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August 23, 2013 9:36 AM   Subscribe

In a publicly issued statement on August 22, Chelsea Manning announced her status as a woman as well as intent to undergo gender transition

, and requested a shift to her preferred name and feminine pronouns, which most media outlets (including the original AP report) have ignored. Manning faces up to 35 years in Kansas' Fort Leavenworth military prison, which refuses to provide transgender care, a position not uncommon in US prisons. Despite the controversial nature of her actions, the high profile nature of Manning's case and present situation have opened the door to discussing failures of US healthcare to provide for transgender patients, both in prison and the general population [PDF; source].

Bonus! Trans 101: Let's Talk About Sexuality & Gender [PDF]
15 Things to Know About Being Transgender
Ohio State's Trans 101 Primer & Vocabulary
posted by byanyothername (241 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
From NPR: Chelsea Manning: Testing The Military On Transgender Issues

And from yesterday: Bradley Manning: 'I Am A Female,' Call Me Chelsea. The update at the end of the article about reference style provides some additional notes on the editorial policies being followed at NPR and elsewhere.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:41 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow, what a remarkable complication of this whole affair. As complicated as it was, this adds another twelve dimensions.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:44 AM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Quoting a friend of mine who posted about this on fb: If Chelsea Manning's story spurs investigations of the problems that incarcerated transgendered people face and transphobia in general, that would be FANTASTIC. However, that's not what I'm seeing today. Instead, we get a lot of hand-wringing over pronouns.

Yeah. That.
posted by rtha at 9:45 AM on August 23, 2013 [18 favorites]


Via ‏@ChaseMit (Chase Mitchell):

A gay transgendered person who leaks U.S. military secrets -- Bradley Manning is like the final boss in a Republican videogame.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:50 AM on August 23, 2013 [97 favorites]


Manning has been up-front about this for literally years. The only new news is the specific name she chose. At least getting it into the headlines gives us an easy way to identify assholes.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:51 AM on August 23, 2013 [22 favorites]


Yeah. That.

If the hand-wringing over pronouns battle gets won, then the other stuff may go down more easily. Once you have to acknowledge that someone is a different gender than the one to which they were assigned, suddenly a lot of other treatment becomes less tenable.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:51 AM on August 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


The real treat in all this is watching various mouthpieces of the Russian apparat twist into ornate shapes as they try to reconcile their anti-Americanism with their homophobia.
posted by Behemoth at 9:53 AM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's a shame that she wasn't able to start treatment before incarceration. "The policy of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons is to provide hormones at the level that was maintained prior to incarceration. Specifically, the policy provides:
“It is the policy of the Bureau of Prisons to maintain the transsexual inmate at the level of change existing upon admission to the Bureau. Should responsible medical staff determine that either progressive or regressive treatment changes are indicated, these changes must be approved by the [Bureau of Prisons] Medical Director prior to implementation. The use of hormones to maintain secondary sexual characteristics may be continued at approximately the same levels as prior to incarceration, but such use must be approved by the Medical Director.”
posted by stoneweaver at 9:54 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Free Chelsea.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 9:54 AM on August 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


Callous Conservative Response to Chelsea Manning News Could Be Just the Beginning
[Erick] Erickson was by no means the lone conservative media personality to respond so nastily to the news. (See other examples here, here, here, here, and here). But he was the person to most embrace the Haterade. Erickson was heavily criticized earlier this year for basically saying the idea of a male breadwinner is science, so this stuff is relatively toned down by comparison.

What’s interesting here, though, is that as Americans become more and more tolerant of the idea of LGBT equality, including marriage equality, transgender people are starting to become one of the last “safer” targets for right-wing vilification. You can see this in California, where conservatives are gearing up to try to repeal a recently passed law that recognizes transgender students in public schools and allows them to choose the bathrooms and locker rooms that they identify with. Even in deep-blue California, 46 percent of the state’s residents opposed the law to 43 percent who supported it in a recent poll. If the right-wing groups that are trying to repeal the law get their voter measure on the ballot for next year’s elections, expect that the California transgender referendum could become the new national culture war issue du jour in 2014.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:56 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thanks for posting this. I've been wanting to say this out loud since yesterday:

Chelsea Manning is an amazingly brave woman, and she deserves all the hugs in the world. The fact that she suffered inhumane conditions for as long as she did -- and still does -- and yet remains true to herself? STRONG.

The only evidence I saw of Manning's transgender status before now was from the chat logs with Adrian Lamo and the photo that was made public at the sentencing hearing. And that's not the same as a decision to come out and publicly say who you are and demand respect. STRONG.

I was going to post this sentiment on Twitter, but then I remembered my Twitter feed posts to FaceBook and I really don't want to see any bigotry from that quarter.
posted by brina at 9:56 AM on August 23, 2013 [11 favorites]


[Comment deleted. There is a thread specifically about Manning's sentencing from two days ago if you feel a profound need to put your shoulder to that particular wheel. Please let's not run in the same circles in here as well.]
posted by cortex at 9:57 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


and subjects themselves to the surely significant harassment and difficulties that will surely follow

She's been sentenced to 35 years in a military prison. Harassment and difficulties would seem to be an unavoidable part of her bleak future. Imagine the mental stress she has been under.

I quess my more precise question (to replace the clumsy one which was deleted, sorry about that) is did this mental stress she is facing push her over an edge where she would not otherwise have gone? Is this some traumatic response?
posted by three blind mice at 9:57 AM on August 23, 2013


Manning has been up-front about this for literally years.

I'd been unaware. I thought Manning was out as a gay male, not transgender. So it does surprise me some.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:59 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


As a person who dedicates a large portion of his life trying to be funny I find the Manning jokes write themselves. The only problem is they aren't funny.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:59 AM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Aaaaand that is where I was thinking this conversation would go, tbm : Did all the psychological torture and abuse suffered during incarceration lead up to this, this push "over the edge" as you said?

I know, know, the picture from 2010 in the wig, okay. What a fascinating twist. I knew he "may" be gay, but I can't imagine what the hate machine is going to do with that wig picture.

I feel sorry for her -- when I think about progressive, forward looking embraces and treatment for gender issues .. can't say I look at military prisons.
posted by cavalier at 10:01 AM on August 23, 2013


Said more succinctly, in all honesty, what are the chances of a military prisoner in a mid west military prison (all male, naturally), getting the psychological/physiological support they need for a gender change? Fuck all?
posted by cavalier at 10:03 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Aaaaand that is where I was thinking this conversation would go, tbm

That's not fair 2N2222. I am under the assumption that yes, she was subjected to all sorts of psychological torture and abuse during incarceration and that now she's looking at 35 more years of it. Any human being would find this intolerably stressful. The timing of the announcement would suggest to me that her decision to make such an announcement was made under a period of terrible stress.

I'm sorry for the clumsy way I've approached this.
posted by three blind mice at 10:10 AM on August 23, 2013


I'd been unaware. I thought Manning was out as a gay male, not transgender. So it does surprise me some.

I don't think the 'mainstream' press noticed*, but it got reported in the 'gay' media ages back.

