CNN struggles to figure out how to address Manning as female




This post refers to Manning as "she" just once. In all other instances, the writer contorts to avoid pronouns. Discussions of how to address transgender people are awfully polarized, and filled with self-righteousness on both sides when really it's an awkward subject filled with uncertainty.


Meanwhile, in Canada:

Not exactly hard to do.


The comments for that CNN article were just as sickening, if not more, and they're all a complete failure to follow the transition != chemicals/surgery train of thought.


Hopefully at some later date they will drop the formally known as. {insert prince joke}


Didn't really notice any writing gymnastics in this one. Are you seeing something the rest of us aren't? Using someone's last name to reference them is standard news writing practice.


Are we reading the same article? There's no contrived attempt to avoid referring to Manning as female here.


It's remarkable that this is even a thing. What matters about Manning is the crime and the punishment. Holding the world to account for the proper pronoun to address a freshly re-gendered individual is a lame last grasp for something to whine about. In far more cases than not, it isn't a calculated insult, but the work of a writer who, like me, simply doesn't give a crap, one way or another.


I live in a very blue state in a very blue city (Boston), and dealing with transgender issues are tough even here. I won't say that we have the gay thing "solved" in urban blue state areas, but it is vastly improved. If a same sex couple shows up to an event in Boston and say that they are married, it is pretty rare for anyone to bat an eyelash or the conversation to skip a beat. It is getting normal and socially acceptable. My Republican gun totting boss happily hired a married lesbian and would take serious issue with anyone who has a problem with it. That isn't to suggest that discrimination is gone, just that being gay is, for the most part, socially acceptable in Boston and cities like it.

Trans folks don't have it so easy. I think it boils down to three large problems.

  1. Transgender issues are "messy". Gay is pretty easy to wrap your mind around. It is about sex and love, and it means that someone likes people of the same sex. Once you accept it, it isn't all that different from straight. Gender identity issues are more complex because gender identity and sexual identity are things that we tend to wrap up into one package that don't necessarily belong to each other. Even the term LGBT is confusing in that it wraps up three classifications for sexuality with one that isn't necessarily about sexuality. Most people not intimately involved in these issues don't have the right framing of the issue, much less the words to express themselves. You hear "trans" and you think "sex", not "gender".

  2. Trans folks are, for the most part, not out. Adult gay folks are, for the most part, out (>70% last I heard). A lot of the victories in gay rights came from people being out. Nothing murders discrimination as handily as finding out that a close friend or family member that you respect is gay. Trans folks, for entirely rational reasons, are vastly more likely to be in the closet. A lack of visibility leads to discrimination and a lack of allies to help push the fight.

  3. People can be fucking bigots. This probably doesn't need much explanation.

The best thing a trans person can do for the cause is to come out as gay folks did. It is a wildly effective strategy because it buys natural allies and shakes the ground bigots stand on when loved ones come out. However, that is a pretty easy thing to say and a much harder thing to do. Coming out is something that you are doing for future trans folks, but for you personally, the consequences might be devastating. I live in a very liberal city and work at a company that employs piles of openly gay folks, and I would still be leery of coming out. It is impossible to suggest someone living in Alabama (or anywhere for that matter) has an obligation to come out and literally put their life on the line and almost certainly suffer employment trouble.

So, it is good that Manning is out. We need more of this. We need to be able to talk about these issues and get over the awkwardness and the stumbling over terminology. It is unfortunate that one of the most public figures to come out is being tossed in jail for 35 years. I have a feeling in a month this conversation is going to be dead in most places.


No doubt there are already multitudinous conspiracy theories afoot suggesting that this is all too ridiculous to be anything but a meticulously-calculated misdirection strategy.


My daughter and I have discussed this issue of feeling differently about trans people versus gay. We have struggled with the aspect of people who feel they are in the wrong body seeming to hate themselves. Maybe that isn't a good way to say it, but, it's different from "I like people different from the people you like." In that case, there is an element of attraction and excitement as well as also feeling different. Maybe if more people were open about it I'd feel more comfortable with the emotions that are raised.

I know for me when you I try to empathize with the feeling of being in the wrong gendered body I feel creeped out, like, wow, this feels AWFUL. I feel like I just hate myself. It's very hard to feel it, hard to relate, even though I am really trying to be sympathetic and helpful and understanding. I feel like with using appropriate gender pronouns I am "faking it until I make it," rather than truly feeling comfortable with it.

