That Time Grantland Might Have Bullied a Trans Person to Suicide

I say might have, but a more accurate title is “almost certainly.” A Grantland writer outed Essay Anne Vanderbilt, a trans woman. That tends to be the sort of thing that gets you murdered if you’re trans. There probably isn’t anything an individual could do to greater strip away a trans person’s safety other than actually holding a weapon on them.

The Grantland writer basically did that, the weapon in this case being the general public’s mistrust and propensity towards violence against trans individuals.

Grantland’s apology is full of the self-serving fuckery that has been central to Bill Simmons’s writing his entire life. To his credit he actually does understand that the biggest problem was outing Vanderbilt, but that tidbit comes a long ways down the page and after several paragraphs whining about the backlash and outlining their editorial process.

(For some good information on the dangers facing out trans people as well as a direct rebuttal to Simmons’s “apology”, read this piece.)

It looks like Simmons is sticking up for his writer, but he’s not.  He’s sticking up for the website he founded, which is an extension of himself. Self-serving fuckery.

If Simmons cared one iota about the fact that Grantland contributed heavily to someone’s death, he’d have put that first, front, and center instead of trying to curry sympathy by talking about the backlash. An actual genuine apology starts something like this:

“We made Dr. V’s live unsafe by outing her and contributed to her suicide and for that, for the actions that caused the loss of a human life, we are truly sorry.”

How instead does it begin?

“How could you guys run that?”


“Allow us to defend ourselves.”

Simmons provides a list of what Grantland could have done better and while he hits the most important points, he somehow manages to put them last.

“6. Caleb never should have outed Dr. V to one of her investors; you need to address that mistake either within the piece, as a footnote, or in a separate piece entirely.

(And maybe even … )

7. There’s a chance that Caleb’s reporting, even if it wasn’t threatening or malicious in any way, invariably affected Dr. V in ways that you never anticipated or understood.”

Those should be number one and number two, no ‘maybe’ about it. The reporter endangered someone’s life and probably had a very large hand in their suicide.  That’s the thing you need to fix, not making sure your reporter is interpreted correctly and that they don’t sound like they find trans people to be weird or gross.

Using proper pronouns and not sounding like you’re weirded out are important points, but they have much less of an impact on a trans persons safety and well-being than outing them or making them feel like they’re in danger of being outed or facing backlash from it.

Hopefully this is a lesson that all of Grantland’s former writers, especially Simmons himself, carry to their new places of employment.


About Alex

I am awesome.

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