*I don't think not noticing is quite right, as they presumably have more access to sources than queer blogs, but they apparently chose to ignore it..
posted by hoyland at 10:11 AM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Callous Conservative Response to Chelsea Manning News Could Be Just the Beginning

Could be? They're going to have a decades long hatefest about THEM being a threat to national security. Seriously, it's going to be unbelievable, the crap they'll say and write.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:11 AM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Chelsea Manning's story spurs investigations of the problems that incarcerated transgendered people face

I don't know much about military prisons. Is the experience of one remotely similar to federal prisons and state penitentiaries?
posted by spaltavian at 10:15 AM on August 23, 2013


Chelsea Manning is such a fucking hero.
posted by latkes at 10:16 AM on August 23, 2013 [11 favorites]


The previously released statement linked in the other thread carries even more weight now.
I understand that my actions violated the law, and I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intention to hurt anyone. I only wanted to help people. When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.

If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.
What a hero(ine).
posted by Acey at 10:19 AM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


That callous response isn't coming only from conservatives. Kristin Beck, the former Seal Team 6 member who has since come out as trans, is really, really, really angry at Manning (and refuses to take Manning's announcement seriously). Beck ends up calling Manning "a tarnish on Dr. King's dream," and accusing Manning of using this announcement as a plea against guilt... or something, it's hard to tell, really.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:19 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


From Going To Maine's link> NPR, like other news outlets, is at this point continuing to refer to the soldier as "Bradley Manning" on first reference. Manning's name has not been legally changed.

Oh please, "legal name" is a sophomoric excuse. Media outlets don't enforce any such style issue for Secretary of Defense Charles Timothy "Chuck" Hagel.
posted by desuetude at 10:24 AM on August 23, 2013 [23 favorites]


Sigh. I really don't think that any good is going to come of the widespread media coverage that this has received.

It was a clever trick to turn the story to be about Manning/Assange/Snowden, rather than the occasionally-troubling workings of the massive Military-Industrial complex that they uncovered.
posted by schmod at 10:24 AM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't know much about military prisons. Is the experience of one remotely similar to federal prisons and state penitentiaries?

Can't speak to Leavenworth, because I've never been there. The one military prison I am very familiar with was clean, safe, and organized. It was also small and sailors who were sentenced to long terms were shipped out to Miramar or Leavenworth. There was a pervasive element of military discipline in the brig (by discipline I mean formal adherence to rules, not punishment). It was kind of like being back in bootcamp for the inmates, but of course worse, because they were locked in and had less freedom.

This is really going to be a tough road to hoe for Manning, as I can't imagine military authories being too interested in her gender identity. Even if the CO of the prison were, it is one of those "too hard to deal with" issues in the military that almost never gets attention under the best of circumstances, and who is going to go to bat for someone convicted of giving away security information?
posted by MoonOrb at 10:26 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sigh. I really don't think that any good is going to come of the widespread media coverage that this has received.

Chelsea Manning will enjoy being the queen bee of her prison block, some unspeakable piece of filth wrote.

Kristin Beck, the former Seal Team 6 member who has since come out as trans, is really, really, really angry at Manning

Killers for hire really don't have the moral high ground here.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:26 AM on August 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


late afternoon dreaming hotel: "Kristin Beck, the former Seal Team 6 member who has since come out as trans, is really, really, really angry at Manning (and refuses to take Manning's announcement seriously)."

Her argument is that Manning is only changing his name to Chelsea and demanding to be addressed as "she" now because of a belief that this will bring special treatment in incarceration.

I think Manning's timing is... interesting.
posted by gertzedek at 10:27 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


MartinWisse: "Killers for hire really don't have the moral high ground here."

What a shitty thing to say. Seriously.
posted by gertzedek at 10:28 AM on August 23, 2013 [24 favorites]


Bizarre, certainly. What would it have done during the case? What would it have done leading up to it? I tend to agree with Kirstin's assessment -- why introduce this now, if only to try to get different treatment?
posted by cavalier at 10:29 AM on August 23, 2013


Killers for hire really don't have the moral high ground here.

Soldiers are not killers for hire. Soldiers who are accountable to civilian leadership and who abide by the sort of code of ethics enshrined in the Geneva conventions are an essential element of liberal democracy.

What's wrong with Beck's argument is that it's highly implausible that Manning made this statement in hope of being treated better.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:32 AM on August 23, 2013 [19 favorites]


I think the timing is more a matter of not wanting to change name and/or public gender identity mid-trial.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:33 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


>or something, it's hard to tell, really.

Bit of a rant, granted, but it seems pretty clear in intention. He strongly disapproves of Manning having released documents and does not want that act to sully the reputations of other more law abiding transgenders.
posted by IndigoJones at 10:33 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think Manning's timing is... interesting.

Why?

Until very recently, Manning couldn't be in the military and be out as gay. Currently, you cannot be in the military and out as trans.

Manning joined when she was what, 19? At what point should she have said HEY EVERYBODY, I'M GAY. ALSO, TRANS! that would be acceptable and not suspicious to you?
posted by rtha at 10:34 AM on August 23, 2013 [17 favorites]


I don't know much about military prisons. Is the experience of one remotely similar to federal prisons and state penitentiaries?

Not really, no. First, it's mostly sex offenders. Second, everyone in it has at least some military discipline -- there aren't really the hardened criminals we think of when we think of "prison" in the modern U.S. zeitgeist. Per the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks' Wikipedia page, there have been four "incidents" in the last century. It's not a minimum-security country club, but it isn't Oz.
posted by Etrigan at 10:36 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


rtha: "Manning joined when she was what, 19? At what point should she have said HEY EVERYBODY, I'M GAY. ALSO, TRANS! that would be acceptable and not suspicious to you?"

I'm sure there were many opportunities. Manning could have requested that to the military court during the trial, for example.
posted by gertzedek at 10:37 AM on August 23, 2013


There's a lot of otherwise reasonable (socially liberal, queer-friendly, etc) people who get maddeningly rules-lawyery around transitioning trans folk. "Well, if you passed I would use the right pronouns, but since you don't I won't." "Well, if it was your legal name I would use it, but since it isn't I won't." "Well, once you've 'fully transitioned'* I'll recognize you as a woman, but in the meantime this doesn't count."

I think that's part of what's driving this flap. Recently, the celebrities or semi-celebrities who have transitioned have all had the resources to get a new birth certificate, hormone treatment, all the surgery they might want, and so on. But Manning hasn't gotten any of that, pretty clearly won't get any of it in prison, and that seems to be bringing a lot of scorn and skepticism down on her. I've actually heard people arguing that because she obviously won't have access to hormones in prison, this is all a moot point and we can be confident that she won't be a 'real woman' any time soon. It's a bizarre point of view but it's depressingly common.

*...where 'fully transitioned' is usually defined in terms of genital surgery, as if orchiectomy and vaginoplasty were sacraments that conferred true womanhood. But honestly any other definition is just as bad in this context: "If you don't do your gender like this, you don't get to have it at all" is a problematic position no matter what.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 10:38 AM on August 23, 2013 [43 favorites]


Now there are two. There are two _______.: "There's a lot of otherwise reasonable (socially liberal, queer-friendly, etc) people who get maddeningly rules-lawyery around transitioning trans folk. "

That of course depends of who's the trans person we're talking about. Socially liberal, queer-friendly people are very accommodating in general and have changed names and pronouns immediately upon request from other figures who started transitioning. Now whether these same people are willing to accommodate the requests of Bradley Manning, that's another story. It requires a modicum of sympathy to make the effort.
posted by gertzedek at 10:43 AM on August 23, 2013


Manning could have requested that to the military court during the trial, for example.

