This Bradley/Chelsea Manning business is very strange indeed.
I have nothing against transgender people. Nothing at all. Each to their own, and as I understand it, being trans-gender must be a very traumatic mode of being, and widespread bigotry on the subject obviously doesn’t make their lives any easier.
But.. but. Something in this Bradley Manning case just doesn’t add up. It all seems like very convenient timing.
Since I had the audacity to say so on Twitter, a host of people who live in a trans-bubble and apparently can’t see any further than that have popped up to scream ‘BIGOT’ (or veiled variants of same) at me.
I don’t care really. I know I’m not a bigot. I may not know much about transgender issues, and if that means I’m ignorant, I can live with that. We can’t all know much about everything.
I’m being told now that Manning’s gender orientation has been ‘common knowledge’ for years. This is an application of the term ‘common knowledge’ that I admit I was hitherto unaware of. One where it’s become common knowledge today that is has been common knowledge for years. Thus retrospectively making it common knowledge.
Maybe it WAS common knowledge in the LGBT community – or just in the trans community. If so it can hardly count as common knowledge, given what a small proportion of society is made up of LGBT – and particularly Trans – people.
But let’s suppose for a moment that – putting aside this novel incident of ‘common knowledge’ – Manning did know for years that s/he was transgendered. Fine. All I’m saying is that it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever to me that s/he would choose a career in the US military. It makes no sense to me that s/he chose to jeopardise his/her freedom by leaking documents that were bound to end in tears for him/her. It seems suspiciously convenient to me that s/he would choose this moment to express this need to live as a woman, when s/he’s about to embark upon a 35 year prison sentence.
In my mind it just doesn’t add up. It stinks. I call bullshit. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. I can live with that, and I’ll learn from it.
@MisanthropeGirl made some good and enlightening points on Twitter, and so did @Untwining.
Meanwhile others accused me of ‘invalidating her identity’, or just shouted BIGOT, and claimed I was impugning the rights and feelings of all transgender people.
The former are welcome to debate with me and correct my misapprehensions. I’m open to this. The latter – those wishing to police opinions – can go fuck themselves, frankly.
By the way, my opinion on the way Manning has been treated while incarcerated by the US government so far is that it is scandalous, horrific and utterly inhuman. While I think Manning did a good thing by releasing the damning documentation that s/he did, honestly… What the actual fuck did s/he think would happen?
UPDATE: Well, thanks to @Untwining, I’ve had the chance to do more reading about the Manning matter.
The timeline of @JackOfKent (David Allen Green) provided me with a degree of enlightenment, as did that of @Xeni. I was lead to this article in The Atlantic.
Said article specifically bears out something @MisanthropeGirl said to me.
Actually, you’ll find a number of transgender people in the forces. They hope it’ll ‘cure’ said feelings.
Chiming with this, a Manning quote, from an email to his then commanding officer in which he confessed (if that’s the right word) that he is transgender:
This is my problem. I’ve had signs of it for a very long time. It’s caused problems within my family. I thought a career in the military would get rid of it.
So, I’ll gladly admit that I was wrong (or at least unduly sceptical) about a few things, and I owe thanks to Clarissa and Lisa for engaging with me and (to use a clangingly inappropriate phrase) putting me straight.
On reflection, Manning’s situation owes a great deal to the way the US military is run, the way US society is structured and the way people who do not conform to gender and sexual norms are treated. I don’t think for one moment these are exclusively American problems, mind you. I think that it’s a tragic example of what happens when people who aren’t prepared to understand and accept difference are able to band together and apply societal pressure to ‘make it all go away’.
Manning and people like him/her are forced into a societal pigeonhole that they just cannot fit into, in the hope that they can find peace in conformity.
This is why I hate conformism, and why I’m glad that I’m able to modify my opinion freely when new information becomes available to me.
I still think the ‘common knowledge’ argument can only possibly be used by those living in a bubble of the LGBT world or obsessive and serial followers of the personal aspects of the Manning case, and therefore it’s specious.
I don’t call bullshit on Manning any more. I call bullshit on society and conformism.