If you were on Twitter Monday, you may have noticed that trending was a hashtag to #CancelJemele.
The social-media uprising came from a large group of fans of Barstool Sports to, as they would tell it, turn the tables on Jemele Hill — a popular target of racists and sexists — for a message she tweeted in 2009.
To recap, Hill tweeted at the time that calling Manny Ramirez a “tranny” was both “inappropriate and hilarious.”
She addressed the decade-old tweet on Monday, saying: “It was wholly ignorant, dumb, and offensive. I am ashamed that I was so uneducated about trans issues at the time. I stand with this community firmly today.”
I believe Jemele Hill.
I’ve known Hill for almost all of the decade since she tweeted that. Like so many of us — and I include myself in this group — we have grown over the last 10, 15, 20 years to better understand trans people and their struggle.
The idea that Hill should be canceled for that tweet — given where she is today, given her consistent support of every letter of the LGBTQ community, and given the real motives behind the people trending #CancelJemele — is absurd and offensive in itself.
I chatted with Hill Monday evening about what she tweeted in 2009. We talked for almost an hour about her perspective on the LGBTQ community, and trans people in particular.
She was open and honest about that 2009 mistake, and how much she’s learned about our community in, contextually, a short period of time.
“It wasn’t until I was older, and frankly had more personal experiences with people from the LGBTQ community, that I began to see the similarities between our two struggles and the fight for visibility and the fight for equality,” Hill told me of her evolving understanding of LGBTQ people.
“It was understanding that if they come for the rights of Black and Brown people within that, they are coming for the rights of LGBTQ people. We can’t really separate our struggles. They may be intrinsically different, but we can’t separate them because all of our civil rights are at risk.
“As Black and Brown people, and as Black and Brown trans people and LGBTQ people, we are always stronger together. That’s why I feel it’s our duty to fight for this community, because we have brothers and sisters in that community.”
Hill’s own journey on LGBTQ issues speaks to the power of visibility, something she has made sure to bring attention in her work.
She specifically took on the anti-trans folks when they came after Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union after they shared that their daughter, Zaya Wade, was transgender.
Snaps all around...
There have been many other moments of support for the LGBTQ community, including writing the first ESPN The Magazine Body Issue story featuring a same-sex couple, elevating Brittney Griner’s voice and supporting Eddie Murphy’s apology for making the LGBTQ community the focus of jokes.
Has Hill been perfect? No, and she admits that freely. We talked about a column she wrote in 2011 about Super Bowl hero David Tyree’s anti-gay fight against same-sex marriage. She wrote that column at a time when most Americans were against my right to marry my husband, and when most states banned it.
“I wouldn’t write that now,” she said, sharing that her support of same-sex marriage was the same then as it is now: full support. “What I wouldn’t want to do is give a platform for ignorance, and looking back at it now, I did that. And I should have seen he was simply on the wrong side of history, because there was only one direction same-sex marriage was going.”
I appreciate Hill’s candor. She’s not one who buries her mistakes. She told me that she was aware of her “tranny” tweet the night before the shit hit the proverbial fan. She left it up, as she wanted to make sure that her mistake from over a decade ago was used to bring attention to the issues of transphobia and trans visibility.
“I wanted to use this moment as a teachable moment. I wanted to sit in it, because I wanted it to be an opportunity for me to talk about not just my evolution on this topic, but the fact that it says something to me that in 2009 no one batted an eye about it. There was no reaction to it whatsoever. And I’m glad that there is a conversation now because of how much we’ve changed.”
She said she has since deleted the tweet not trying to hide from the mistake — she knows that many people have the screenshot — but out of respect for trans people, because she does not want anyone to mistake that tweet as support for the language used.
Lest someone think I’m just standing up for a fellow member of the media, I have written previously that athletes as well should not be “canceled” for anti-LGBTQ tweets from years ago.
“Canceling” Hill for this would be to cancel a woman who is clearly inclusive in her public and private life. It would be a mistake.
To be sure, I am not trans. I do NOT speak for the trans community. No one does.
But as someone who has taken issue with at least one way Hill has addressed the LGBTQ community in the past, I know she is on our side of the issues and on our side of history. I don’t use this term lightly — as people who know me will attest — but Hill as a true “ally.”
As I have done myself, Hill has listened to the people around her and learned.
It would be so helpful if David Portnoy and Barstool Sports better listened and learned from the LGBTQ community as well.