This would have meant an automatic dishonorable discharge.

Until yesterday, Manning hadn't been dishonorably discharged, and there was still technically a chance she wouldn't be — a very slim chance in practice, but a chance nonetheless. She came out as soon as she had nothing to lose by coming out. That seems perfectly reasonable to me.

(Besides: if she had come out during the trial, I have no doubt that she'd be facing vilification for that — if not from you than from others complaining that she was just doing it to distract people, confuse the issue, attract sympathy or whatever. There is never really a perfect time to come out. Your timing and your manner of making the announcement are always subject to criticism: "If you really meant it, you'd have said this sooner / later / louder / quieter / differently.")
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 10:44 AM on August 23, 2013 [29 favorites]


There's a good segment in This Way Out this week about the history of Manning and the long history she has had with being trans and working through that with a therapist. (Sorry, there's no transcript, and I'm trying to remember from hearing it this morning.) BE ADVISED: This was recorded before Manning came out publicly. This Way Out has an excellent track record of respecting people's wishes in regards to pronouns and various stages of "outness" so this story still uses masculine pronouns. It's still a very good segment with excellent background information.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:44 AM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Soldiers are not killers for hire. Soldiers who are accountable to civilian leadership and who abide by the sort of code of ethics enshrined in the Geneva conventions are an essential element of liberal democracy.

Heh...
posted by 2N2222 at 10:45 AM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


MartinWisse: Kristin Beck, the former Seal Team 6 member who has since come out as trans, is really, really, really angry at Manning

Killers for hire really don't have the moral high ground here.


What the hell is that supposed to mean? Do you consider all soldiers "killers for hire"? Just American soldiers? Do you think individual soldiers are responsible for national military policy?
posted by spaltavian at 10:51 AM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Socially liberal, queer-friendly people are very accommodating in general and have changed names and pronouns immediately upon request from other figures who started transitioning.

Well, (1) this isn't as clear-cut as you think. I know a lot of socially liberal queer-friendly people who have pulled this rules-lawyery shit on people like Chaz Bono or Lana Wachowski, or on non-celebrity mutual friends of ours who were just starting transition. And (2) many public figures who transition make a point of holding the announcement until they've already at least "somewhat passable" (ugh), on hormones, etc. I suspect we're hearing more rules-lawyering now because Manning hasn't had the chance to do that.

Now whether these same people are willing to accommodate the requests of Bradley Manning, that's another story. It requires a modicum of sympathy to make the effort.

I'm going to assume this was a really unfortunate brain fart and you meant to type "Chelsea." (It happens. Nothing to be ashamed of.) If you're trying to convey something nastier, you might as well just come out and say it.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 10:52 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


This would have meant an automatic dishonorable discharge.

Why do you say this? I think this assertion is incorrect.

On the larger point, now is as good a time as ever for her to publicly identify herself as female. Doing so prior to the trial, or during the trial, wouldn't have been any better (whatever "better" means).
posted by MoonOrb at 10:53 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think this is a case where she just snapped from stress. It makes sense to me.

Before sentencing, she was dependent on the mercy of the judge, whom we can at least guess would not be sympathetic to a gender change mid-trial, if at all. If you're facing a possible life sentence in prison, antagonizing the judge, even if you are completely within your rights, is a pretty bad idea. Now that the sentence has been passed, Chelsea is free to make this announcement without fear of that particular reprisal, though there will doubtless be many others in the coming decades.

I agree that she has a very tough row to hoe.
posted by double block and bleed at 10:59 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why do you say this? I think this assertion is incorrect.

I should have put some qualifiers on there. I was talking recently with a friend of mine with a military background, and that was the explanation she suggested for why Manning chose this particular moment. I figured she knew what she was talking about — but if not, I'd be happy to be corrected.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 11:01 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


This would have meant an automatic dishonorable discharge.

Not the case.
Most of SLDN’s transgender clients have been discharged honorably, though other than honorable or dishonorable discharges may be possible depending on the case (e.g., violations of conduct regulations). Discharged veterans seeking to upgrade their discharge characterization or to change their narrative reason for discharge may contact SLDN for assistance.
posted by Etrigan at 11:03 AM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


God, I was listening to Take Two on NPR this morning, and they actually called her a "he-she." It was pretty fucking vile, and not what I expect from NPR, even fluff NPR like Take Two.

We're going to have a lot of work ahead of us in California (Dispelling myths about the 1266 law we sponsored), and I do not relish the same kind of violent backlash that we saw after Prop. 8 passed. (This is yet another issue where we can win in the federal courts, but it's cheaper and more humane to do it all at once through the legislature).
posted by klangklangston at 11:06 AM on August 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


Soldiers are not killers for hire.

We can debate about that, but she was part of seal team 6, that murdered Osama Bin Laden in what was supposed to be an American ally state. I stand by my description.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:07 AM on August 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


(Got it. Thanks, Etrigan and MoonOrb, for setting me straight.)
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 11:07 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


What the hell is that supposed to mean? Do you consider all soldiers "killers for hire"? Just American soldiers? Do you think individual soldiers are responsible for national military policy?

Well, Seal Team 6 members, as Beck was, are specialized for carrying out some serious hurt on what we hope are bad guys.

The American military exists for one reason only: to implement American will by force anywhere on the globe, as government sees fit. If it means death and destruction, so be it. Look, soldiers aren't issued upon deployment a basket of daisies and a bag of apple seeds to strew in their path. People join the US military all the time with no intention of causing any harm to innocents. But doing so makes you a cog in a vast machine that sometimes does massive amounts of destruction both as collateral damage, and sometimes as part of tremendously bad judgment.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:09 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


(If you're looking for LGBT office approved snark, try: "A sign that Manning has come to terms with her gender? She doesn't want to be called Breanna anymore. Chelsea's at least presidential.")
posted by klangklangston at 11:11 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I should have put some qualifiers on there. I was talking recently with a friend of mine with a military background, and that was the explanation she suggested for why Manning chose this particular moment. I figured she knew what she was talking about — but if not, I'd be happy to be corrected.

No worries, I was just curious. Even when DADT was in effect, military members could not get dishonorable discharges or bad conduct discharges for this type of thing They could get something simillarly crappy, which is a type of discharge known as an "other than honorable" discharge. That kind of discharge isn't handed down by a court-martial, though, and it is not automatic. DD's and BCD's are punishments for actual crimes. Frankly, Manning was going to get a DD no matter what happened, just because of the nature of the crimes she was convicted of.

I'll end my little pedantic derail about the military justice/administrative separation process now!
posted by MoonOrb at 11:13 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Empowering, So Brave": Trans Activists Praise Chelsea Manning, Raise Fears over Prison Conditions
posted by homunculus at 11:14 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


The real treat in all this is watching various mouthpieces of the Russian apparat twist into ornate shapes as they try to reconcile their anti-Americanism with their homophobia.

I would enjoy a link to an example of this.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:18 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Me: Soldiers are not killers for hire.

MartinWisse: We can debate about that...


I'd like to but not here. We're derailing the thread. Martin, 2N2222, meMail me if you want to continue this.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:18 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Socially liberal, queer-friendly people are very accommodating in general [...] It requires a modicum of sympathy to make the effort.

