A week or so ago, one of my good friends sent me a link to a sports story about a special kind of golf putter. Now, I’m not really a huge fan of golf, in fact, I’m more the type to spend an afternoon on the course cursing the grass, trees and my own athletic ability than one to find it relaxing or fun. Also, pretty quickly I realized that the article contained some specific engineering jargon about what makes this putter superior to other putters. I figured that my friend, a very talented engineer, had sent this to me because of the interesting science it contained. I previewed the link, and after noticing that the story was pretty long, I put it aside for another day.
But then, every day I would check my social media sites and found that this story was blowing up in my gender variant networks. There were links and blogs and critiques and general chatter all over the place. So I decided to sit down and finally read this piece. Here is the link to the original article:
Let me summarize it for all of you who might be similarly disinclined to read about sports, engineering and physics. Essentially, a young sports writer discovers a new and different kind of putter, starts asking around and finds out that a woman who happens to be a brilliant physicist with little-to-no golf experience developed it and had been marketing it on a grand scale all the way up the the main media magnates of the golf industry. Naturally, the writer seeks out the inventor for an interview at which point he is told he can ask questions about the putter and her company but nothing about the inventor. The writer AGREES (which is an important point for later).
After several months researching the putter, golfers who use it, and the company marketing and selling it, the writer sets about doing some fact checking about the inventor’s credentials. He discovers rather quickly that most of those credentials are false and eventually learns that the inventor is a transgender woman with almost zero experience with engineering or high principles of physics like she had stated. The writer then goes on to OUT the inventor as a transgender woman to her business investors. At this point, Dr. V learns that she has been outed and asks the writer to cease and desist and to sign a non-disclosure agreement and not publish his story. He refuses in spite of his initial agreement not to discuss the inventor in his story.
We then learn rather abruptly toward the end of the story that 3 months before the article was published Dr. V committed suicide. A tidbit that the writer just kind of tacks on at the end with ZERO reflection about his possible role in or culpability in the loss of a human life.
While Dr. V had a long history of battling suicidality and depression, I don’t believe that it is very hard to imagine that the knowledge that she would soon be outed as transgender to the whole world but also for committing some serious deceptions in her business endeavors played a role in that. It is also not very hard to imagine that the writer is involved in her decision to commit suicide which should have caused him to pause, reflect and feel some pangs of empathy, compassion or dare I say guilt. However, the writer’s attitude summarizes the American cultural attitude towards transgender people as a community – that they are not deserving of privacy, respect, or even in some cases their very lives. Many within the non-transgender communities, as this story clearly indicates, continue to equate a transgender person’s living in their preferred gender with being a con artist out to deceive everyone they meet. Until this idea changes, the rates for suicide attempts (41%) and harassment (97%) will continue. I can only hope that Dr. V’s story and death will help to educate some to the very real challenges and difficulties that come with being who you are as a transgender person.
Below are some of the other critiques and responses to the publication of Dr. V’s story that I found particularly insightful or relevant. The first link is to one of the official responses from grantland which was written by a transgender woman who writes for ESPN (the parent company of grantland).
What do you all think? Should the story have been published at all? Should they have left out Dr. V’s transgender history? Should the author have left it as is?