doesn’t always work that way.

        From a FAQ provided by the American Psychological Association:

        “Transgender people experience their transgender identity in a variety of ways and may become aware of their transgender identity at any age. Some can trace their transgender identities and feelings back to their earliest memories. They may have vague feelings of “not fitting in” with people of their assigned sex or specific wishes to be something other than their assigned sex. Others become aware of their transgender identities or begin to explore and experience gender-nonconforming attitudes and behaviors during adolescence or much later in life. Some embrace their transgender feelings, while others struggle with feelings of shame or confusion. Those who transition later in life may have struggled to fit in adequately as their assigned sex only to later face dissatisfaction with their lives. Some transgender people, transsexuals in particular, experience intense dissatisfaction with their sex assigned at birth, physical sex characteristics, or the gender role associated with that sex. These individuals often seek gender-affirming treatments.”

        (Emphasis mine)

        Link (Apologies in advance if I screwed up the formatting of that link…)

        I would guess that Dr. V is one of those who “become aware of their transgender identities…much later in life.” My reason for thinking that is that she was almost 50 years old when she started undergoing her transition. I may be wrong, but I think the logic is sound.

        That’s why I think that this statement is not supported by her biography:

        “She was not a man at one point who became a woman. She was a woman the whole time.”

        We can talk about biology and psychology and how she felt (which is unknowable), but if we were to talk about how she lived her life, does that statement fit so cleanly?

        Now I understand everyone is eager to be compassionate and understanding here, as am I, but as I said before, it does transpeople no favors to deny them the variety of their own experiences.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko says:

        No one has challenged your good faith, @herb ; we just disagree.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Burt Likko says:


        I agree with your general point, but in the particular application it is clear that Dr. V–whatever her internal experience–desperately wanted to conceal the part of her life where she lived as a man. To me, that’s sufficient to say that in this case–absent any specific information from her about how she identified previously–erring on the side of caution would mean assuming this had been a very painful issue for her, so that likely she had been struggling this for a long time before she came out as a woman.

        And even if that assumption was wrong, it’s a really private issue with no critical bearing on the issue of the club or her credentials, so bringing it out without permission is unseemly.

        In fact it’s possible that the outing motivated her suicide. It seems clear from the article that she was terrified that the journalist was going to out her, and there’s no indication he ever told her he wouldn’t. I still don’t think he wrote maliciously, but I do think he was extremely careless.Report

      • I don’t see where Herb claimed his good faith had been questioned.Report

      • @jm3z-aitch

        I think Herb was treating just the question about the pronoun use in isolation, i.e. my question of, in the case of a trans person who isn’t in the closet, is it simply assumed that the correct pronoun usage for the entirely of their life is the one that corresponds to the gender they transitioned to, or does it simply depend on the specifics of the person’s experiences? I don’t think he (Herb) was addressing the question of the outing in any way anymore; I’m pretty sure that’s a settled issue. I could be wrong, but that was my strong impression.Report

      • Kim in reply to Burt Likko says:

        your understanding of the science is dramatically fucked up.
        I’d give you the research to go read, but most of it’s classified
        (DARPA will research Anything).

        Let’s just say this: human sexuality varies on a continuum, from male to female.
        Geniuses are nearly always nearabouts the middle. Not everyone who has a
        preponderance of female sexuality in a male body says that they are trans.
        (a Good Portion say that they’re gay, and another portion wind up being Cassanovas.).
        And a lot of women with more male sexuality don’t even use a different word to describe themselves (they tend to be somewhat more aggressive, but generally hetero).Report

    • Mike R. in reply to Herb says:

      This is something that nobody is talking about, and doesn’t sit well with me, either. Whatever Dr. V identified herself as, Stephen Krol was a real person. He existed, and in the absence of any other information to the contrary, he appeared to have existed as a man.

      I had no problem with the use of pronouns in the piece. At least in my reading, “she” was Dr. V and “he” was the person who took on the identity of Dr. V. An identity, lest we forget, that was based on fraudulent credentials and education.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mike R. says:

        he appeared to have existed as a man.

        “Appeared” is doing a lot of heavy lifting there. If a woman purposefully made herself look like a man with the purposeful intent of trying to deceive people, we would say she “appeared to have existed as a man,” but we would still call her “she.” If a person who internally identified as a woman non-purposefully looks like a man, we would still say she “appeared to have existed as a man,” but why not also then still call her a she?

        I think your logic assumes that what matters most is the junk between the legs, not how the person self-identifies.Report

      • KatherineMW in reply to Mike R. says:

        Well, if we’re talking about sex rather than gender, then yes – someone with two X chromosomes is a woman, and someone with an X and a Y chromosome is a man (leaving out the rare cases of people who are triploid). That’s irrespective of how they think of themselves.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mike R. says:

        someone with two X chromosomes is a woman, and someone with an X and a Y chromosome is a man … That’s irrespective of how they think of themselves.

        Actually, if you’re talking about sex rather than gender, you mean male rather than female. But even then your answer may not be universally applicable.

        And the “irrespective of how they think of themselves” reduces our sex identity to a chromosome count, and fairly ruthlessly disregards the individual’s lived experience. “I know you feel like a woman (man), but you’ve got a Y chromosome/penis (two X chromosomes/a vagina) seems pretty careless.Report

      • Mike R. in reply to Mike R. says:

        @J@m3z: Without having spoken to Stephen Krol, it’s impossible to know how he (she? I honestly don’t know) identified. But Krol was married multiple times, so this tells me that at least for time, he did identify as a man, at least to the outside world. And we have no idea when that identity changed.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mike R. says:

        Mike R.,

        We do know that tranagendered folks normally have felt that way pretty much their whole lives, often clearly experiencing it from toddlerhood, rather than changing their internal identities as adults. There’s also the fact that many such people are frightened to come out publicly.

        The fact that she married multiple times means nothing. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same thing, obviously. She had wives before coming out as a woman and at least one female partner after coming out, so all that tells me is that she always was attracted to women–it says nothing about whether she was “really” make or female.

        The evidence we have suggests that Stephen Krol only “appeared” to be a man, but likely was a woman trapped in a body that didn’t reflect who she really was.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Mike R. says:

        I think your logic assumes that what matters most is the junk between the legs, not how the person self-identifies

        And hormones. And genetics. You know, biology. And, in this case, how that person externally self-identified.

        Why should we privilege self-identification over objectively measurable things. People have self-identification at odds with reality all the time.

        Many very thin people with eating disorders self-identify as fat. Some people self-identify as Jesus Christ. I feel younger than my actual age—does that mean that I’m not actually mumblemumble years old?Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Mike R. says:

        Then people with XY chromosomes and female junk (who do exist) should obviously self-identify as, umm …

        Oh, you mean it’s not so obvious that dismissive reductionism is the only possible approach? Imagine that.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Mike R. says:

        Biologically intersex people are a different story. There are objective, measurable ways in which they are not purely male or female. What I said is that self-identification is not reliable and does not, in a factual sense, override biological evidence.

        The DSM treats intersex conditions as distinct from gender identity disorder. I didn’t feel the need to mention this, since no one is claiming that Dr. V was intersex.

        I apologize for not connecting the dots in my original comment. It was intended for someone with a higher level of reading comprehension.Report

      • Herb in reply to Mike R. says:

        “The DSM treats intersex conditions as distinct from gender identity disorder.”

        Talk about a landmine, bringing up the DSM…..


        (Just saying….I read terms like “our cis society,” and I know instantly that hackles will be up once you start talking about mental disorders.)Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mike R. says:

        Why should we privilege self-identification over objectively measurable things.

