Not an expert, not a member of the LGBTQ community, etc, etc, all the caveats. Also, FWIW, I’m pretty convinced that Manning’s massive leak to Julian Assange, a foreign national, in the knowledge that Assange would turn around and indiscriminately dump unprecedented amounts of classified information into the public domain was not a good, right, or smart thing to do. Aside from anything else, Manning was a soldier at the time, and had taken an oath. As Josh Marshall wrote at TPM yesterday
Soldiers get in huge trouble for going AWOL, even though one individual soldier abandoning his post seldom does much damage to a country or an army. This is a far graver insubordination with incalculably more widespread consequences….. I think a military force requires a substantial amount of secrecy to operate in any reasonable way. So when someone on the inside breaks those rules, I need to see a really, really good reason. And even then I’m not sure that means you get off scott free.
At the same time, I’m also pretty well convinced the the level of government and military freak out over Manning’s actions does not accurately reflect the damage done, the intent, or the person responsible. As Amy Davidson wrote in The New Yorker yesterday: “This sentence, given all we know about Manning and what he did (and what was done to him), is a strikingly harsh one.”
I highly recommend that you read both pieces (both of which also discuss the Edward Snowden case and both of which are excellent, in very different ways), but, that’s not what I’m here about.
This morning Manning came out as transgender, and asked to be called Chelsea and referred to with female pronouns henceforth. I happen to have read something at Boing Boing some time ago (possibly as long as two years ago) that indicated that Manning identified as a woman — a hugely complicating factor for anyone making the kind of moral and ethical choices that the then-20 year old Manning felt duty-bound to make (as Davidson wrote yesterday [before the request had been made to transition to female pronouns]: “He thought, his lawyer argued in the trial, that he might save someone, or everyone”).
As far as I’m concerned, you are who you tell me you are. Chelsea Manning is a woman. Period, full-stop — and it’s a matter of sheer good manners and civility to refer to her as such. Whether or not I agree with the actions which earned her a dishonorable discharge and 8-35 years at Fort Leavenworth is utterly and completely beside that point.
So. Here are just a few resources that I’ve found useful as I’ve attempted in recent years to become more familiar with the reality of trans folks. I hope you find them helpful, and would love any added recommendations.
- Transgender Terminology – a vocabulary resource (the good, the bad, and the don’t-ever), by GLAAD.
- Led by the Child Who Simply Knew – a beautiful feature article in the Boston Globe about a girl who knew she was a girl even though her family thought she and her twin brother were both boys.
- How To Make Love to a Trans Person - a beautiful poem about how we talk about bodies and making love: “Break those words open/ Like a paramedic cracking ribs…. Scratch new definitions on the bones.”
- A good (brief) definition and explanation of “cisgender,” a recently coined term which roughly means people who identify with the gender they were assigned (“it’s a girl!”) at birth.
- And finally, I’ve posted it before, I’m posting it again – Hank Green’s video on Human Sexuality. It’s remarkable, and less than four minutes long.