Kelley Winters

On Bill Simmons' Non-Apology [Open Letter]

Filed By Kelley Winters | January 23, 2014 12:45 PM | comments

Filed in: Media, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Dr. V., Grantland, misgendering, open letter, suicide

bill-simmons-grantland.jpgOn January 20, Bill Simmons, founder and editor of the popular Grantland sports blog, responded to public outrage that followed an earlier feature by Denver writer Caleb Hannan about the suicide of Ms. Essay Anne Vanderbilt, an inventor and trans woman known as Dr. V.

Hannan's article sparked intense discussion about stereotyping, misgendering language, transmisogyny, and prurient sensationalism in media portrayals of transgender and transsexual women, as well as the role of media outing in Dr. V's death.

Here is my response to Mr. Simmons's apology, which fell short of being genuinely apologetic.

Dear Mr. Simmons,

As a trans woman and a writer, I wish to point out what you and your attorneys already know: your piece is not an apology. It is what some call a "conditional apology" and others call a "lawyer's apology." It is a denial of accountability.

A chill actually ran down my spine, Mr. Simmons, when I read your words, "My condolences to Dr. V's friends and family for any pain our mistakes may have caused."

"Any pain"? "May have caused"? A human life has been lost. Does that depth of pain not rise to the level of "any"?

What pains me most, Mr. Simmons, is that your editorial sidestepped the core defamation in Hannan's article. He did not merely question the quality of Ms. Vanderbilt's putter design or the validity of her credentials (which, in themselves, would have been legitimate journalism). Nor did Hannan stop at sensationalizing her private medical history, with prurient fixation on her transgender status (not so legitimate).

Hannan maligned Ms. Vanderbilt, me, and all transgender and transsexual people by implying that she was a dishonest person because she was a member of the transgender community, that she was deceitful because she lived her life in a role that differed from her birth assignment. This is the very same false stereotype that is used to excuse employment discrimination, assault, and murder against trans people every day.

For this, Ms. Vanderbilt deserves your sincere apology, not a rationalization from your legal staff.

I urge you, Mr. Simmons, to actually meet and speak with transgender people in sports, journalism, and your own community. You will discover that we bear little resemblance to the stereotypes that you have published and promoted at Grantland.

Kelley Winters

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