        And all along I thought you were a libertarian. 😉

        I’m only half-joking about that. I don’t know why we’d privilege what we can measure about another person as opposed to what they know about themselves. That’s one of the justifications used by statists to over-ride individual autonomy. I’m damned uncomfortable even starting down that road.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mike R. says:

        Oh, you mean it’s not so obvious that dismissive reductionism is the only possible approach? Imagine that.

        Actually, my guess would be that this approach fails because it’s insufficiently reductionist. It only goes a little way down into biology, the first or second level, and stops before it gets down far enough to really parse what’s going on in the person’s brain.Report

      • Shazbot9 in reply to Mike R. says:

        Our sense of gender identity is neurological and biological:

        “n 2002, a follow-up study by Chung et al. found that significant sexual dimorphism (variation between sexes) in BSTc did not become established until adulthood. Chung et al. theorized that either changes in fetal hormone levels produce changes in BSTc synaptic density, neuronal activity, or neurochemical content which later lead to size and neuron count changes in BSTc, or that the size of BSTc is affected by the failure to generate a gender identity consistent with one’s anatomic sex”

        -Wikipedia whatever

        Gender identity, grounded in the brain, like sexual identity, is almost certainly accounted for by epigenetic factors as much as genotype, as identical twins can vary.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Mike R. says:


        Internal experiences can’t be directly observed by others, where body shape and genes can. I’d call rejecting the former since it can’t be measured and thus isn’t “real” reductionist.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mike R. says:


        No, because the outward form of male and female are merely secondary sexual characteristics. As noted in the article Chris linked, there appear to be physiological characteristics in the brain, which are “deeper” in a sense, than our external features. To get more reductionist means to look at those deeper characteristics. To be insufficiently reductionist means to look just at the superficial level.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to Mike R. says:

        Simple request: if you insist that chromosomes are what determine sex, please be consistent. But I warn you, being consistent will be challenging.

        For instance, say you meet a lovely person in a pretty dress tomorrow. You read her as a woman and wish to relate to her as such.

        STOP. YOU MAY NOT!

        Not until you have checked her chromosomes. Since they might not be what you think. Until you have checked them, you must — if you wish to remain consistent — treat this person as a non-gendered, non-sexed being.

        Since chromosomes are so freaking important. You really oughta be sure, yes?

        The reality is this: we almost never check a person’s sex chromosomes, nor should we. They don’t do very much. In fact, almost all of what you consider “sex” is determined by hormones, which are determined (largely) by the gonads, which depend on the activation of genes not present on the X or the Y. The Y is, in the end, a switch that triggers another switch.

        And the actual biology can manifest in all sorts of ways.

        So why should you care about chromosomes?

        Well, you might wish to rationalize a pre-existing prejudice. I suppose that would explain it.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Mike R. says:

        Daaaaaaaamn, @veronica-dire . Shots fired!Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Mike R. says:

        If the study Chris cites is accurate (which is not yet assured; it was published all of a month ago), then, yes, they’ve found an objective measurement. It’s certainly not true that all mental states can currently be associated with specific features of the brain.Report

      • Chris in reply to Mike R. says:

        If the study’s findings, or something like them, hold up, then it would certainly provide an interesting avenue for researching casual mechanisms. Right now, it’s basically a correlation with small n (I just happened to catch that paper in an alert not too long ago).

        Gender identity is the sort of thing that’s going have so many genetic, prenatal, environmental (physical, familial, cultural, etc.) components that teasing them all apart is going to take a long while, so any current hypothesis will be highly speculative (like we haven’t gone much further than arguing that we’re all prenatal perverse).

        Also, one of the interesting dynamics you see in radical feminism is some song anti-transsexual sentiments, in large part because trans people are often seen as more gender essentialist and more stereotypically feminine than is acceptable. It’s interesting to see arguments against transsexual identity here and elsewhere being that gender identity is mutable enough to warrant time-dependent uses of pronouns. Who knew some of these folks here and elsewhere were so radical!Report

      • Kim in reply to Mike R. says:

        The state of the research (as I understand it) is that male/female sexuality isn’t binary, but a continuum. One can speak of “female brain” v.s. “male brain” — and map out the differences between. The difficulty is that this doesn’t map at all well onto people’s conception of “gender.” (more specifically, having the opposite sex’s brain doesn’t make people automatically trans.).Report

      • veronica dire in reply to Mike R. says:

        There have been a number of studies that find differences between the brains of trans people and the brains of cis people. But they are never entirely clear cut, and I have no doubt that some trans folks will show little difference in this or that region of the brain, where some other trans person might show much difference. Likewise for cis folks.

        Keep in mind, the distinctions between the brains of men and women are always about minor statistical differences and never something absolute. Which is to say, for any feature you measure there are always some women who are “more male” than the average dude and there are always men who are “more female” than the average woman.

        It is an enormous cluster of highly correlated overlapping distributions only separable by high-powered statistical tests.

        But society wants gender to be highly legible. So we force it to be legible, by any means.

        Try this on, the only aspect of sex/gender that is not a construction of culture is the following: some people can give birth; some people can make sperm to fertilize eggs; some people can do neither.

        Everything else is a small statistical correlation heavily policed by social forces.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to Mike R. says:

        Plus, may I add, all this science is interesting, insofar as science is always interesting. It is the understanding of who we are and our place in the world. Yay science! But regarding the rights of trans people, it is a distraction.

        It is enough to know we are scientifically plausible, which is to say, there is a difference between a trans person saying, “In my heart I’m a woman,” and someone saying, “In my heart I am a descendant from a race of elves.”

        (Sadly, this is a real argument that occurs.)

        But indeed, is it not enough that I say I am a woman, that I live as a women, that I set my stakes on being a woman in all aspects of my life?

        “But, Veronica,” you say, “you don’t have a uterus.”

        Which is true. But so what? Is a woman merely a vessel for a womb? Is she merely a penis receptacle, genitals of a certain inviting shape?

        Well, this woman is more than those things.

        There is probably something measurably different in my brain. But so what?Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mike R. says:

        Well said, Veronica.Report

      • Chris in reply to Mike R. says:

        But indeed, is it not enough that I say I am a woman, that I live as a women, that I set my stakes on being a woman in all aspects of my life?

        Enough for what, and for whom? I don’t ask those questions flippantly. I think answering them gets to a lot of what gender is, what self-identity is, and how these things relate to each other and to normative conditions for interpersonal interactions. And I don’t think, once we’re beyond basic social interactions and things like pronoun use, I don’t think what you list there is the whole picture, or should be, in part because I don’t think we’re dealing with a strict binary.

        Unrelated to your question, and mine in response, I do not think, by the way, that the issue in the article is one of pronouns. That is, once we’ve used the name the person used when he or she publicly identified as male, what pronoun we use largely because a pragmatic issue related to resolving anaphoric ambiguities. The question, then, is whether in exposing the deception related to educational and work history, the author needed to use the name by which the individual went at the time, since using that name also automatically outs the person as a trans-woman. I haven’t really sorted out whether I think using her name from the time was necessary for the exposition.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mike R. says:

        “is it not enough that I say I am a woman, that I live as a women, that I set my stakes on being a woman in all aspects of my life?”

        Enough for what, and for whom?

        For a legal case, or certain medical discussions? Perhaps not. For the people with whom you interact outside such technical fora, and for reporters to whom it is made clear you’d like not to discuss your private life? Damn well should be.Report

      • Chris in reply to Mike R. says:

        James, I agree about the reporter, as reporter, but I’m not sure it’s enough for all non-technical/formal situations, again because I think it forces us into a binary decision that I do not think needs to be, or should be, binary.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mike R. says:


        The only binary decision I see there is whether to respect the person’s self-identity or not respect it.