Sometimes history composes a new verse of a Phil Ochs song on the fly.
posted by RogerB at 11:19 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh Jeebus, with the Chelsea Manning thinks she might get special treatment stuff...what planet are these idiots on that they think trans people, as a group, EVER get any special treatment ANYWHERE? No matter what type of prison she gets put in you can be damn sure they will make it extra-special-hellish for her, because she is trans, and because she is a whistle-blower.

Of all the current news that's given me cues to de-friend idiots I don't really know well on various social media, this stuff has been the most enlightening. Also considering de-friending some people IRL.
posted by Cookiebastard at 11:19 AM on August 23, 2013 [19 favorites]


Klang, that brings up something I've been wondering about a lot lately, and hopefully a trans* person in this thread can shine some light on it:

How does one go about choosing their name once they have decided to live as the gender that they identify as? What kind of factors go into a choice like that? I've seen a few different models (the opposite-gendered version of their birth name, the completely new name, and others) and was curious if there were some commonalities or trends, as much as there are commonalties and trends within a very personal choice such as ones name.
posted by daniel striped tiger at 11:22 AM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh please, "legal name" is a sophomoric excuse. Media outlets don't enforce any such style issue for Secretary of Defense Charles Timothy "Chuck" Hagel.

Or David Bowie, for that matter.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 11:29 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Most of the trans folks I know go with a swapped version of their birthname, or keep the name if it's gender neutral (e.g. Jesse). But I also have a genderqueer coworker who goes by Stegosaurus (or "Steggy") and that's been the most awesome name I've run across.
posted by klangklangston at 11:32 AM on August 23, 2013 [21 favorites]


Also, the repeal of DADT doesn't do anything for trans servicemembers, who are still considered mentally unfit for service.
posted by klangklangston at 11:33 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


But I also have a genderqueer coworker who goes by Stegosaurus (or "Steggy") and that's been the most awesome name I've run across.

Does he hang out with Mrs. Pterodactyl?
posted by Going To Maine at 11:34 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Does he hang out with Mrs. Pterodactyl?"

They use the neutral, singular "they," but they've shown a general pan-dinosaur affinity.
posted by klangklangston at 11:36 AM on August 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


[Seriously, go do the arglebargle parade about the wikileaks stuff somewhere else.]
posted by cortex at 11:37 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


All politics/courtroom/etc aside - Manning has been known for his entire life (and certainly the entire duration of his "media life") as Bradley Manning - a man. He was born with boy parts, boy hormones, etc. Just because he wants to be a woman and be called "Chelsea" doesn't automatically grant him that reality. Sure, once he goes through with it and has surgery, hormone treatment, legal name change, whatever else is involved - OK, then he can be she.

But until then, I don't think it's unreasonable for people in general and media outlets specifically to continue to refer to him as "Bradley" and "him."
posted by davidmsc at 11:40 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Bingo!
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 11:42 AM on August 23, 2013 [27 favorites]


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).

Something about that parenthetical makes me really sad.
posted by Apropos of Something at 11:42 AM on August 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


Oh, just don't. There was even all that trans* 101 stuff embedded in the FPP, too.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:44 AM on August 23, 2013 [21 favorites]


Manning has been known for his entire life (and certainly the entire duration of his "media life") as Bradley Manning - a man. He was born with boy parts, boy hormones, etc. Just because he wants to be a woman and be called "Chelsea" doesn't automatically grant him that reality.

What if she wanted to be known as "Brad"? Is that close enough for you? Then how about "B"? Still close enough? Then how about "Scooter"?

Let people be called what they want to be called, "davidmsc".
posted by Etrigan at 11:44 AM on August 23, 2013 [26 favorites]


(How does one go about choosing their name once they have decided to live as the gender that they identify as? What kind of factors go into a choice like that? I've seen a few different models (the opposite-gendered version of their birth name, the completely new name, and others) and was curious if there were some commonalities or trends, as much as there are commonalties and trends within a very personal choice such as ones name.

I don't know anyone who has used a gender-swapped version of their birth first name, although I do know someone who used a gender neutral version of their middle name. My social circles skew younger and weirder, and people tend to pick names that they feel express something about themselves or names that have a personal meaning. My social circle is one where people feel pretty free to rename themselves anyway (we always joke about people naming themselves things like "Wise Dolphin"). I'd say there's a tiny trend in slightly affected white person 19th-century names - a lot of Sebastians and Olivers and Isabets and so on. When I told people that if I ever transitioned [a thing I'm still on the fence about] I'd probably go by "Alan", they were all "oh why, that's so boring and stodgy".)

My thought was that Chelsea Manning decided that if she was going to be in prison for a long time and facing probably an eternity of harassment and petty violence anyway, it would be easier to survive emotionally if she could at least be out as trans instead of having to hide it. She does have the advantage of being famous - I doubt that will result in any favorable "special treatment", but as far as I can tell from being around various activist projects, trans people in prison who have people on the outside who will flood the prison with calls and make complaints to the legislature do a little bit better and are more likely to have some freedom to express their gender.

Even if she gets paroled early, that's a huge, giant, long slog for her support committee. Right now everyone is hopped up, writing letters, etc, but a lot of that will die down as time passes.

Of course, most people in prison don't have support committees or large groups of external advocates. I feel immensely sorry for Chelsea Manning and I know that she is being punished unjustly - I just don't want to forget the many people who are also imprisoned unjustly, face prison violence and have little outside help.
posted by Frowner at 11:45 AM on August 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


(Directed at davidmsc).
posted by MoonOrb at 11:45 AM on August 23, 2013


Sure, once he goes through with it and has surgery, hormone treatment, legal name change, whatever else is involved - OK, then he can be she.

If your given name is David but you introduce yourself to everyone as Dave, I'm actually going to call you Stephen until you perform the necessary deeds I deem necessary before I call you Dave. Then and only then do you have the right to call yourself something and have other people also call you that. Okay, Stephen?
posted by rtha at 11:46 AM on August 23, 2013 [24 favorites]


Something about that parenthetical makes me really sad.

That's actually sort of surprising, because if military prisons are run like state prisons i'd think the key thing would be the prisoner's ID number, not the name.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:46 AM on August 23, 2013


But until then, I don't think it's unreasonable for people in general and media outlets specifically to continue to refer to him as "Bradley" and "him."

How to talk about trans people:
* I am pretty sure you’re wrong, and that’s what matters: my opinion about it. When I refer to a trans woman as “he” or a trans man as “she,” I will anger and sadden and maybe frighten any trans people in my audience, but that’s nothing next to making sure people know what I think. Even though what I think is hardly original to me, or new to you, what matters is that you know it is my idea, which is mine, and I own it.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:48 AM on August 23, 2013 [11 favorites]


davidmsc: "All politics/courtroom/etc aside - Manning has been known for his entire life (and certainly the entire duration of his "media life") as Bradley Manning - a man. He was born with boy parts, boy hormones, etc. Just because he wants to be a woman and be called "Chelsea" doesn't automatically grant him that reality. Sure, once he goes through with it and has surgery, hormone treatment, legal name change, whatever else is involved - OK, then he can be she.

