Friday, August 23, 2013

Bradley/Chelsea Manning

Pfc. Bradley Manning, the young man recently sentenced to 35 years in prison for his release of classified documents via Wikileaks and others, has announced that he would like to live his life as a woman named Chelsea.

The announcement throws a spanner in my works, not because transgender desires are especially off-the-wall in my mind, but because my mind had settled on Bradley Manning as what I consider to be an admirable whistle-blower. It was out of that mental pigeon hole that I was willing to support and defend and critique and counter-critique and generally shape my opinions. Bradley Manning was a young man with a kind of courage I applauded even as I recognized that courage as an uphill -- and probably losing -- fight. Bradley Manning was, in many senses, just plain right.

The transgender direction reshapes my pigeon hole. Not only is Manning someone who has taken up one terribly difficult task, now he has taken up another. The number of critics can multiply. I kind of wonder how many of them will go transgender on the issue and conflate the whistle-blower 'traitor' with the gender 'traitor.' ("Not only is he a treason to his country, now he's a treason to his sex" ... something like that.)

I kind of enjoyed and was comfortable in the pigeon hole of Bradley Manning as a national hero in a world that acts without reference to the democracy it claims to inhabit. Hero or traitor, Bradley Manning fit into my convenient pigeon hole ... an important pigeon hole that deserved gimlet-eyed, no-flinching attention. This was serious stuff.

And now Bradley Manning has added another facet to the serious-stuff jewel -- a facet that can easily be as serious as the previously-acknowledged one and simultaneously diminishes the attention that previously was paid to Bradley-Manning-as-whistle-blower.

I have no doubt that there is considerable seriousness being paid to Manning's transgender desires. This is serious, life-changing stuff. This is uphill stuff. Only Manning can judge how serious or crazy this stuff is. This is the sort of stuff that can consume an individual's life. Not taking it seriously or comparing it to other things that might be serious would be a serious blunder.

I guess I'll just have to reconfigure my pigeon-hole ... which makes me wonder a bit what the hell need I had for pigeon holes in the first place.

Go get 'em, Chelsea!

1 comment:

  1. Here's a wikipedia page that's compiled the relevant research on the gender issue. I congratulate them for keeping their pronouns straight and for preventing editing until disputes are sorted. It's a story not uncommon for the transgender community, particularly trying to "man up" by joining the service, or perhaps becoming a cop or a truck driver.

    It paints a picture of someone from difficult circumstances who had been building to a crises for many years. Who a military straining to keep bodies chose to ignore the signs. And as well, someone who would have found the information they were confronted with too upsetting in their state of mind not to act on. And perhaps as well trying to identify with a hacker community requiring an act of dangerous engagement to "man up" and prove worthy. An isolated life trying to feel accepted anywhere and perhaps with more balls than brains.

    It's a sad story. I've seen some commentary that says it's a ploy to avoid responsibility, but being sentenced strikes me as unlikely.