        We don’t have to make a decision about whether they’re male/female (and no consideration of degrees, etc.). We only have to make a decision about whether we’re going to identify the person as they ask us to identify them. And the burden should be on us to justify not respecting their self-identity, not on them to justify why we should respect it.Report

      • Chris in reply to Mike R. says:

        A couple things: what I’m trying to get at is that I don’t think it’s as simple as whether we should respect it or not, and that I do not think the burden is wholly on the other person, because such identities are, as I think we’ve established, not merely personal but also interpersonal, and not essential but mutable. As a result, I think that it is not unreasonable, that is, there are no practical or ethical demands, that we treat cis and trans-women/men the same in all social contexts, simply because trans-women/men identify as women/men simpliciter. This does not mean we should show members of the various groups less respect, or more, or treat them as any more or less human, but it does mean that I think there is a socially and personally relevant and ethically justifiable distinctions that can, in certain circumstances, result in treating people classified as one or the other, differently. What’s more, I don’t think the distinction is strictly binary, but one of degree, such that, for example, people can be at different points between the two (as is clearly the case with people at different points in a transition between gender identities), and such that people can at one time identify as male or female or both (and can switch back and forth at will). All of this, again, has both a personal and interpersonal component, and the interpersonal is not irrelevant.Report

      • Shazbot9 in reply to Mike R. says:

        Kudos to James H and Veronica. Well argued.Report

      • Chris in reply to Mike R. says:

        I’m not quite sure I’m expressing myself well (when I reread my last comment, even I wasn’t sure I understood it). This goes back to what I was saying earlier about gender essentialism. If we treat gender as a hard and fast category that has a single or set of necessary and sufficient conditions, including, perhaps exclusively, self-identity, then we’re into a set of problems that present a great deal more difficulty, and more danger, than if we treat gender as mutable not only over time but by both personal and interpersonal context.Report

      • j r in reply to Mike R. says:

        We don’t have to make a decision about whether they’re male/female (and no consideration of degrees, etc.). We only have to make a decision about whether we’re going to identify the person as they ask us to identify them.

        Exactly. And depending on the circumstances, that is a pretty big decision. I do not understand the idea that the correct answer is to always default to taking people at their word.

        If we start from the position that identity is fluid, then it follows that people will inhabit various positions along the spectrum of identity. And it also follows that people will move through those positions at varying speeds and with varying degrees of seriousness. The idea that I just ought to take everyone at their word disregards these facts.

        Also, what people say about themselves and how people live are often not one in the same.Report

      • Shazbot9 in reply to Mike R. says:

        I don’t think James and Veronica are disputing that Chris.

        They -and I- just believe that there is an internal (encoded in the brain, so to speak, as your citation implies) sense of being male or female (or maybe in very rare cases neither male nor female, or oscillating between male and female) and Essay Anne wanted to transition her body because she had the sense of being female while living in a male-looking body.

        It may be that she felt male at some point in her past. We don’t know for certain. But we know that she did feel that she was female for a reasonably long time, long enough to go through the transition. Given this, and given the pronoun preferences of the discriminated against and oppressed trans community, the author clearly should’ve used the pronoun “her.”

        IMO, if the author was uncertain, he could’ve asked people in the trans community or even Essay Anne herself about pronoun use.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to Mike R. says:

        Just to clarify things, and set some terms, I do not debate the validity of my gender. Not with anyone. My gender is no place for ideas or abstractions.

        If you question my womanhood, we have no common ground, and I have nothing to offer you but rage and hate. You have dismissed my very being. End of conversation. Time to fight.

        Just so we’re clear, there are some things I will discuss. There are other things that will make me spit in your face.

        I think it is best for all if I check out of this thread.Report

      • Chris in reply to Mike R. says:

        Shaz, yeah, I’m not expressing myself well, because nothing you said there disputes what I’m trying to get at. When Veronica, or anyone else for that matter, suggests that in all circumstances the sole determinant of gender identity for social purposes is self-identity, they are making a claim that is very different from the one I’m arguing, because a.) I don’t think there is a sole determinant of gender identity for all purposes, and b.) I don’t think self-identity by itself can determine anything with an interpersonal component.

        Who you are, in every respect, is not only a matter of who you decide to be, but who we, together, dynamically (generally unconsciously, but not always so) decide you are. Issues with discrimination against trans-people has less to do with not respecting their self-identity absolutely than with not respecting it at all, even in the most basic, uninvested interactions, because trans people are seen as confused or disordered. We can shed such prejudices and still allow room for the interpersonal aspect of gender.Report

      • Kim in reply to Mike R. says:

        Okay, you can be the goddamn asshole who calls a married man with a wife, “gay”. [Note: I am not saying that being gay is at all wrong. It is however different, and to call someone who has publically taken other vows, is being a jerk.]

        If you dare.

        If you don’t want to take someone’s word on what gender they are, or who they are
        attracted to, well, there are consequences to that. Sometimes pugillistic, if you’re lucky.

        [Note: if you HAPPEN to meet someone who is “gender confused” or “orientation confused”… (I assume at least one person like that exists…A lesbian who routinely sleeps with men for fun, for example) I suggest delicacy]Report

      • Shazbot9 in reply to Mike R. says:

        ” I do not understand the idea that the correct answer is to always default to taking people at their word.”


        In the context of whether the person has felt like a woman for years, what possible evidence could you have that would make your opinion more reliable than theirs?

        There are times when people misdescribe because they 1. misread the evidence, 2. misunderstand the agreed-upon criteria for whether a particular description applies, or 3. lie. (I attacked James H as misdescribing as “a libertarian” because we disagreed about the complex criterion for #2)

        However, in the case of transexuals and the description “feeling like a man in a woman’s body”:

        1. The transexual person is the only one who has any access to the evidence, given that we don’t have a brain or mind scan that can read what your sense of your own gender is.

        2. The criterion for how you feel your own gender is very simple. Shazbot feels like a man. He would not be comfortable being called mom or aunty. Nor would he feel comfortable wearing panties and a skirt. If he grew breasts and his penis turned into a vagina he would be very disturbed. Shazbot knows the criteria for whether he has the sense of being a male or female and so does Essay Anne.

        3. Please don’t say that transexual people are lying. Let’s not go there.

        Again, there is no doubt that Essay Anne once had a biologically male body with male sex organs and still had a genetically male body after transition. But she was male on the inside.Report

      • Shazbot9 in reply to Mike R. says:

        I also think we have an epistemic duty to take advice on how to avoid acting in ways that oppress and discriminate from members of the group that is oppressed and discriminated against.

        If black people say don’t use the N-word. That is a good reason to not use it.Report

      • Chris in reply to Mike R. says:

        If you question my womanhood, we have no common ground, and I have nothing to offer you but rage and hate

        I do not mean to pick on Veronica — she is one of my favorite commenters here, and I respect how she identifies herself — but this is precisely what I mean by essentialism and the problems it raises. I do not question her womanhood, but I do admit distinctions — distinctions she admits as well, as she also identifies as a trans-woman — that have relevant interpersonal implications not wholly determined by one person’s self-identification. I’m regret that even suggesting this will cause her to leave the thread, but it doesn’t make me feel any less inclined to argue what seems to me to be a very important point, namely that if gender identity is largely a social phenomenon, and it is, then it is not determined wholly by one individual.Report

      • Shazbot3 in reply to Mike R. says:

        Yeah Chris, you are only coming through in waves. To me anyway.