But until then, I don't think it's unreasonable for people in general and media outlets specifically to continue to refer to him as "Bradley" and "him."
"

IMPORTANT REMINDER

There will be people in this very thread who are trans but who don't satisfy some or all of your requirements. They will, perfectly reasonably, read your statements as applying to them as well as to Chelsea Manning.

In short: show some bloody respect. If you can't muster it for Chelsea Manning, then do it for our trans members and readers.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:50 AM on August 23, 2013 [74 favorites]


I am so pissed I got into a fight with someone who insinuated that the only reason Manning was going through this was stress from the ordeal, and when I pointed out that, no, this was a long time thing since even before the leak, then they were all like, well that should:


No - here:
Convenient timing. I think the kid is stressed out. He apologized profusely for doing the leak in the first place, so we can see that his head-space is already compromised. Military doctors aren't likely cut out to accurately identify GID and, really, a wig and some lipstick and some feminine traits don't make you a female. I'm a full supporter of transgender individuals and necessary transitions but this kid.. he's kinda losing it. When I watched that statement he made to the court, I knew it nothing good would come from him again. Those people broke him, the poor soul, and he's desperate for an outlet.

I don't know him personally but this is, of course, my opinion. Again, I'm all about trans-rights but this smacks of "freak out mode."
and then I pointed out the 2010 information about this (speculative though it may have been, it was pretty clear from context at the time of Llamo's transcripts what was meant).

I replied that it's disrespectful and she should be referred as she.

So then her reply to me was:
I will refer to manning in whatever way I see fit. Given that I work directly with the trans-community, I see no need to justify my referring to him as a male. He's a male and if he wants someone to pay for his transition, he should get a series of private donors. No self-respecting trans would send a photo of herself looking disheveled as an announcement to superiors. If she wants to be a "she," it's more than hormones and a wig. Get an external-psych to do an assessment, not military doctors who are trained to recognize anything not Standard as a debilitating issue. Soldier says he wants to be a woman and he's obv a life-long trans. It doesn't work that way. He's just a person, not an incredible human who's to be elevated to a pedestal. Shoot, my girl was right: call me Stewart Beldofilous and I want to scratch my crotch with a gun while holding a beer and don't you dare comment on my vagina because it'll soon be gone! *sarcasticpenguin*
I am like...

What. The. Fuck. With allies like you who the fuck needs enemies. My roomie pointed out that "working directly with the trans-community" could mean something like being a cop, which doesn't mean "ally" despite her protestations.

I got so apoplectic... It almost feels like a troll, but I think this person seriously is this bigoted, and if they really do think they're "pro-trans" they need a lot of work to understand the depths of the situation and their privilege/roll in the persecution that enables our fucking society to continue to oppress transgender individuals.

The other thing was "I work with directly with the trans-community" sounds an awfully lot, to me, like "I have a black friend."

*shudder*

posted by symbioid at 11:52 AM on August 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


[foot, I don't know what is up but you need to just walk away from this thread now.]
posted by cortex at 11:56 AM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


But until then, I don't think it's unreasonable for people in general and media outlets specifically to continue to refer to him as "Bradley" and "him.

I disagree. It reminds me of when journalists kept on referring to Muhammad Ali as Cassius Clay even though he had changed his name and publicized the choice. It is disrespectful to not call someone by their chosen name.
posted by banal evil at 11:57 AM on August 23, 2013 [14 favorites]


If you believe anyone would come out as a trans woman to get gentler, kinder treatment from the world at large, you are living on some bizarro backward land opposite day planet.
posted by latkes at 11:57 AM on August 23, 2013 [33 favorites]


latkes: "If you believe anyone would come out as a trans woman to get gentler, kinder treatment from the world at large, you are living on some bizarro backward land opposite day planet."

I've been trying to get the coordinates for the planet the people who say that sort of thing are living on, because I'd like to move there.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:58 AM on August 23, 2013 [16 favorites]


davidmsc: boy parts, boy hormones, etc

I submit that this is a standard you have never, ever, not even once actually tested before respecting a person's gender markers.

I more or less said this in the other thread, but there's at least as much reason to think that Manning has wanted to make this clear for the entire duration of her trial, but has been discouraged by legal counsel until the relevant decisions were made for fear of prejudice, as to think it's a stress response or some attempt to get lenient treatment (as if trans people in prison get more lenient treatment! I've seen estimates that place rates of sexual assault at many times that suffered by cis inmates).
posted by emmtee at 11:59 AM on August 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


I mean, there is an interesting challenge for newswriters here — how do you provide clarity and continuity when someone comes out or transitions midway through a news arc, without needing to put a boilerplate explanation of the whole situation in every story?

I suspect what we'll end up with is a convention like the old "née" for maiden names. "Chelsea Manning (once known as Bradley) announced that she...." — and readers will get used to it and be like "Oh, hey, I know what that indicates, good." And that's potentially still way problematic — especially if it gets carried over to non-news situations, things like human interest stories where tracking the subject's identity across multiple stories isn't a major issue and where people have a reasonable expectation of privacy about their pre-transition life. Still, it's the most respectful approach I can imagine that wouldn't require a complete overhaul of how we structure news articles and handle names in them, so it seems like pretty close to a best-case real-world scenario even if it isn't totally perfect.

But the answer isn't just "Refuse to acknowledge transition if the person transitioning made the mistake of getting famous first."

(And on the third or fourth or fifth hand, I've been very happy to see recently some news stories, on trans people who weren't in the public eye before they transitioned, in which the whole "original name"/"wallet name" issue gets sidestepped entirely. There was one interview recently, maybe on Autostraddle — I don't remember — where she was like "Yeah, just so your readers know, that was one of my conditions for doing this interview: we're not going to talk about my old name, because that's obnoxious and irrelevant." And I was like "fuck yeah"!)
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 12:00 PM on August 23, 2013 [11 favorites]


Rates of reported sexual assault among trans women housed in male prisons were actually found to be 13 times as high as in other inmates in a California prison study, NCTE report states.
posted by emmtee at 12:10 PM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


I just wrote and rewrote several comments trying to explain some [my] confusion that could arise from trying to be polite and considerate of people who are transitioning when referencing them in written word, specifically with regard to past tense issues and confusion that may arise from gender/name shifts, and the obliviousness of the general public/media on that front with respect to trans issues/etiquette....

...but I think Now there are two, There are two_____ covered it better than I could have. So thanks for that.

Anyway, trans-fites: I saw a few primers on past tense usage and how to reference name(s) via a google search or two but if there's a primer out there you like just link it and I'd likely read and try to internalize it's message. I didn't see it covered in the 101 links above, and the links I found via google were somewhat lacking/contradictory.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:20 PM on August 23, 2013


(How does one go about choosing their name once they have decided to live as the gender that they identify as? What kind of factors go into a choice like that? I've seen a few different models (the opposite-gendered version of their birth name, the completely new name, and others) and was curious if there were some commonalities or trends, as much as there are commonalties and trends within a very personal choice such as ones name.

I think the answer is that it's roughly the same as naming your kid, which maybe means there's no answer. Some people might prefer or think it practical to keep the same initials. Some people aim for a name roughly as common as their birth name for when they were born. Some people let their parents have a say or give weight to the name their parents would have used if they were assigned their gender at birth. A handful of names come in a pair, be they masculine/feminine forms or something like William and Mary. Some people had a name as a kid. Going through a couple names (even if used only by a handful of people) is pretty common, even though I think the media wants to hold that against Manning.