Many years ago I worked on a listening hotline and talked to a couple of crossdressers at length. It was really sad how isolated they felt - though one was very excited that he might have an opportunity to have someone who would be okay with what he was doing and who might be a roommate and that conversation was kind of fun.


One shouldn't expect too much from the intellectual meerkats of the mainstream media. After all, they're the sellouts who got us here to begin with.


For me, I have trouble rationalizing my desire to be open towards trans folks and my contempt for people who, say, get purely cosmetic plastic surgery or change their names.

I realize that sounds unaccepting and close-minded, but there are some crosses you just have to bear in life: you can't change your family, nor your race. There's a line somewhere between what we should embrace and what's going too far, but I'm not sure where it is. Should we be accepting of a white dude who "feels like he's a black man trapped in a Caucasian body?"


Well said.
Unfortunately, the "masses" are going to find Chelsea more interesting than war crimes.


One instance seems like few gendered pronouns for an article of this length. Maybe I'm wrong.

My main point is that there is a legitimate editorial discussion to be had here. How to accommodate the full gender spectrum in a way that's both fair to all and practical calls for an evolution of the English language, and that should happen as an open discussion. There are outstanding questions.

I'm the sort of person who can engage in a heated argument over the use of em-dashes versus en-dashes. There are questions of grammar and usage here, and I resent the idea that its bigotry any time a transparent attempt is made to navigate how trans identity will shape the language.


It really is not all that different in the grand scheme of things. I think you would find that a large number of gay folks hated themselves (and plenty still do). Imagine you are in 1950s America and a gay guy, in a world where there are literally no other (known) gay men and that sort of thing just isn’t talked about. Self loathing at your “freakish” urges isn’t hard to imagine. I don’t think it is all that different from trans folks.

The self loathing comes from self repression. They feel like they are a different gender. In a happy and loving world, this wouldn’t be a problem. Little Johnny comes out as woman, switches clothing, gets some new hormones, and everyone starts calling Johnny Jenny. Jenny is happy in her skin, gets promotions at work, and no one thinks twice. That is of course, not how it happens. Johnny comes out as Jenny, and Jenny loses her job, stops getting promoted, and isn’t allowed anywhere near a position that faces customers. The parents disown Jenny, people call shit at her in the streets, and even seemingly well meaning people struggle with pronouns and look and sound awkward when around Jenny.

Trans folks have it very rough. Gay folks can build their own little piece of America through friends and geography to escape the worst of the hate. Building an accepting world is vastly harder for trans folks.

Faking it until you make it is a perfectly acceptable way to do it, and vastly preferable to not trying. Most people who didn’t grow up in a hippy liberal commune who are now easy around gay folks probably had to fake it until they made it to be comfortable. Hell, that is true with stepping outside any piece of your culture, regardless if it is race, gender, sexuality, whatever.


While I take no issue with Manning deciding he wishes to live as a women, or take steps to change his name and gender. Just up and announcing one day "Call me Chelsea and refer to me as a woman" , one should expect a bit of time for people to make the adjustment...and not get petulant when its not automatic.

I've worked to change my name legally for personal reasons...but I never expected people to just snap to. And it wouldn't be reasonable for me to do so.

Perhaps, in the rush to encourage tolerance, we should not ourselves become intolerant?


The really terrible part of all this, is there is a significant population of trans kids out there. This shitty reaction, and outright bigotry, will show them it doesn't matter who you are. If you transition, and the world finds out, the backlash will be enormous.

I'm 41, and it makes me balk.


Bah! But we already have the torches lit!

A CNN pressroom video where they immediately begin calling Snoop Dog Snoop Lion after addressing the change.


The whole question of naming people and things on the news is interesting from a wider perspective. You generally see it more with placenames, and the choice can be controversial whatever you choose (for example, the questions of Burma/Myanmar, Derry/Londonderry and Madras/Chennai are all treated differently by the BBC, as explained here). Snoop Dog/Snoop Lion would be easier to decide on, as it's just a stage name in any case. I guess the argument w.r.t. transsexuals would be that there needs to be some objective basis for changing a name, and someone self-identifying as female without undergoing SRS or officially changing their name wouldn't be enough. U.S. law varies on the requirements for changing a passport or birth certificate, and I'm sure different news organizations follow their own conventions. Chelsea Manning hasn't actually started hormone therapy, so any change in pronouns would be based purely on her own request. While that's enough for many organizations, it's not altogether surprising that some aren't accepting it at this point.