        There are many uses of the words “male” and “female.”

        One use is genetic. Another has to do with sex organs. Heck, even plumbing parts can be called “the male end” and “the female end.”

        But it is pretty clear to me that in most cases in casual conversation, when we are talking about the gender of a person, and we say “male” or “female,” we are talking about a psychological phenomenon: how you feel internally. I am male. I would remain so if you forcibly replaced my penis with a vagina. I would even remain so if you began changing my genes. I would be upset that I was a man in a woman’s body. I would be rageful if you called me a woman.Report

      • Kim in reply to Mike R. says:

        I think it is a good thing to let people choose their own places.
        Leads to less unhappiness, and fewer loveless folks (and cheating).

        To the extent that gender is cultural, I feel sad that we do artificially
        create boundaries.

        I do think that a character such as Lilliane:
        could be described as intersexual, as she takes on both roles.

        But it seems really assholish to not give someone’s own preferences for their
        gender/orientation precedence, pending flagrant weirdness (such as a lesbian who constantly has sex with guys for fun).Report

      • Shazbot3 in reply to Mike R. says:

        Let me be clearer. my gender is what I feel psychologically (that is encoded in my brain). My gender would not be change by removal of my penis.

        The same of true of trans people. The gender, THE gender, of a person is defined by their psychological-neurological feelings, not the sex organs they were born with.

        This is simple and obvious and avoids all the complexities Chris mentions.Report

      • Chris in reply to Mike R. says:

        Shaz, I apologize for my waviness.

        Casual conversation is only one of many contexts in which gender is relevant. What I am saying, in essence, is that gender is a dynamic thing that we determine at each moment both for ourselves and for others. In most contexts, not just casual conversation, treating people as they want to be treated on something as basic to personal identity as gender is the only ethical and decent way to treat them. I do not deny this, nor can I think of any good reason to deny it. Nor do I deny that, while biological sex is, for the most part (though not entirely) bifurcated, and for the most part not determined by conscious choice, I am not conflating biological sex with gender or gender identity, because gender identity (or gender more broadly) has other causal factors, factors that are not as fixed as biological ones (which are, themselves, not always entirely fixed), and which have social and specifically interpersonal components. My basic position, then, is this: sex and gender, while correlated in the world, are not identical, nor is gender identical with self-identity, nor is it identical with cultural norms, nor is it identical with anything in particular. Gender is a variable that constantly appears in multiple functions with various other variables and constants which, all of which interact in myriad ways on multiple time scales.

        I’ve tried to avoid examples of what I’m getting at, because they will only raise even more problems to address (because, as I’m arguing, these things are not deterministic at all, but dynamic, and social, and contextual, and temporal, etc.), but if it will help, I’ll try to come up with a fairly clear one.Report

      • Chris in reply to Mike R. says:

        Shaz, or, in light of your most recent comment, I don’t think people have a gender. I don’t think gender is the sort of thing that people can have a single, immutable one of. Because of the way our culture treats gender, the vast majority of us will, for our entire lives, treat ourselves and be treated by others as though we have a gender, but this is an artifact of culture (and ultimately, an artifact born of repression).Report

      • Shazbot3 in reply to Mike R. says:

        I agree with most of what you’re saying Chris.

        But I do have a single gender and so did Essay Anne. My gender is male. Hers was female. That seems pretty clear. Your position is that I don’t have a gender, which is pretty radical. Such a radical thesis needs substantive argument, and I don’t see that in your comments.Report

      • Chris in reply to Mike R. says:

        Yeah, I haven’t argued for that portion of it, though most of what I have said here doesn’t depend on it. All that it depends on is whether there is a social component to gender, which I think most of us accept that there is.

        I would, of course, dispute that either you or Ms. Vanderbilt have on gender, absolutely, in some Platonic sense, but in order to argue all of that we would have to get into some pretty tall weeds related to identity and social categories (have you read any Parfit? I assume so). However, these are not merely philosophical abstractions. Whether we accept a person’s self-identity, biological identity, or other identity as the sole determinant of gender for all practical purposes, or admit variability and interpersonal components, has very real and important practical implications that go well beyond any specific issues related to trans- and cis-genders.Report

      • Maribou in reply to Mike R. says:

        Chris, you are one of my favorite commenters and I almost kind of understand what you are getting at. It could be an interesting conversation to have some time. As someone without a clear gender identity, I’m obviously not advocating for gender essentialism.

        But in *this* particular social context, on *this* particular thread, with *this* particular set of conversationalists – I can’t help but read most of what you have written as textbook examples of mansplaining and derailing. I know you are a lot smarter than that – that can’t possibly be what you meant to do – so I’m not going to link to the usual things that one links to after lobbing those words at someone. It reads to me like you were trying to clarify what you said, I don’t doubt your good intentions.

        But clarifying what you’ve said *just isn’t that important here*. Speaking of social contexts, if you are talking to someone about a situation where *someone killed themselves at least in part because they were outed*, and that person self-identifies in the same broad category as the outed person, it seems to me like a social context where common human decency (which you have in abundance!) means your job in the conversation is to listen to and offer respect to the preferences of someone who has to deal with this kind of thing being personal every day, not to try and broaden what you think her (or your shared audience’s) understanding of gender is. And if you’ve effed that up to the point where she bows out of the conversation, you should *stop*, or change tacks entirely to something more constructive, not keep hammering away.

        Honestly, my experience is that this very sort of thing is one of the most convincing reasons to shy away from open discourse for people who don’t feel like part of whatever majority: when you try to speak from the heart about extreme situations, it’s pretty damn likely that you will get helpfully lectured in ways that feel self-obliviating. Even if you think THIS mostly-used-to-being-in-the-majority group will be different. Even if they *mostly* are.Report

      • Chris in reply to Mike R. says:

        But in *this* particular social context, on *this* particular thread, with *this* particular set of conversationalists – I can’t help but read most of what you have written as textbook examples of mansplaining and derailing.

        Given my respect for you, and your perceptiveness, if you see it this way, it is almost certainly the case. So I will say I’m sorry, and say no more on the subject here.

        It reads to me like you were trying to clarify what you said, I don’t doubt your good intentions.

        Yes, that’s what I was doing. Again, I apologize for derailing the thread.Report

      • j r in reply to Mike R. says:

        If black people say don’t use the N-word. That is a good reason to not use it.

        For the most part, yes, but sometimes, no. If a black person says that the n-word so offends him that he demands that all copies of Huck Finn be taken off of library shelves and the book be banned from school syllabi, are we all obliged to heed? Also, “black people” don’t say anything. Lots of individual black people say lots of individuals things. Sometimes those individual things coalesce into a discernible common position. Often they don’t.

        I’m not trying to put forward some extreme position here or trying to concern troll. I defend everyone’s right to identify as they want and to live as they want, but I also defend other people’s right to dissent. And in turn, I defend people’s rights to pass judgment on the dissenters. That’s the way social norms work, an evolving piecemeal process in which people’s individual judgments get processes over and over and over time coalesce into something resembling a social norm.

        To go from advocating for maximum to tolerance to asserting the the idea that gender, and other aspects of identity, is purely performative and wholly decided by the person making the personal claim is a rather huge leap. And I don’t think that you have the epidemiological foundations to back up that claim.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Mike R. says:


        Is it a worthwhile pursuit to ask what mansplainin in fact is, what properties comprise the definition, the psychological properties that reinforce it, the types of factors (cultural, individual, biological, neurochemical, etc) that are causally contributory to it’s presence and persistence?

