In a surprising development, convicted leaker Bradley Manning has announced via his attorney that he will undergo hormone therapy and will live as a woman.
Subject: The Next Stage of My Life
I want to thank everybody who has supported me over the last three years. Throughout this long ordeal, your letters of support and encouragement have helped keep me strong. I am forever indebted to those who wrote to me, made a donation to my defense fund, or came to watch a portion of the trial. I would especially like to thank Courage to Resist and the Bradley Manning Support Network for their tireless efforts in raising awareness for my case and providing for my legal representation.
As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility). I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back.
Chelsea E. Manning
Now that he – Manning asked to be referred to as “she” in the future – she has acknowledged being transgender, it is no longer clear if Manning is gay.
It’s a bit complicated, but being gay means you are attracted primarily to the same-sex. If Manning was gay because he, a man, was attracted to other men, and he now says she is a woman, then she is a woman attracted to men. So while she is trans, she is no longer gay.
Manning, who was just sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking nearly one million pages of classified Pentagon documents about the Iraq war, will certainly bring much-needed attention to the transgender issue. In comparison to gays and lesbians, transgender people have been much less visible over the past few decades, which, among other reasons, has made forward movement on their issues slower than that of gay rights.
So, to that degree, Manning’s news will certainly lead to more discussion of, and education on, trans issues.
But the unknown is whether trans rights are being linked to a hero or a traitor.
While many gay people embraced Bradley Manning as a “gay” hero, many others saw Manning as little more than a confused traitor who happened to, embarrassingly, be gay. The same conundrum now confronts the trans community. Do they have a hero or an embarrassment?
Either way, the trans community is getting some much-needed public discussion. Let’s hope it’s the right discussion.
UPDATE: The Army says it won’t pay Manning’s medical costs related to gender reassignment. It’s still against the rules to be trans in the military:
On Bradley Manning, US Army says it does not provide hormone therapy, sex-reassignment surgery for gender identity disorder – @NBCNews
— Breaking News (@BreakingNews) August 22, 2013
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) August 22, 2013