I've known a few people who have tested out names at Starbucks to see what 'fits' (as much as a name on a coffee cup fits), so I suppose that's a recurring theme.
posted by hoyland at 12:28 PM on August 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


"All politics/courtroom/etc aside - Manning has been known for his entire life (and certainly the entire duration of his "media life") as Bradley Manning - a man. He was born with boy parts, boy hormones, etc. Just because he wants to be a woman and be called "Chelsea" doesn't automatically grant him that reality. Sure, once he goes through with it and has surgery, hormone treatment, legal name change, whatever else is involved - OK, then he can be she.

But until then, I don't think it's unreasonable for people in general and media outlets specifically to continue to refer to him as "Bradley" and "him."
"

Trans people face an incredible climate of violence, and much of that is "justified" by a persistent resistance to respecting their very identity. You are playing a part in that. At best, that makes you ignorant. At worst, it makes you a hateful asshole.

Manning lives now as a woman, to the extent that she can within the constraining strictures of the U.S. military justice system. Calling her by the appropriate pronouns takes no breath away from you, and your beliefs about her gender are irrelevant to how she lives.

This is something incredibly basic, and I hope you get up to speed quickly.
posted by klangklangston at 12:30 PM on August 23, 2013 [24 favorites]


Going through a couple names (even if used only by a handful of people) is pretty common, even though I think the media wants to hold that against Manning.

Yes!
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 12:30 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mean, and I know I'm serial-commenting here, Manning literally stated in one of the chats with Lamo from the very beginning of all this that she was horrified at the prospect of being represented as male in the media, more afraid of that than of a death sentence. It's kind of amazing with that kind of primary source that people are desperate to find reasons why her coming-out is anything other than exactly what it looks like: setting the record straight now the decisions have been made and judicial/public prejudice is limited in its ability to do her further harm.

The horrible thing here is that she obviously knows how much more danger she's likely to be in, having come out - military prisons are their own thing to some extent, with much lower reported rates of assault etc, but that cuts both ways in terms of some civilian prisons having at least a degree of provision for trans inmates, whereas the number of out trans women in male military detention may well be close to zero and the regulations and training to support them at a similar level. She has to know this disclosure puts her at risk, and she can only be weighing that against the prospect of spending her entire sentence without treatment (even with the chance of that happening due to her disclosure as remote it is), and the pain being misrepresented in the media (obviously somewhat amplified in some quarters right now, but presumably all but the absolute shitrags will settle down in time) clearly causes her. And it is monstrously awful that these are two evils this woman has had to choose the lesser of.

One note, as stoneweaver pointed out way up the thread, the policy of US prisons is to maintain trans prisoners' hormone doses but not begin or alter treatment. Even when medication is actually provided (and there are stories out there from incarcerated women whose wasn't, of course), this is a cruel fucking policy because spending long enough on the high hormone doses and anti-androgens required in trans women who haven't had an orchiectomy or full reassignment surgery (neither of which prisons provide, of course) can lead to significant health problems.
posted by emmtee at 12:31 PM on August 23, 2013 [14 favorites]


I just got my name out of what was at the time my favourite book.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:31 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


nobody ever runs a full genetic workup and chromosome check before they decide it's appropriate to use a pronoun for somebody they liked just fine but somehow as soon as you've made up your mind "i already don't respect this person's gender" it's biological essentialism all the way down. cis folks all "well you have such-and-such hormones and shit" when they don't even know what exactly is going on in their own bodies, they're just assuming all things work in this automatic ideal way or something and nope that is not how things work irl. even "just" the idea of "biological sex" is far from clear cut and obvious, it is all complicated, any attempt to set specific waypoints and markers before you'll respect a person's choice of pronoun is scientifically inaccurate AND a horrible failure at the basic idea of Respecting Your Fellow Human Beings Because They Are People With Feelings

i still haven't decided whether i want to just be lee or go by leroy (my middle name is lee already but the granddad i was named after was leroy) but picking out which name i want to be called is really kinda tertiary at best to knowing what gender i am. i went through multiple nicknames in my life before transitioning and at no point did anyone think not being sure whether i liked "jenn" or "jenny" was a sign that i didn't know who i was or wasn't really a girl....
posted by titus n. owl at 12:33 PM on August 23, 2013 [13 favorites]


The name I picked for myself is a variation of my named spelled backwards, like how yeoz is zoey spelled backwards. Although I didn't really realize that until after I had whittled my list of candidates down to just that one.
I've known a few people who have tested out names at Starbucks to see what 'fits' (as much as a name on a coffee cup fits), so I suppose that's a recurring theme.
A lot of the time they just ignore what I say and leave the cup blank :(
posted by yeoz at 12:34 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


there is an interesting challenge for newswriters here

Bill Walsh talks about quirkily capitalized names and logos (eBay, iMac, etc) in The Elephants of Style: "The short answer is that the usual rules apply. You're a writer, not a logo replicator, and the capitalization of proper nouns is one of the most basic principles of English orthography." That's quite obviously not a perfectly parallel analogy, but it's one that is less emotionally loaded and maybe therefore useful to talk about at least one facet of what's happening.

how do you provide clarity and continuity when someone comes out or transitions midway through a news arc, without needing to put a boilerplate explanation of the whole situation in every story?

There's a jazz bassist who underwent sex reassignment surgery in 2001 and was the subject of a documentary. She goes by the name Jennifer. He recorded an album back in 2000 using the name John. It's a great album that I've often recommended to people, but as a former music writer, I'm unsure what's the "correct" way to write about it. My inclination would be to skew male based on the timeframe—but as you say, that's different from a transition occurring midway through the arc.
posted by cribcage at 12:36 PM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have an ex who transitioned years after we broke up, and after discussing it with him and wrestling with the clearly-inadequate English language, I've generally decided to only refer to him with female pronouns when talking about past-him is in situations where gender has material bearing on the conversation. Like, if I'm mentioning him as a past roommate who was a really good cook to someone who doesn't know him, male pronouns work fine. If I'm talking about our romantic relationship, I may go with female pronouns for clarity (I may not - depends on the actual conversation.)

In this case, I'm not seeing many excuses to need to use male pronouns to refer to Manning. Some name clarification is likely to be necessary for a little while, but Jesus, the media is failing this test with distinction.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:40 PM on August 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


cribcage: I'm unsure what's the "correct" way to write about it.

That's a good analogy for what I was wondering about as well. Sure she is the artist with the great album but if you were writing up a list of great albums of that time frame, with no specific reason to single out Jennifer's, would you include it in the list as being recorded by John or Jennifer or Jennifer nee John or....?

On preview: r_n, right, I'm not trying to rules lawyer a way in which to call anyone anything they don't prefer, just an academic glance at things I suppose.

posted by RolandOfEld at 12:43 PM on August 23, 2013


I'm going to assume this was a really unfortunate brain fart and you meant to type "Chelsea." (It happens. Nothing to be ashamed of.) If you're trying to convey something nastier, you might as well just come out and say it.