        All of those issues seem to me to be objective topics that could be researched and upon which certain types of explanatory theories could be established. That pursuit, it seems to me, is distinct from a discussion of the felt experiences of women’s interactions with men and the motivations and justifications for calling out that behavior in real time as it occurs.

        I think the same thing applies to Chris’s comments about the analysis and causal conditions which give rise to the various conceptions of gender (including self-identification) in play. Those comments are directed towards objective properties in people, language and cultures and are (from my pov, anyway) silent about the subjective experiences of trans people.

        So, those comments don’t strike me as a form of ‘splainin.Report

      • Kim in reply to Mike R. says:

        The problem is place, more than words or meaning.
        Chris is trying to discuss something better put as a full post.

        And most particularly not put as a “midnote” to a post where someone fucking died because someone else wouldn’t respect their wishes and privacy.

        Chris knows one HELL of a lot more than he’s saying here. That’s part of the problem.
        (I’m certain he could school me on self-reporting bias. And I’ve done some reading on the subject).Report

      • kenB in reply to Mike R. says:

        Hmm… I’m intrigued by the concept of “place” in this exchange. Obviously an internet forum is not like a physical place — we have no way of seeing who else is in the “room” within earshot, and there’s no way to go to another “room” except perhaps by leaving the blog entirely. If Chris created another post, the same people who might see and be hurt by his words here could see and be hurt by the words over there.

        I understand both the interest in being considerate and the interest in having a more clinical, detached conversation about sensitive topics — but I’m not sure how we honor both of these things on the same blog.Report

      • Maribou in reply to Mike R. says:

        a) In particular contexts, of course it is.
        b) As a response to someone being called out for doing it, in a context where it was changing the topic and making someone feel like their personal experiences were being shunted to one side? No, of course it’s not.

        And, now I’m pretty sure I’m done too.Report

    • KatherineMW in reply to Herb says:

      That’s what I thought, too.Report

  6. zic says:

    There’s much that disturbs.

    One of the biggest (to me) was that one has to be a rocked scientist to invent something wonderful, being a mechanic and inventor isn’t good roots for innovation; isn’t good corporate PR.

    And in general, it’s considered rude to ask people about their sex life, private medical histories, and genitals. But it’s always OK to ask about how somebody prefers to be addressed.Report

  7. Notme says:

    So, now a journalist can’t mention other facts about a person b/c it is not politically correct?Report

    • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Notme says:

      privacy, political correctness…what’s the difference, eh?

      Come on, you’re a midwesterner like me–we weren’t raised to poke our noses into our neighbor’s private lives, were we?Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Yes. If you’re doing a story on a guy that seems to get all the local government building contracts, and you discover

        1. That he’s been kicking back to the head of the planning department, and
        2. That he’s a recovering alcoholic.

        You have no business divulging 2 unless it ties into 1.Report

  8. Tod Kelly says:

    I have to admit, I dunno where I exactly stand on this — but I’m pretty sure it’s not exactly where Jonathan is.

    For example, this…

    “Writing ‘had once been a man’ demonstrates that Hannan does not take Dr. V’s gender identity particularly seriously.”

    … seems a really huge reach. If I was told that a high school classmate was transgendered and I made a conversational comment to someone that knew her as a woman that when I had known her, she was a guy/boy/man/male, I do not believe it would be a sign that I didn’t take her sexual identity seriously. Further, I’m not sure that it’s a journalist’s responsibility to go into the deep psyche of his subject’s personal identity and make sure what he writes matches up.

    Also, I disagree that Dr. V’s historic gender — which was a part her presented bio that ended up being fraudulent — is not part of the deception. If all the rest of the doctor’s info ends up being true, then I don’t find the gender issue in any way relative. But if you’re covering someone who says they have X degree from X school, used to work at X corporation doing X, and did so all under the name Y, and all of that is shown to be fraudulent, I think pretending the last Y deception never happened is absurd. Or to put it another way, if we found out anti-food stamp Senate candidate Greg Brannon not only didn’t graduate from college, serve in the military or work on non-profit boards as he claims, and in fact had spent his first thirty years going under the name Vito Vicelli, that would be relevant news. It doesn’t suddenly not become news if it was Cathy Vicelli.

    I also reject this notion that his being surprised by Kinney’s reaction is “a sign of disdain.” I was jaw-dropped shocked to find out one of the MRM leaders was married to a feminist; it certainly didn’t follow that I had disdain for feminists.

    I do think that the emergence of “out” transgendered people into mainstream society requires journalists (and the rest of us too, for that matter) to go the extra step and learn more about how they wish to be seen, and what lexicon is and isn’t appropriate. And I’m not sure that I am willing to give Hannan high marks (an perhaps not even a passing grade) on his attempts. But I think the history’s-greatest-monster language being used against him seems waaaaaay out of proportion.Report

  9. Kazzy says:


    “McCord said he was on friendly terms with a few retired four-star generals. He told me that they not only knew of Dr. V, but also that one had even called her “one of us.” Dan Quayle was also an acquaintance. Unable to help himself, McCord once put the former vice-president on the phone with Dr. V and watched as they chatted about old Pentagon projects.”

    These are lies that McCord told about Dr. V. Or, if they are true, then they would indicate that Dr. V was not lying. They aren’t lies told by Dr. V to McCord who then repeated them; he spoke about them as first-hand experiences.Report

  10. Valerie Keefe says:

    From the original article:

    “Now, Jordan’s message said she was calling to propose a deal. When I phoned her back, Jordan explained the offer. I could fly to Arizona and meet with Dr. V at her attorney’s office, where she would show me proof of her degrees from both MIT and the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. V then got on the phone and added another detail. Once I saw the documents I would have to sign a nondisclosure agreement barring me from revealing any of the details I’d learned about Dr. V’s past.”

    I am increasingly dismayed by the glossing-over of this particular salient detail in the post-article coverage. If anything, it makes it more likely that beyond a rather liberal interpretation of past events, something we all tolerate in at least one friend or acquaintance, the only “dishonesty” the author can pounce on is his subjects’ Sex-to-CASAB relationship.

    It’s clear that Hannan wasn’t just addressing his subject’s transness in the context of a story where professional details didn’t add up, rather, he was focusing on her transness to the exclusion of offers to present evidence establishing those credentials, because he would be legally enjoined from continuing to use her personal life, and without that, and without faulty credentials whose veracity really… (at this point would you trust Caleb Hannan to take your trans kid to little league without outing them?) is up for considerable debate, Caleb Hannan has no article. Let’s review claims made by the author in that light. Let’s treat his article as a well-referenced source, and begin digging.Report

    • daveNYC in reply to Valerie Keefe says:

      If you’re dealing with a subject who has lied about their education and work background (or at least made claims that you’ve been unable to verify), and they then offer to show you proof of their claims but require you to sign a nondisclosure agreement about the proof, I don’t see much incentive to take them up on their offer.

      If you’ve got trust between the journalist and the subject, then you can make offers like that, but if they’ve caught you out in a lie, there’s no reason for them to think that anything you say isn’t a lie. Not to mention that a subject of an article wanting the writer to sign a nondisclosure agreement covering the subject’s past is probably a giant-ass red flag for most legal departments.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to daveNYC says:

        What lie was she caught in? Presuming she could substantiate her background confidentially, then what lies exist? Her transgender status is not, itself, a lie, falsehood, misrepresentation, or anything of the sort.

