The Transphobic Trials of Chelsea Manning
Early September 2013. A national Pirate Party uploads a picture of a famous face alongside the text “We Are Chelsea Manning”. Immediately the comments start raining . Extremely few of them actually deal with what the woman on the picture has done for her country, for the world, for the Pirate movement, and for the very freedom of speech.
August, 2013. The person known to the world as Bradley Manning, soldier of the US army and responsible for leaking multiple documents and videos to WikiLeaks in 2010, including the famous “Collateral Murder” tape, is sentenced to 35 years in prison for his crimes against the United States of America.
Soon after the sentencing, Manning releases a press release verifying what has been rumoured for a while – she comes out as a self-identified woman, saying that she plans to undergo physical treatment in prison, and that she now wishes the media to respect that and refer to her by the female pronoun and her chosen new name of Chelsea.
Some have argued that the LGBT debate arising from this information has overshadowed the “real” debate, concerning what Manning did and the fact that she will have to endure prison time for it, possibly for the remainder of her life. I would argue that while I do think this debate is overshadowing, it has also, for the most part, not been spawned by LGBT rights proponents, but rather by its sexist counterpart.
All in all, I have seen one occasion where an LGBT proponent has brought up the topic, in a blog post discussing the relation to the Russian anti-gay law. At the same time, I have seen dozens of cases where anti-LGBT activists (whether or not they themselves identify as that) bring up the topic of how important it is not to respect Manning’s wishes and not refer to her by her chosen name and pronoun.
On top of this, there are several cases of people referring to Manning as requested, and who for that are attacked by anti-LGBT activists claiming that this, in and of itself, distracts from the topic at hand.
It would seem that we have had this thrust upon us, willing or unwilling, and that every article, every comment and every discussion on the topic of Chelsea Manning (or Bradley Manning, regardless what name she is referred by) will lead to a debate on LGBT rights, not to mention a discussion on whether or not she *really* is a woman.
And what is wrong with that? Ingrained in the very core of the Pirate movement is the fight for human rights, for equal rights in society regardless of race, religion, or gender. So is this not a perfect case for bringing up not only the question of whistleblower protection, but human rights also?
And, in paraphrasing Shakespeare, does not a Manning of any other gender still smell as heroic?