This is Manning’s full statement to the public:
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
This is not the first time that Manning has these kinds of thought. Here is, according to the BBC, a photo of him he sent to a supervisor in 2010.
In this context, I think that there are a few common sense principles which I want to list here.
First, none of that has any bearing on the “Brandly Manning case” as such. Of course, his gender identity problems might have contributed to his choice to speak up against the violence and lies which he saw being perpetrated, his defense lawyer actually made that point, but there is no way to ascertain whether that is the case or not. Nor does it really matter.
Second, whatever one may think of cause(s) of Manning’s gender identity problems, this is first and foremost Manning’s private matter and none of our business. Since he made that letter public though, it is legitimate to discuss it.
Third, while I would definitely comply with his request to address him as ‘Chelsea’ and use the feminine pronoun in any direct contact with him, I would do so simply as a sign of courtesy based on the principle that I think that people should be called whatever they want, just as I would address a Papist bishop by “Your Excellency” or a judge by “Your Honor”. This does not imply however that I actually hold these gentlemen as being particularly excellent or honorable. Thus in speaking about Manning, I will still continue to use the male pronoun and, therefore, his original name of Bradley. What I would not do is recognize the fiction that he has somehow turned into a woman or that he always has been a woman in a men’s body. That is a load of crap which I am under no obligation to accept: wanting to be a woman and being a woman are two very different concepts, unless one believes in magical thinking.
Lastly, I think that Manning deserves our full support regardless of any personal issues he might have. I particularly like the idea of the petition to give him the Nobel Peace Prize even though I am quite sure that this will never happen. The bottom line is this: Manning did us all a huge favor and he is paying a terrifying price for it, and we all owe him a huge debt of gratitude. Heroes are not called heroes because they are flawless, they are heroes because of a heroic action they took at one specific moment in their lives. By any reasonable standard Manning is a hero and a person who should never be forgotten.
For the foreseeable future, Manning will live in two jails: one provided to him by Uncle Sam, and the other as a consequence of his gender identity issues and I would argue that, knowing the uncivilized and ugly nature of US jails, the latter might be worse than the former. What is certain is that he would be far more comfortable and safe in a female detention facility than in a male one and I hope that there will be a public opinion push to at least grant him his wish (no, that would not ‘make’ him into a female, but what harm could a ‘male’ like Manning do to this female co-prisoners? None, of course).
It will be interesting to see how the homo lobby will handle this one. If they have any sense of fairness at all, they should throw their full support behind Manning’s desire to be recognized as a woman. So maybe, just maybe, this will be the one instance where the existence of a homo lobby could serve a higher good. That would be very nice indeed!