        I’m curious how typical Hannan’s actions were here. I’m not a journalist, so I really don’t know. I do know that a quick Google search indicates a number of his stories are of the “Let me tell you this story about this thing while really telling you a story about the person behind the thing”. Which is why my cynical side continues to wonder about whether he knew or heard rumblings about Dr. V’s gender identification beforehand and engaged the story in such a way as to ensure it came out “accidentally”.

        This guy has written on golf before, but nothing on the technical aspects of equipment that I can find. The technical aspects of a putter are not the sort of thing that typically grace the pages of the (still young) Grantland. The technical aspects of a putter are not the sort of thing that generates a ton of clicks*. So, color me unconvinced that we are getting the full story on the genesis of this project.

        * I saw the article on Grantland and didn’t click it. I saw a number of people share it on FB with words like “interesting” and “intriguing” attached and still didn’t click it. “Why would I want to read about a putter?” It wasn’t until I saw this piece here that explicitly addressed what made the piece so newsworthy that I clicked.Report

      • daveNYC in reply to daveNYC says:

        What lie? You mean other than her degree from MIT and working for the DoD? Shit, that’s the whole basis for the promotion of the putter and it probably served to get investors to cough up cash too.

        If this play had happened at the beginning, say he asks for confirmation of X, Y, Z, and she comes back with ‘sure, but you can only use this as confirmation, no other info on there can be in the article’, then it’s probably going to be a non-issue. You’d have proof of her claims of expertise and whatnot, and the irrelevant bit about her being a male (man?) at that point would be known, but it’d be out of the article. Instead, you have her BSing, getting caught, then stonewalling right up until the point where she says ‘sure, I have proof, you just have to sign an NDA’. At that point I wouldn’t be willing to trust whatever proof she provided, and having to sign an NDA related to the subject of an article that’s been worked on for eight months and is going to go to print sounds like total lawyer bait.

        Considering that he found out her original name and seems to have talked to her ex-wives and whatnot, I’d be surprised if he had somehow then failed to discover that she had graduated from MIT under her original name.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to daveNYC says:

        Do we have evidence that SHE ever said she worked for the DoD or went to MIT? The way his piece was written, that remains unclear. At least to me. Maybe I’m dense. Or a bad reader. But it seemed that he had evidence of her having acquired this reputation but nothing explicitly demonstrating her having lied. Maybe we’re just supposed to infer that but given that Hannan is attempting to demonstrate a web of lies, you think he’d have hard evidence of her having said X while the reality is that Y happened.Report

      • Glyph in reply to daveNYC says:


        Now, Jordan’s message said she was calling to propose a deal. When I phoned her back, Jordan explained the offer. I could fly to Arizona and meet with Dr. V at her attorney’s office, where she would show me proof of her degrees from both MIT and the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. V then got on the phone and added another detail. Once I saw the documents I would have to sign a nondisclosure agreement barring me from revealing any of the details I’d learned about Dr. V’s past.

        The “deal” was one I could not accept, and when I explained this Dr. V got upset.

        If it wasn’t Dr. V actually making the credential claims, then she was being manipulated or misrepresented by multiple people (McCord, Jordan, maybe others).Report

      • Kazzy in reply to daveNYC says:


        It seems clear to me that Dr. V’s educational and professional history is a bit of a muddled mess. What remains unclear to me is exactly how she contributed to the muddled mess. Given that Hannan’s piece wanted to explore just how she muddled the mess, you think he’d have some direct quotes he could attribute to her or something more explicitly demonstrating her duplicity. That he lacks that is… curious. It doesn’t mean that Dr. V was everything people believed she was, but it certainly clouds things.

        Hannan claims to have gone to great length to substantiate Dr. V’s background, including aspects of her life wholly immaterial to her work on the putter. Yet he offers no source documents save for some quotes he pulled from emails. No resumes Dr. V put out there, no claims made via her website, and not even a single quote wherein she mentioned MIT, UPenn, or the DoD. That doesn’t mean he’s wrong, but it does make me question his journalistic ethics. I’m no expert on that matter, but if you are going to pen a piece wherein you want to convince me that someone is a liar, you need to do better than, “Someone said XYZ about the person and my own research yields things I didn’t expect about their background and I couldn’t substantiate XYZ.”Report

      • Glyph in reply to daveNYC says:

        @kazzy I’m confused.

        Jordan explained the offer … Dr. V then got on the phone

        Aren’t Jordan and Dr. V in the same room there, or at least on the same phone line? If Jordan is making those claims, and Dr. V is not contradicting them, isn’t it splitting hairs to say “But Dr. V. never said that”?Report

      • Kazzy in reply to daveNYC says:

        I’m not arguing that Dr. V was a beacon of truth. But that Hannan seems to have left a lot of stones unturned on the “Dr. V might not be the genius scientist” front but not so many on the “Dr. V might be a transexual” front.

        Did Hannan ever ask Dr. V if she graduated from MIT or UPenn or worked with the DoD (which was not mentioned in Jordan’s “deal”)? Did Hannan ever ask McCord about the 4-star generals he supposedly talked to who verified her story? Or the conversation he claims to have witnessed between Dr. V and Quayle?

        It would seem that if you were going to spend thousands of words attempting to document someone’s long trail of deceit, you would have a lot more evidence than what Hannan offered. Leave aside everything about Dr. V’s personal life… her gender identity, her marriages, her children, her suicide attempt. All we have is indirect claims made ABOUT someone (though never directly by that person) of credentials that the author cannot substantiate. That makes for a pretty uninteresting piece, no? And before any of this came to light, you have a freelance journalist pitching a sports-and-pop-culture site on a technological essay on a putter? Again, this all seems fishy to me.

        I think Hannan knew there was more to Dr. V than met the eye. I think he saw an opportunity to make a name for himself with a “HOLY SHIT!” piece about the tranny scientist who it turned out wasn’t even a scientist! I think he was sloppy in substantiating the important details because those details are boring but he went overboard in substantiating the unimportant details because those were juicy.

        Do I think Dr. V was complicit in the lies that surround her credentialing? Yea, probably. But Hannan hasn’t made a case that would stand up in a court of law. Not with the evidence offered. And while his forum is not a courtroom, excuse me if I dismiss him as unserious and chasing clicks.Report

      • Glyph in reply to daveNYC says:

        @kazzy – we only have the piece to go on, but hopefully Grantland editors verified this (do journos record convos for their notes and for editorial review, and to cover their asses? I assume so, as a general rule):

        Though she had insisted that she would only talk if the focus was on her putter and not herself, Dr. V willingly volunteered some background information. She had been born in Pennsylvania and later moved to Georgia. She had lived in Boston while attending MIT, and she had also spent more than a decade in Washington, D.C., while working on top-secret projects.

        That’s presumably straight from the source.

        When Hannan went back to McCord, McCord supposedly cut him off. Now, that might be expected if McCord had been knowingly duplicitous (or even if he was trying to protect Dr. V, or shield himself from legal liability), but it’s not necessarily a journo’s fault if a source cuts him off.

        Look, I don’t assume Hannan’s some hero for all this – it appears that at the very least he may have proceeded incautiously, and at worst, I always assume some journos are looking to hang people out to dry so as to make their own bones – an aggressive press means that some people are going to exploit others for gain (see also: every other profession). Again, if Mike Wallace calls, and you have secrets (hell, even if you don’t THINK you do), you say “No comment”.

