Self-proclaimed supporters of Chelsea Manning continue to use the whistleblower's assigned name and gender in various capacities despite the enduring gender-based violence Chelsea was facing and had already suffered for so long.
“I wouldn’t mind going to prison for the rest of my life, or being executed so much, if it wasn’t for the possibility of having pictures of me… plastered all over the world press… as [a] boy…”
Many of those self-proclaimed supporters had surely read the above statement from Chelsea and coldly dismissed it as a separate, even divisive issue. Shouting down trans women and their allies, they continue to find every excuse possible to keep calling Chelsea a man. The amount of effort put into defending this disrespectful and dehumanizing behavior forces us to consider who Chelsea's real supporters are. Somehow, it's easy for these people to call themselves supporters of someone while participating in the very behaviors that reinforce her greatest fears and continued abuse.
One particularly underhanded tactic has been to make broad accusations that those defending Chelsea's identity are using her to further their own trans agenda. They claim that being trans is a non-issue distracting from the real issues: as if state oppression, war, and militarism were so easily separated from—and not interwoven with—heteronormativity, white supremacy, and other forms of oppression that all support each other. Any half-decent social justice activist knows that nothing is more powerful than being able to form coalitions around intersectional issues, nor is there anything more detrimental than trying to cover them up.
Following the August 22 announcement from Chelsea's attorney, the Pvt. Manning Support Network wouldn't even use her name in their own for their rebranding. In the majority of their website they opted to start use 'Pvt.' as they could have done all along, and they continued to use the name 'Bradley' in their web domain. They even bought chelseamanning.org to ensure nobody else could use it. The complete lack of trans women being heard shows just how far the popular movement demanding justice for Chelsea has pushed them out of the conversation. It's an exhausting and painful conversation for trans women to have, and everyone else needs to step down and listen.
The fact that Chelsea Manning is trans matters, and it matters for one simple reason. She's not just a symbol; she is a person. It matters when she is subjected to humiliation and torture based on her trans identity. It matters when supporters treat being gay and being trans as interchangeable. It matters when the press spends enough time talking about "gender identity disorder" to distract from the substance of Chelsea's action, and when the organizations that claim to support her allow that to happen. It matters when lawyers decide to use trans identity as a defense, despite how it may destroy the credibility of other trans individuals in various walks of life. And finally, it matters because when all of these issues are swept under the rug, it reveals the prevalence of the unchecked cissexism that is so deeply intertwined with everything that has happened.
Now, who is it that's been taking advantage of Chelsea to further their own agenda?
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