I think maybe giving people a week or so to internalize before assuming bad intent wouldn't be amiss here. I'm personally trying to use "Manning" just to avoid Chelsea/Breanna fail.
There are enough people who are saying awful things without going after people who just forget/aren't familiar.
posted by corb at 12:48 PM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


"He now identifies as a journalist, but was born naked, hairless, and unable to control his bowels."
posted by Eideteker at 12:48 PM on August 23, 2013 [23 favorites]


"i still haven't decided whether i want to just be lee or go by leroy (my middle name is lee already but the granddad i was named after was leroy)"

I'd pick Lee, but that's only because I can't hear Leeroy without thinking Jenkins.
posted by klangklangston at 12:51 PM on August 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


That's a good analogy for what I was wondering about as well. Sure she is the artist with the great album but if you were writing up a list of great albums of that time frame, with no specific reason to single out Jennifer's, would you include it in the list as being recorded by John or Jennifer or Jennifer nee John or....?

You could check to see what people do for Wendy Carlos.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:57 PM on August 23, 2013


i still haven't decided whether i want to just be lee or go by leroy (my middle name is lee already but the granddad i was named after was leroy)

We might be the same person - you even have a raptor in your username! My middle name is also Leigh, and I was named for a grandfather Leroy (called Lee). I use it as my coffee name.
posted by rtha at 12:57 PM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Short version: NOPE. Long version: This is not the place to have a debate about the existence or sanity of trans people, many of whom, I must remind you, are your fellow commenters. MetaTalk is there for you if you require it. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 12:57 PM on August 23, 2013 [16 favorites]


"You could check to see what people do for Wendy Carlos."

I thought the same thing. She's commonly called "she" even for the Well-Tempered Synthesizer stuff, which she did prior to transitioning.

(In part, that's because gender identity is a really early developmental stage, preceding sexual orientation, so it's easier to understand as something that's been consistently present.)
posted by klangklangston at 12:59 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


You could check to see what people do for Wendy Carlos.

I was just going to post the same thing. It seems like the general idea is to refer to her as Wendy unless it absolutely needs to be mentioned regarding her work as Walter, and then only once (i.e., "formerly known as")
posted by zombieflanders at 12:59 PM on August 23, 2013


(So I got curious and checked what Amazon does for old Wendy Carlos records — it looks like on earlier releases that still have the name "Walter" on them, they're listed as collaborations between "Wendy Carlos" and "Walter Carlos," which is a cute hack for helping people find 'em but probably not any help at all on the writing style point.)
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 12:59 PM on August 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


Also, I wonder what future president Clinton might think of Manning's new name, and whether it'd make her more or less likely to pardon Manning.
posted by acb at 1:02 PM on August 23, 2013


Heh. "Shit, Manning, Chelsea ain't even president yet."
posted by klangklangston at 1:06 PM on August 23, 2013


I was thinking of Hillary. If Manning serves the full 35 years, Chelsea may well be President by the end of that.
posted by acb at 1:09 PM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I heard about this yesterday on NPR, I think on "Here and Now" (I only listened to about 10 minutes of the middle of the conversation as I was driving to work). The host was stumbling a bit with pronouns but was making a significant effort to use female pronouns (and correcting herself when she used "he"), but god almighty I wish that reporters could also pay attention to the "(adj.)" part of the style guides quoted. She kept saying "transgenders in the military..." and "Manley is a transgender..." I considered joining Twitter just so that I could tweet at them to stop it.
posted by jaguar at 1:12 PM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Actually, that just inspired me to send them an email, so I'll go do that now.
posted by jaguar at 1:14 PM on August 23, 2013


I think the pronoun should always be she, but I think I favor something in the way of a Chelsea (Bradley) Manning style thing for the name, because if someone had just posted a story about Chelsea Manning's preferred pronouns, I wouldn't have known to think twice about it. If you're a famous figure, you probably do still have to be associated with your old name for awhile, even if it is misgendered.

There is no such excuse, however, for pronouns. She's a she. She's always been a she, unless she says otherwise. I think the legal name thing is silly, but she was publicly known for an extended period of time as Bradley, and the fact that Bradley is not traditionally a woman's name doesn't mean it wasn't once this woman's name. It isn't now, but one can respect that without disassociating the two names entirely.

My first thought on hearing about this, though, was that this draws some interesting contrast with Snowden's choice of refuge.
posted by Sequence at 1:15 PM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Maybe I'm missing it, but the wikipedia page doesn't shed too much light on things for me, although it is a cool story, because the actual wiki-page itself seems to just restrain itself to mentioning her last name Carlos only, which is the same as her pretransition last name, for the vast majority of the article, first sentence and the section labeled sexual reassignment exempted that is.

Unless that's what I was supposed to see, namely (ha!) just use the gender pronoun the person is/prefers and use the last name if it's the same? Seems to dodge the issue a bit but thanks for the example.

I was just going to post the same thing. It seems like the general idea is to refer to her as Wendy unless it absolutely needs to be mentioned regarding her work as Walter, and then only once (i.e., "formerly known as")

I guess that's quite fair. Better than the above-mentioned restriction to Carlos as an identifier.

.. and she did the soundtrack for Tron! Go Wendy!
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:15 PM on August 23, 2013


My first thought on hearing about this, though, was that this draws some interesting contrast with Snowden's choice of refuge.

Please do elaborate.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:16 PM on August 23, 2013


Please do elaborate.

Perhaps he's referring to Russia's anti-GLBT moves of late? Irony and all that...
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:18 PM on August 23, 2013


Russia's having a major crisis in LGBT rights, and Snowden is accepting their support against the United States? That bit?

I accept that it's reasonably possible he couldn't have gotten anywhere more forward-thinking, but there's so many parallels drawn between the two, and the timing on this, it's more 'that's interesting' than me intending to say it actually reflects poorly on him. It would have reflected better if he could have picked somewhere that was not firmly in my "bad guy" camp at the moment, though. Not that the US is 100% on the "good guy" side, but it's interesting that if Manning had taken the same route, she could have been imprisoned anyway for making this announcement.
posted by Sequence at 1:21 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


No that seemed like the likely parallel, but given how this thread seems to have a bent towards how Manning is going to have a bad (or perhaps, worse) time in jail because of this, I wanted to see your thinking expressed fully.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:25 PM on August 23, 2013


She's always been a she, unless she says otherwise.

As a matter of courtesy, this is okay. But journalism isn't foremost about being courteous, and this is something I can understand a news agency not wanting to delve into. If they're working from sources that characterize Manning as "he," that's a piece of the puzzle. It's certainly another piece of the puzzle that Manning's lawyer read a contrary statement on NBC, but I don't think it's unreasonable for journalists to struggle with which trumps the other, and maybe to conclude that neither does.
posted by cribcage at 1:29 PM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


No that seemed like the likely parallel, but given how this thread seems to have a bent towards how Manning is going to have a bad (or perhaps, worse) time in jail because of this, I wanted to see your thinking expressed fully.

Someone cited above how being a transwoman in jail significantly increases the violence you suffer. Maybe start there.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:34 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a matter of courtesy, this is okay. But journalism isn't foremost about being courteous, and this is something I can understand a news agency not wanting to delve into. If they're working from sources that characterize Manning as "he," that's a piece of the puzzle.

