Sorry seems to be the hardest word

In a week when the subject of apology – more precisely, apology by wealthy and highly privileged men such as Oscar Pistorius and Ched Evans – has been in the news…again!…there is one apology i have looked for in vain.

And that, for those with goldfish memory, is some sort of apology, or admission of culpability or remorse or, well, anything, from journalist, Caleb Hannan, whose transphobic self-obsessed scribblings will be forever linked to the awful, awful suicide of Dr Essay Anne Vanderbilt.

No apology. Yet, after a self-imposed exile from social media of slightly over six months, he is back on Twitter pretty much as though nothing at all has happened.

hannan tweets

A half-apology

The facts, such as they are, mostly speak for themselves. Hannan is a sports writer who set out to document the invention of a wondrous new golf putter. Along the way he discovered – shock! horror! – that its inventor, Dr Vanderbilt, was a trans woman. Her failure to disclose this fact to him was, he determined, all part and parcel of some dire deception. So he had every right to out her, without her consent, to important and influential individuals in her life circle.

She was, not unnaturally, upset. He gave her a chance to “put the record straight”. Not unnaturally, she demurred. This, he converted into yet more “evidence” of his victim’s villainy, which was then published as an 8,000 word expose on ESPN.

Somewhere along the way, he seems to have lost the capability to self-examine: to consider that just maybe, having done egregious harm to someone through your journalism, that person may be justifiably reluctant to talk to you further.

Dr V then “tragically” committed suicide. As though this outcome was some unfortunate accident or Act of God – and not a highly possible consequence of a world-class outing.

There followed an apology of sorts from ESPN Editor Bill Simmonds. Perhaps it was intended to be honest and honestly contrite.

The fact that it meandered on and on and on, through some two and a half thousand words of on, detracted more than a little from that objective. As blogger, Small-town-country-boy, put it at the time:

Reading Simmons’ note and others, I get a sense of “Hannan made a mistake, but…” on something that should have no “…but…”. Hannan made a grievous mistake, period. Everything that falls off after the outing […] all go back to that bright line being crossed where he outed her in the first place.

Or to put it another way. If you want to say sorry, say sorry. The moment you start to explain, to qualify, to shuffle, as too many men do, that is no apology. It is self-justification and, in this case, a continuation of the narcissism that created the bad behaviour in the first place.

As for Hannan himself, despite widespread calls from many in the transgender community and beyond, nothing. No willingness to discuss the case: just a hint that he might speak about it later. When HE had had time to compose himself. And after a weekend of trying, vainly, to bat away online critics, self-imposed Twitter exile.

His last tweet, from Jan 17, suggests someone who had yet to get to grips with the enormity of what they have done. @calebhannan wrote: “For what it’s worth, I haven’t blocked anyone today. I’m reading all of this. I’m totally overwhelmed, but I’m reading.”

Otherwise, his silence has spoken volumes.

How long is long enough?

That silence might, perhaps, be taken as some slight indication of contrition. Perhaps he feels he should no longer disturb the twittersphere with his ramblings.

Or at least not for a while. Which leaves the question of how long is long enough to atone for an act of betrayal and emotional assault.

That’s easy. In Hannan’s case, the answer appears to be just over 6 months. In August – August 11, to be precise – @calebhannan started responding to tweets from friends and fans again. A light-hearted reply to a comment about Charlie Brown in @Slate.

A couple of weeks later, on September 2, the roof had not fallen in. So he’s back with a retweet about nude selfies. Because, of course, you just can’t keep an insightful social commentator down.

And there you have it. Hannan is back.

We have not yet even got as far as this year’s Trans Day of Remembrance when, no doubt, Dr V will be remembered with all the other trans individuals who have been killed in one way or another over the last twelve months.

Dr V is no longer with us.

Caleb Hannan, opinionated, self-interested, unapologetic is.


About janefae

On my way from here to there
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