Dr. V's suicide and the sensationalist journalism that preceded it


Interesting that this incident occurred within weeks of the controversy over former NYT editor (?) Bill Keller and his wife both writing articles that were critical of a 4th stage breast cancer patient. I think we need a discussion of abuse of power, journalism-style. Journalists who have a national forum can cause great harm because of the reach of their writing. Just because an individual can theoretically reach a lot of people on Twitter, in reality, unless you’re famous, you’re not going to.

Ironically the NYT had a big article about whether Internet activists have gone too far in trying to help rape victims whose cases haven’t been investigated or tried properly. If anonymous activists are to be held responsible for the results of their writing (on Twitter) then surely so do columnists at national/International media outlets.


I disagree that this is a story that should never have been published, in any format.

Leaving everything else aside, this is a woman who sought investors using false credentials, defrauded at least one of them of $60,000, and tried to sell very expensive items using false advertising. She was a criminal, in other words. It is emphatically the role of journalists to uncover this kind of criminal behavior and warn consumers and investors against dealing with this kind of person. Saying “it’s just golf clubs, who cares?” is terrible argument.

I agree that the outing was extremely problematic, and if I were to play backseat editor, I probably would have tried to write an article without revealing that fact (the writer could have just said that she had changed her name). But at the end of the day, if Dr. V didn’t want to be written about, she shouldn’t have fleeced her investors and tricked one of the most influential golf commentators into endorsing her product for free claiming that she was a physicist who helped build the stealth bomber.

If you engage in criminal behavior with the intent of defrauding the public, journalists have the right to write about you.


I don’t understand the backlash. I empathize with being a conflicted human being but she had built quite the house of cards. To me, the gender thing was in the background to everything else.


Outing trans womyn is reckless and dangerous. It destroys lives and all too often ends them.

And arguments about fraud are just hate, sometimes used to justify killing us, sometimes used to justify discrimination against us, sometimes used to bar accurate documentation and enable discrimination against us. Many cis people already regard us as frauds for existing. Most trans people have inconsistent documentation. Most trans people face discrimination for inconsistent documentation.

(Consider how different names and/or sex designations on a birth certificate, a social security card, a diploma, and so on can fuck up people’s lives and people’s access to basic rights. Consider how difficult it can be to correct such things, even when it’s possible to correct such things. Consider the recurring proposals to require employers to fire anyone with inconsistent documentation. Consider the recurring prosecutions of trans womyn who defend themselves.)

[edit function is broken]


Just as another reminder, forcibly outing people in this manner can have very real consequences for anyone.


When I used the word “fraud”, I didn’t mean it to refer to her gender. When I said “fraud”, I meant it in the legal sense: she was defrauding people of money. She was a criminal. Her gender and her status as either cis or trans has absolutely nothing to do with it. She was seeking investors and selling these clubs under the pretense she had multiple degrees from prestigious universities and had worked for the Department of Defense developing stealth bombers. None of that was true, it was fraudulent. People go to jail for doing things like this, as they should. And it is absolutely a journalists job to uncover this kind of behavior in order to warn the general public about it.

As I said, the outing was extremely problematic, and they shouldn’t have done it. My point was simply that many people were saying that this writer basically killed her, or that there’s no way this article could be written, because of the risk of outing her as a transwoman. That’s silly. She gave up the right to not have articles written about her the moment she said “I’m a physicist, and you should give me money so I can make golf clubs!”.


So you support torture and, through v-coding, rape.

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As Baretta said, don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.

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Part way through the article - jumped to the Yar web site. o_0 It has all the trappings of some unstable scam artist selling snake oil. I haven’t seen such bad design in years.

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I’m not sure I agree entirely. I know I’m going to get hit with the pitchforks and torches for saying it, but what was her current identity was largely a fraud, and knowing that she wasn’t some brilliant scientist. Past identity is definitely part of it. I mean…it’s a person claiming to have an incredible new invention that can change a popular sport and pastime, and the person who invented it made fantastic, false claims about her past to get people to invest in her invention. If she had been born a woman but had a totally different identity, it would have been relevant to the story. If anything, it would be unethical to refuse to report it.

EDIT: Lest we forget, we’re arguing about this on the website that outed Manning.

Cisgendered people don’t get to commit fraud, but transgendered people should be allowed a free pass because there are people who hate transgendered people? I remember people making similar arguments about this guy:


Racism still exists, and the LAPD was corrupt; therefore, there was no way O.J. was guilty of those gruesome murders.


so if the author had said that dr. v had no such degrees and had no such credentials, that would have satisfied your condition, yeah? you could prove fraud (in an industry that, as the author basically points out in the start of the article, is built almost entirely on superstitious woo) without resorting to a person’s gender history. you could do that, right?


What are you even talking about? Are you saying that people should just not be convicted of crimes?


When you subject us to arbitrary violence, and arbitrary harassment, when you make it impossible for us to get valid consistent documentation and then punish us for having inconsistent documentation, when you call us frauds for daring to exist, when you arrest so many of our sisters for daring to survive, well, when you create these impossible rules full of catch-22s, why should we condemn someone who breaks the impossible rules? why should we join in when you accuse one of our sisters of fraud?

[why do my edits/clarifications keep getting reversed here?]


Is it fair, then, that people who aren’t transgendered get a complete background when they’re outed for being frauds? What if the reason they’ve changed their identity is partly due to a felony conviction, or being outed as a “pervert”, or something of that nature? Maybe we should stop reporting on fraud lest we run the risk of revealing some sort of protected status.

Granted, you’re less likely to be the victim of a hate crime for those things, but we’re discussing someone who was caught engaging in criminal activity as if they’re the victim here.

If you endorse the prison system, then you endorse torture, v-coding, rape, and all the rest of the prison system.


It does seem odd to me that the gender matters needed to be brought up. To some extent, I fear it was done with a goal of making the article more controversial and bringing in more traffic: without the controversy, none of us would probably have read an article on golf clubs.

But the whole article could easily have been written without outing her as anything but a fraud. Indeed, the whole discussion of her being trans is a rather small portion of the article. Everything still fits without it: even the name change seems to have been as motivated by fraud (Vanderbilt? Really?) as gender. A compelling story is still told.


that’s a pretty nice strawman you’ve made, there. how many frauds in the news get a full historical workup? quick answer: not many. it’s usually the juicy ones, the ones people want to read about, yeah? say, something salacious. ignoring that most of the people the author outed her with seemed to think the product was still a superior product, it doesn’t really seem like a Grand Fraud was underway here as much as it seems like you want to back a dick move.


It’s possible to endorse some amount of punitive means for outright fraud while trying to figure out a way for a more trans-friendly system and minimizing the influence of the prison-industrials. Honestly, I don’t know what that would look like or how we would get there. But it’s not entirely polarized. Say the transpersons who who prey on sex workers, offering nonmedical “silicone” injections that poison the recipients.

What do we do with those people? Sincere question, not trying to be combative but while it’s a more extreme example than the con, I’d be curious to see what you’re suggesting as an alternative.


Yes, because they are. Believe it or not people who commit crimes are still people, and so a person can be a criminal in one way and a victim who needs protection in another.

In cases where the two are both related, like here where they both depend on details of her past, one could ask how to best balance actions concerning them. That doesn’t mean simply ignoring the possibility of them still being a victim, though.