        But Simmons’ mea culpa seems to me to indicate that the facts of the story are basically sound, even if the story’s handling was not.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to daveNYC says:

        I’ve gone on record here that I don’t see Simmons as the most genuine of people (you want to talk about questionable background stories?). On the podcast he did immediately following his follow up piece, he opened with a brief discussion about the controversy though I don’t think he mentioned any specifics, eventually saying, “I wrote a piece and that’s about all I want to say about it.” It came across rather glib. Given that the controversy is barely a few days old, the extent to which he seems to be communicating, “I’m over it, I’m done talking about it, I want to move on,” is a bit unbecoming.

        I think we may have reached a point where we agree to disagree. The quoted section you offered above (which didn’t stick in my mind but thank you for finding) certainly indicates Dr. V herself may have communicated some or all of the inaccurate historical background directly. However, the piece read less like a history paper than I think it should have given the subject matter Hannan was dealing with. You want to call into question someone’s credentials? You dot your i’s and cross your t’s. You want to publish that after the person committed suicide, perhaps in part because of your questioning of her past? You damn well better have your ducks in a row. It doesn’t strike me that Hannan did either.

        I don’t think he’s an evil man. But I do think he’s a shitty journalist.Report

      • zic in reply to daveNYC says:

        @glyph, in my experience, I’ve only once had ‘editors’ try to verify my work (and ironically, that was an opinion piece).

        I’ve never, ever had an editor ask for my notes; though I have had an editor ask for verification from me based on my notes. As for recordings; that’s a personal decision on how you want to conduct the interview; I’ve used recordings, and I’ve used pen-and-paper, and I’ve used a combination of both. The decision on what to do often depends on a number of factors, including the sources comfort with being interviewed (pen and paper if they’re not comfortable, tape recorders frighten people,) the amount of time, the amount of technical information I’m seeking, etc.

        As far as keeping those notes, that’s totally a personal decision for a freelancer; some shops do have standards, some don’t. But after the issues of reporters sitting in jail cells for contempt after refusing to turn over notes, aware reporters began adopting a standard of destroying everything. You cannot turn over what you don’t have; and most people seemed to think it better to treat everything the same. Here, the mileage will vary based on the topic; since I was reporting a lot on military stuff and international business, I adopted the model of destroy your notes, except for what you opt to transcribe to a computer, after the story’s done. Plus, there’s less physical crap to file.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to daveNYC says:


        Does any of that change if you are a freelancer writing your first piece for the outlet in question?Report

      • zic in reply to daveNYC says:

        Not in my experience, @kazzy. But by the time I began freelancing for other non-local outlets, I had a long history for accuracy from the local outlets, too. My reception may have reflected that, I suppose. But I don’t ever recall another freelancer speaking about editors verifying what they wrote, with the single exception of people who managed to sell a pitch to the NYT. I never even tried to do that; but everyone who did had the accuracy of their work fact-checked in ways other publications simply did not do.Report

  11. Shelley says:

    As a writer, I’m just liking the phrase: “his decency is nowhere to be found.”Report

  12. ScarletNumbers says:

    Grantland Editor-in-Chief Bill Simmons comments on the piece and the fallout.’s Christina Kahrl writes “What Grantland Got Wrong”.Report

  13. ScarletNumbers says:

    Sorry for the bad linking. Here are the right links:

    Bill Simmons

    Christina KahrlReport

    • Kazzy in reply to ScarletNumbers says:

      It’s remarkable — in a very negative way — that ESPN had on its editing staff a trans woman and no one at Grantland thought to seek her perspective when considering the piece.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy says:

        ESPN is a big company. I think it’s fairly unremarkable that they didn’t consult that transwoman, as they might well not have known she was there (Grantland isn’t housed on the ESPN campus or anything that I am aware, it’s just an associated website). The problem is that they didn’t consult any trans people, seeking one out if necessary, to understand the dynamics of the situation they were reporting on.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        It is entirely possible I am underestimating the size of the ESPN editing staff and the familiarity amongst its members.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy says:

        It’s not so much the size as Grantland’s physical and institutional separateness from ESPN. They’re affiliated. AFAIK, that’s about it – the people who run Grantland don’t work at any ESPN campus, the editing staff of Grantland doesn’t overlap with that of ESPN proper, etc. I could be wrong, but that’s my impression. If it’s accurate, I wouldn’t find it surprising at all that they don’t know that on a particular editing staff (baseball writing for the website) there’s this particular trans woman they could have sought the view of.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to ScarletNumbers says:

      …Though, reading Bill Simmons’ account, he says they did have’s editor-in-chief read the piece before they ran it, and s/he was strongly in favor of running it (apparently not thinking to confirm whether Grantland had consulted a trans person nor suggesting Ms. Kahrl as someone to review the piece before pub). So I think I’d agree with your statement if altered this way:

      It’s remarkable — in a very negative way — that ESPN had on its editing staff a trans woman and no one at Grantland ESPN thought to seek her perspective when considering the piece.Report

  14. Louis Christopher says:

    The pronoun choice used by Caleb Hannan was undoubtedly poorly thought-out and executed and the focal point of the story evolved into what was at best a lesson on ignorance and at worst a passive-aggressive attack on transgender people (my assumption is that most people view the story somewhere in between). However, all writers have editors so that errors such as inappropriate word choices and stories in which the body does not match the original thesis are altered prior to publication. This is especially necessary given the fact that this piece was published on a blog site with a link available on, which is one of the most recognized and widely-read websites on the internet. Therefore, if one wishes to continue heaping blame, perhaps their focus should instead be on the Grantland editorial staff, specifically Editor in Chief Bill Simmons. To his credit, Simmons has already issued a public apology available on the front page of Grantland.Report

  15. Glyph says:

    First off, I found the Hannan article fascinating, and I think Simmons’ mea culpa and explanation was first-rate.

    (Also, strictly as a piece of story, there are so many Freudian details that are just perfect: the phallic club that has a revolutionary cup-holder-shaped head; the fact that Dr. V chose to go by a letter that commonly has sex/gender connotations. A screenplay is being written somewhere right now, mark my words).

    Second, though I think Jonathan’s piece is well-intentioned and -written (and I’m glad he wrote it, because I would never have read the Grantland piece otherwise), I think he is a little too hard on Hannan, specifically in the quoted paragraph in which Hannan chooses to switch pronouns to male (the only paragraph in which he does so; elsewhere, even when referring to Krol’s pre-transition job at Sunoco etc., Hannan uses feminine pronouns).

    It’s fair to assume that this choice was intentional, but to me there were clear reasons for it: one, Hannan quotes Ewa Kroll in that para, who in her quote referred to Krol as “him”; to include Ewa’s quote in the midst of a paragraph with opposite pronouns could be confusing to readers; and altering Ewa’s quote is also a no-no. So for the para to remain internally-consistent, readable and brief, sticking with masculine pronouns there makes sense to me.

    But more importantly, to me the point of that single, lonely male-pronouned para is to highlight something crucial in a piece that’s all about identity: If ‘Dr. V’ is a mystery, ‘Stephen Krol’ is a goddam enigma.

    At least Hannan had spoken to and corresponded with Dr. V (in my reading of the Grantland piece and contra the OP here, they never met in person), as well as talked to acquaintances who could describe Dr. V, physically and otherwise.

    Dr. V, for all her apparent lies, was to some degree a verifiable person. She was real.

    But none of the people in Dr. V’s former life – family members, ex-wives – would provide any information at all about Stephen Krol (aside from an unnamed former brother-in-law who pops up at the end to call Dr. V a con-man).

    I think Hannan’s point there is that it is ‘Stephen Krol’ that feels like the facade, a ghost.

