Apologizing is only the second step

The Human Rights Campaign has apologized to the transgender community for ‘putting their issues on the back burner’ in the past:

‘I am sorry for the times you have been underrepresented or unrepresented by this organization,’ HRC President Chad Griffin said over the weekend at the Southern Comfort Conference in Atlanta.

‘What happens to trans people is absolutely central to the LGBT struggle,’ Griffin added. ‘And as the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, HRC has a responsibility to do that struggle justice, or else we are failing at our fundamental mission.’

The biggest and most-publicized snub happened in 2007 when HRC endorsed a version of the Employee Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) that did not include gender-based discrimination.

The reasoning HRC gave was that the legislation would have an easier time making it through the US Congress without protections for transgender persons.

That last line is a great big ‘screw you’ to the transgender community.

This is a nice step.  Apologies are good.  They are often a way to tell others that you’ve messed up and you recognize that (in seeking to redeem one’s past actions, apologies are a necessary step-right after acknowledging wrongdoing).  To do so publicly is laudable, especially when the apology is unreserved.

This is not, however, the end.  In fact, it’s only the first step in making amends to the transgender community.  Subsequent steps need to be taken to show-visibly-that the HRC supports  trans people.  These steps need to be consistent and ongoing.

The HRC should also be ready for continued resistance and even a rejection of their apology.  You can’t say “I’m sorry I screwed up” and expect everything to be copacetic.   Offering an apology does not mean that the offended party must accept it. Some will. Some won’t. Don’t be pissy if your apology is not accepted.  This is a possible consequence of screwing up.

The coming months and years will determine how truly apologetic the HRC truly is.

For those interested, here is an example of a really good apology:


On Wednesday morning Kickstarter was sent a blog post quoting disturbing material found on Reddit. The offensive material was part of a draft for a “seduction guide” that someone was using Kickstarter to publish. The posts offended a lot of people — us included — and many asked us to cancel the creator’s project. We didn’t.

We were wrong.

Why didn’t we cancel the project when this material was brought to our attention? Two things influenced our decision:

  • The decision had to be made immediately. We had only two hours from when we found out about the material to when the project was ending. We’ve never acted to remove a project that quickly.
  • Our processes, and everyday thinking, bias heavily toward creators. This is deeply ingrained. We feel a duty to our community — and our creators especially — to approach these investigations methodically as there is no margin for error in canceling a project. This thinking made us miss the forest for the trees.

These factors don’t excuse our decision but we hope they add clarity to how we arrived at it.

Let us be 100% clear: Content promoting or glorifying violence against women or anyone else has always been prohibited from Kickstarter. If a project page contains hateful or abusive material we don’t approve it in the first place. If we had seen this material when the project was submitted to Kickstarter (we didn’t), it never would have been approved. Kickstarter is committed to a culture of respect.

Where does this leave us?

First, there is no taking back money from the project or canceling funding after the fact. When the project was funded the backers’ money went directly from them to the creator. We missed the window.

Second, the project page has been removed from Kickstarter. The project has no place on our site. For transparency’s sake, a record of the page is cached here.

Third, we are prohibiting “seduction guides,” or anything similar, effective immediately. This material encourages misogynistic behavior and is inconsistent with our mission of funding creative works. These things do not belong on Kickstarter.

Fourth, today Kickstarter will donate $25,000 to an anti-sexual violence organization calledRAINN. It’s an excellent organization that combats exactly the sort of problems our inaction may have encouraged.

We take our role as Kickstarter’s stewards very seriously. Kickstarter is one of the friendliest, most supportive places on the web and we’re committed to keeping it that way. We’re sorry for getting this so wrong.

Thank you,


Apologizing is only the second step