Chelsea Manning: Trans Acceptance

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One interesting way to see how far we’ve come with trans acceptance is to look at Wikipedia. The Wikipedia page for the famous WikiLeaks scandal is listed as Chelsea Manning, as opposed to Bradley Manning. Chelsea Manning, of course, was “Bradley” when she was in the US Army. During this time she was under incredible stress because she was being forced to suppress her sexuality and gender under the Army’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Manning told her roommate at the time that she was attracted to men, and his response was to ask her never to speak with him again. Not exactly a comfortable domestic situation there in the bunk house. Anyhow, manning eventually released hundreds of thousands of secret documents onto the internet because she was tired of the lies and war mongering being perpetuated by her government.

In the years before the leak, she chose to begin transitioning to be a woman. The more she reached out to the Army, and the more they sent her to councillors to talk, the more she suffered backlash, and negativity. They locked her into windowless bunkers to work, and tried to make her labors as dull and unhappy as possible. It is as though they wanted to bury her deep into the physical subconscious of the military, like a bright button in the back of a shoebox, somewhere down in the musty basement.

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Since manning hit the news hard, response has been divided among news sources as to whether they should be reporting on the activities of a man or a woman. Many conservative sources, obviously, prefer to stick with “Bradley” and suggest that gender transition is a form of derangement. Many other sources use “Chelsea” and assume that we are talking about a woman.

The Wikipedia article is interesting in that it acknowledges that Manning was indeed living as a male, once, but that now Manning is unequivocally a woman. In spite of this, the headline picture is still of Manning, as a man, in a somewhat smart looking military uniform. Nevertheless, Manning is referred to as “she” throughout the article.

We are at crossroads here. Wikipedia is mainstream enough that its gestures toward trans acceptance are symbolic of a larger groundswell of acceptance in our society. There is no indication on the part of the authors that this is a sign of any sort of mental instability on the part of Manning. It is merely a part of her fascinating life story. I don’t think we would have been able to read an article with this much complex expression and understanding of gender issues a decade ago. Back then, transition was more of a joke than a reality. Slowly, but surely, times are changing.

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