    A statement Dr. V might have even agreed with, since that is a name and persona she did not feel fit her, and took great pains to leave behind.

    Whether you agree with my analysis or not, (and plenty of smart people don’t), I don’t think it necessarily indicates disrespect on Hannan’s part. If he were writing about David Bowie (born David Jones, like a Monkee), and in the portion of the article dealing with Bowie’s childhood, referred to Bowie as “Jones”, it wouldn’t be out of disrespect for the identity Bowie has chosen for himself and feels best fits him; even if Bowie feels like a Bowie and not a Jones.

    Or if an article mentions that Obama’s childhood friends called him “Barry”: that doesn’t necessarily indicate disrespect either, unless the author continues to use the appellation when there is no other justification for doing so, other than to indicate disrespect.Report

    • Valerie Keefe in reply to Glyph says:

      The pronoun switch is the only time the author degenders his subject? Really?

      She was born a boy

      Are you trying to tell me that Essay Anne Vanderbilt was once a man?

      What began as a story about a brilliant woman with a new invention had turned into the tale of a troubled man who had invented a new life for himself.

      No, Dr. Vanderbilt is not consistently gendered save for one slip, this is repeated, this is bludgeoning in print, and the apology’s silence on the proposed embargo is increasingly looking to me like a limited hangout.Report

    • Brooke Taylor in reply to Glyph says:

      The analogy to Bowie is a good one. Ultimately, identity is a mushy, fluid, and largely contrived bit of thinking we do about ourselves. In order to communicate, we need to make claims about who we are and how we expect people to interact with us. Those communicating with us need a way of verifying those claims, looking to various attributes of their counterpart to give them clues. They can only attest to what they can see and verify, not what’s unshared in someone’s mind.

      If an element of someone’s identity is that the person is a graduate of MIT, that’s something verifiable. We’d say that anyone including this as an element of their identity without the credential of having received a degree from MIT is not what they claim to be. If a person looks like a man, acts like a man, presents himself as a man, and uses a man’s name, it is reasonable to interpret that person as a man until such time as the person’s presentation matches their claims. That seems to be what is happening here, when speaking of Dr. V’s past.Report

  16. veronica dire says:

    You know what is funny: I had this Caleb Hannan person blocked on Twitter before this stuff even started. And I totally don’t remember why, but usually I block a person for saying crappy, transphobic stuff, or otherwise being a jerk to my friends.

    So, that means whatever it means.

    Use the pronouns we ask you to use. It’s not hard.

    Don’t out a trans person. Ever. Just don’t. Find a different way.

    Yes, he needed to report on her dishonesty regarding her credentials. That is expected of a journalist. And yes, it might have been difficult to find ways to phrase certain aspects of the story.

    Doesn’t matter. Don’t out a trans person. Ever.

    Get your editors to help. Bring in an editor with proven experience on these issues. Bring in a trans journalist to help. Pay them — if your story is worth publishing, it is worth getting right.

    Step up and be a top shelf journalist instead of a sensationalist hack.

    Caleb Hannan has proven to the world he has all the talent needed to write for reality TV. I hope this ends his career. I hope it ends a few careers.Report

    • Would you be willing to settle for Caleb Hannan (and his editors) learning from the experience of being called out on their mistake, and then disseminating the benefit of their experience to their colleagues?Report

      • veronica dire in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Actually, no. I mean, I get what you are saying, all the happy-hippy ideas of “teachable moments” and how we can all grow.

        Yeah, I get it. There is a place in the world for all of that.

        But then, she begged him not to out her. And he refused.

        I want him punished. Sorry, but I don’t care what he learns from this, since the personal growth of some entitled man is nowhere on my agenda. Entitled men have endless opportunities to grow, and grow, and grow. It’s all their personal journey — traveled on our backs.

        Here we have a trans woman who chose death over exposure.

        I know this: none of you can imagine that she perhaps made the correct choice.Report

      • daveNYC in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Death over exposure, yes. But was it exposure as trans or exposure as a business fraud that did it?Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Burt Likko says:


        Was she a business fraud? It seems that her putter did exactly what she claimed it did. And that the science behind it was sound. The only fraud she may have committed was related to her credentials. I’m curious to know how much she actually touted them. Again, many of the lies Hannan heard were made up by McCord, not Dr. V. McCord talked about his conversations with 4-star generals and witnessing a conversation with a vice president. Those are McCord’s lies, not Dr. V’s.Report

      • daveNYC in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Would you rather invest money in, and purchase a product that was designed by someone who claims to be a MIT graduate that worked for the DoD on stealth aircraft projects? Or would you rather put your money on the product that was designed by a mechanic working for a car rental company?

        I don’t even watch lawyer shows anymore, but making false claims in order to get cash money sounds kinda fraudish.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Burt Likko says:

        @kazzy – not sure if the putter lives up to its claims – a fair portion of the Grantland article talks about, essentially, the placebo effect and superstition. If you think something works, then it does; and you think it does in part because ‘experts’ told you so. There was one golfer who seemed to observe less spin in slo-mo, but I think you’d need more tests than that to determine if it’s repeatable and significant.

        And the little poking around I have done seems to indicate that some think the science behind it is theoretically sound, and some think it’s not (some people indicate that a lot of the scientific “explanations” provided by Yar Golf on their site, and in their marketing literature, are pure gibberish).

        @davenyc – IANAL, but “making false claims in order to get cash money” seems like fraud to me. Which is where this whole thing gets sticky. If Dr. V had done nothing other than adopt (or express) an identity more comfortable for her, I think almost everyone would agree that what Hannan did was beyond the pale (I think most still believe that outing her to the investor was beyond the pale).

        But if she committed fraud based in part or wholly on Dr. V’s supposed credentials, it’s going to be hard to disentangle that fraud without exposing her. Even if you artfully and generically phrased things like “Dr. V used to have a different name”, other context clues are likely going to creep in (if you tell me someone used to be a car mechanic or, say, a lumberjack or something, I am probably going to assume “male”, right or wrong). She had secrets she wished to keep, and she decided to take the risk of talking to a reporter, and I am unsure why she did this. When Mike Wallace calls, you say ‘no comment’; you don’t know where that story is going to go.

        Simmons’ mea culpa delves a bit into this; there was a specific reason there was no pre-2001 info to be found on Dr. V. Had Grantland elided this, and it came out later, what then?

        And if your answer is “well, they could just say they were protecting Dr. V’s privacy about something that was not germane”, consider things like this:

        In this case, I think there is a strong presumption that Johnny became Rosalinda to facilitate the criminal behaviors (to escape a 60-year sentence for all kinds of violent crimes).

        But of course, that may not be the case – it may be that Johnny was always Rosalinda, and the violent crimes are unrelated to the transition in any way. We have no way of knowing.

        Rosalinda may be the true person that was always there, or she may be the alias, a disguise: and that matters, once the law gets broken.

        If Dr. V defrauded investors, her outing seems inevitable one way or another.Report

  17. ScarletNumbers says:

    Steve Sailer talks about the Grantland piece, among other things, in World War T on Taki’s Magazine.Report

  18. Kim says:

    dropping down here because. Thread too long.
    Yeah, place is nebulous.
    But the assumption with a blog is that people read the post before the comments.
    And what the post is on, colors the comments.

    Chris was talking about something in the very generic, and V was taking it more
    personally than Chris intended. (to be fair, I took some of what jr was saying more personally
    than he/she intended, too).

    But a good deal of the problem is chris’ ideas are Large enough for a post by themselves.

    Which V or anyone else can choose to read –without the framing of someone committed suicide because of a violation of their privacy.Report