Manning’s self-made gender hell: Shades of gray in a black-and-white world



Joining the army is probably not a good move for anyone that is depressed, confused, and lacking a sense of identity. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that’s also not a good person have a top secret security clearance.


I don’t know. The Army can certainly give a person a sense of purpose in the world. It’s not the best place for someone who is gender confused though.


I felt this was a well thought-out and levelheaded article, something that seems very rare in Manning’s case. She hasn’t had an easy life and she’s done both good and bad, with a myriad of motivations, but I particularly thought this line was important:

Gender identity distress does not absolve anyone of personal responsibility

Far too often we paint people as heroes or monsters, when in reality we’re all just people.


First off, I appreciate that the author has supported thousands of trans people (I am a transman) across the years–that sort of work is vital and laudable.

However, I strongly disagree with the assimilation approach used similarly by the marraige equality movement: “We’ve had a pretty good run in terms of mainstream media depictions of trans people over the past few years, focusing the kind of friendly, non-threatening, assimilated people that many non-trans people can support: “Why, they’re a lot like us!” Many activists have spent their lives getting trans people to this place, including yours truly, and revelations like Manning’s have the potential to derail that progress among people inhabiting the vast middle ground between complete condemnation and full support.”

We’ve had years as a trans movement to prepare for this, nearly since the trial started, and I think it is due to LGBT groups not embracing social justice fully that it has faltered. By that I mean, most LGBT groups have not lauded the important revelations about our horrid foreign policy that Manning brought to light, and instead distanced themselves from Manning, like San Francisco pride did. This is the beginning of the issue, and is directly tied to the assimilationist approach of these organizations.

We’re trans and queer people! We’re a diverse bunch! It’s great! We should celebrate that instead of putting forth our most normative folks as representatives of our whole community. When we do that, we set up boundaries of who society will accept as ok–only those people who actively seek to blend in.

I spend a solid chunk of my time supporting trans prisoners, by trying to connect them with penpals, editing and mailing out a monthly newspaper, writing them. I think instead of an unwanted reaction, it is very useful for the thousands of transwomen and transmen practically being tortured behind bars to have a light shown on their plight.

So, in closing, instead of an annoying diversion from the normative path towards assimilation and rights for the few, I think Manning’s revelation is the kick-in-the-butt that lazy and apathetic LGBT orgs have needed. They’re only representing a slim portion of our community, and they need to get in shape.


I’m so tired of prominent ‘activists’ and organisations demanding that only ‘appropriate’ people be visibly LGBT. Where appropriate means binary-identified, employed, middle class, healthy, white and normative. Given that people most in need of aid are those that are on the margins- poor, sick, homeless, etc, this is effectively collaborating with oppressors to silence them. Sylvia Rivera, one of those who kicked off the Stonewall riot, would have caused this writer to wring her hands in despair. Surely a sometimes homeless sex worker could only be a terrible role model, right? Never mind that she started the modern LGBT rights movement.

Our lives are messy and complex and sometimes we’re heroes and sometimes we’re criminals, but we all deserve human rights by nature of being human. Our self-proclaimed leaders cannot demand that all non-saints stay in the closet. And frankly, we can do without those who would have it that way. I’m much prouder to have Manning as one of ours than I am any assimilationist.


Well, the same could have been said of gay people until last year. Someone habouring a secret, something which makes him or her blackmail-able, something that means he or she has to hide a large part of his/her life from their colleagues and friends? Something that means they have to lie? Not a good person to have top secret security clearance. Luckily we go over this misconception, even if it took at least a decade or two longer than it should have.


While it’s not true for all trans people, there are many who seek out the extremes of existence within their assigned gender. For trans women this often means joining the military, getting married and having children, or doing some other “macho” thing to try and silence their internal struggles. For trans men, it may be getting married, becoming pregnant, or something else considered very feminine. It may be a poor choice at times, but, certainly it’s understandable.

Whether or not that should disqualify you from a security clearance, though, I think that’s just more a question of one’s stability and the decisions they make as a whole. Trying to escape or silence painful feelings doesn’t necessarily mean somebody is unstable or unfit to handle classified information. That’s my opinion, anyway.

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We’re still struggling with the idea that everyone isn’t going to reach their full potential or that everyone doesn’t have the same potential. Everyone with autism is not Temple Grandin, every kid with dyslexia isn’t fictional demigod Percy Jackson, every slacker that refuses to do his homework isn’t Harry Potter, every high school dropout isn’t Einstein (he didn’t drop out).

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I don’t think it’s a matter of a prominent trans person being a role model. I think it’s a matter of having to discuss the complexity that is gender and one’s gender identity along with a now prominent trans person being responsible for the largest classified data leak in US history. Sensible people can separate the two with no problem, but the community isn’t working to secure respect and acceptance from sensible people, but from those who would discount an entire community simply because one person did one thing they find objectionable. Anyway, in reading Andrea James’ post, I didn’t get that she was unhappy that Chelsea doesn’t “conform”. Rather, I think it’s that she’s concerned about how Chelsea’s actions with regard to the information leaks will reflect upon the entire trans community. Beyond that I didn’t see anything in the post but acceptance and understanding for the struggles Chelsea faces and how similar she is to so many others.

I dunno…my inner cynic says that Manning threw this one out there with the sole purpose of staying in the news, and to keep any potential appeals in the press, so that he isn’t forgotten while rotting in jail. A poster boy/girl/etc for trans issues s/he ain’t.

Except all of this was already known three years ago, just that she’s more formally proceeding with transition following the conclusion of her trial.


My inner cynic gets in the way of rational discussion too.


Yeah, but if if this old news, why the PR now? I don’t think there’s anything wrong in questioning the timing of the “new finding” of this info.

She publicly announced her intention to transition and asked that people respect her gender identity and name. Why the timing? Because her trial is over. It didn’t make sense to publicly transition in the midst of such a huge legal battle.


You just heard about it != it just started existing


Of course, for a large amount of people who are LGBT, like a large amount of people anywhere (and LGBT people are still fundamentally people - no better, no worse), the only thing that matters is that “they get theirs”. No one particularly wants to dismantle the idea of “in groups” and “out groups”, “normal acceptable behaviour” and “deviant unacceptable behaviour”.

They just want to personally be a member of the in group, and for their behaviour to be accepted as “normal” and “acceptable”, and if they’ve got to disassociate themselves from their unpopular “allies” to do it, well, that’s a sacrifice they are willing to make. It’s like high school writ large. Minorities within minorities really tend to get the short end of the stick - it’s the dominance hierarchy at work.

The end result though, is that you get situations like this, where groups turn upon members that make them look bad - and the worse part is, it’s completely understandable, because the population at large demands it.


Well, jeez, I guess it’s now illegal to ascribe any ulterior motives to anyone’s actions if they claim to be part of a socially oppressed minority. Nope, absolutely no way that Manning could be re-surfacing this info on himself in order to garner public sympathy and keep his name out there, nosiree, and it’s EVIL and BAD to even suspect otherwise.

It’s OK, though, I have my TPBS (Thought Police Benevolent Society) sticker and wallet badge for 2013, that should be good for a pass this time, right?

"himself?? really? Really?!


did you reallllly just type “he”?!