No, journalism should be about being accurate, not courteous. Look, if a news org is working from sources that say "him," all they need to do is the "formerly known as" trick, and use "her" going forward. If they're writing a story about her identity and/or transition, it's "her," full stop. There's no puzzle that needs to be put together here, it's really that simple. Foreign news orgs like the Guardian got it right, and even if Americans really do read news at an 8th-grade level or whatever, I'm sure they can wrap their heads around it.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:37 PM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


The way the guardian has been doing it is to replace all the pronouns in the quoted sources using square brackets. It reads perfectly naturally. Not a big stress. It's a solved problem.
posted by Acheman at 1:37 PM on August 23, 2013 [16 favorites]


On a personal note, I was absurdly relieved to read the story because I'd been worrying for years about how to refer to her properly, given that we had strong reason to believe that the name and pronouns in general use were incorrect. The perspective of someone who thinks this announcement has made things more complicated baffles me.
posted by Acheman at 1:41 PM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Now there are two. There are two _______.: "I suspect what we'll end up with is a convention like the old "née" for maiden names. "Chelsea Manning (once known as Bradley) announced that she...." — and readers will get used to it and be like "Oh, hey, I know what that indicates, good." And that's potentially still way problematic — especially if it gets carried over to non-news situations, things like human interest stories where tracking the subject's identity across multiple stories isn't a major issue and where people have a reasonable expectation of privacy about their pre-transition life. Still, it's the most respectful approach I can imagine that wouldn't require a complete overhaul of how we structure news articles and handle names in them, so it seems like pretty close to a best-case real-world scenario even if it isn't totally perfect."

I totally agree. In fact, the simple solution is to just expand the usage of the already-well-established convention of née/né for any adult who changes the name by which they are known.

We don't need a special journalistic convention distinguishing name changes indicating gender transition from those indicating religious conversion or marriage. Julia Child née Julia McWilliams, Mohammed Ali né Cassius Clay, Chelsea Manning née Bradley Manning.
posted by desuetude at 1:43 PM on August 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


cribcage: If your line in the sand relates to the number of sources using the old name vs. the number of sources using the new name any trans person who ever got any kind of press before transitioning is totally fucked from the get-go. That seems really untenable. For something like this a clear primary source is unquestionably definitive.
posted by Corinth at 1:54 PM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


You could check to see what people do for Wendy Carlos.

I remember searching for information on Wendy Carlos on the internet back in the pre-Yahoo '90s for a college film studies paper (on her work for A Clockwork Orange), and being confused as heck when I'd see two different sources citing her as both "Wendy" and "Walter", with no mention of her gender transition.

This led me to (stupidly) assume that Walter and Wendy Carlos were actually a husband-and-wife team of composers, with Walter being given sole credit on all of their older output because the '60s/'70s were hella sexist. It actually took a couple of years before I finally ran across something that specifically identified Walter and Wendy Carlos as being one and the same person.

The point is, we should all know better about a lot of things by now.
posted by Strange Interlude at 1:54 PM on August 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


"As a matter of courtesy, this is okay. But journalism isn't foremost about being courteous, and this is something I can understand a news agency not wanting to delve into. If they're working from sources that characterize Manning as "he," that's a piece of the puzzle. It's certainly another piece of the puzzle that Manning's lawyer read a contrary statement on NBC, but I don't think it's unreasonable for journalists to struggle with which trumps the other, and maybe to conclude that neither does."

Nah, actually the AP and several other stylebooks just updated pretty recently: It's all the pronouns and name a transgender person prefers. That's the most accurate.

First reference should be: Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning, said her… etc. and on subsequent reference, female pronouns and last name only. Just like any other woman.

Stumbling over this stuff can be understandable, but it's also unprofessional, as unprofessional as mispronouncing a foreign dignitary's name. You may do it, but it's a gaffe, not SOP.
posted by klangklangston at 2:02 PM on August 23, 2013 [13 favorites]


If that's how the stylebooks read, then yes, that should settle it.
posted by cribcage at 2:03 PM on August 23, 2013


the copy of the AP stylebook i have on my shelf right now is from 2006 and it says:

transgender Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth.
If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly.

most of the first paragraph is intended as a definition of the term and the actual rule for writing in AP style is "do what they tell you to" just like it is for, like, being a decent human
posted by titus n. owl at 2:09 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Acheman: "The perspective of someone who thinks this announcement has made things more complicated baffles me."

Indeed. I have a very hard time understanding why someone could be flummoxed (or, in the case of a few deleted comments today, seemingly offended) by the rather tiny imposition to flip a bit switch in their brain about someone they've never met. The name Bradley Manning wasn't particularly special to me before Chelsea did what she did, so it's not particularly burdensome to me to change how I refer to her.
posted by Apropos of Something at 2:20 PM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


titus n. owl: "the actual rule for writing in AP style is "do what they tell you to" just like it is for, like, being a decent human"

But then you have to be a decent human to Bradley Manning, and you may not be in the mood for that. Just saying.
posted by gertzedek at 2:32 PM on August 23, 2013


Not to mention that "do what Bradley Manning tells you to" doesn't sit well at all.
posted by gertzedek at 2:33 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bit of a rant, granted, but it seems pretty clear in intention. He strongly disapproves of Manning having released documents and does not want that act to sully the reputations of other more law abiding transgenders.

IndigoJones: We're in agreement that it's a rant, that's for sure. I think we might disagree on the legitimacy of the unwanted-association slant. This is a position that many (all?) politically mobilized minority groups struggle with at some point or another, much like the eye-rolling that goes on in the segments of the LGB (and T) population who denigrate those people who insist on camping it up and wearing speedos in Pride parades.

Beck's free to comment on the military aspect of Manning's trial as much as on the trans aspect, certainly. It's the questioning of Manning's motivations that gets all crinkly in the details: insinuating that "she" (Beck's marks around Manning's preferred nomenclature) is personally betraying Beck and trans people; suggesting that Manning's ego is hubristic for announcing her status; minimizing and mocking Manning's experiences based on scant details; and so on.

Beyond that, Beck's just being plain callous: "He will not be in general population where his life expectancy would be about a year tops....He is now using something AGAIN for his own gain." How is that statement not callous? How is Beck legitimately claiming Manning's "gain," when even other informers or trans people see none? It reads as military braggadocio posturing, rubbing salt in someone else's wounds for the sake of Beck's own public ego (it is, after all, a press release).
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 2:36 PM on August 23, 2013


"But then you have to be a decent human to Bradley Manning, and you may not be in the mood for that. Just saying.
posted by gertzedek at 2:32 PM on August 23 [+] [!]


Not to mention that "do what Bradley Manning tells you to" doesn't sit well at all.
"

Oh, so because you're salty about what Chelsea Manning did, you'd prefer to come across as a transphobic dick on a website she's pretty sure never to read, but that has other, actual living trans people on it?
posted by klangklangston at 2:37 PM on August 23, 2013 [26 favorites]


Not to mention that "do what Bradley Manning tells you to" doesn't sit well at all.

Too bad? She's not asking you to steal state secrets or break her out of jail.

Not wanting to use the correct pronouns out of spite seems really weird.
posted by rtha at 2:38 PM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


"i don't like this individual so i'm going to, by inference, insult an entire group of people i don't even know who routinely have to take this kind of bullshit from everyone and i am in no way special by expressing this form of hatred but i sure wanna make sure people know i feel that way"

"i don't like this individual but i guess that doesn't mean i have to be a complete asshole, i can just add a single letter to a pronoun"

sure make your choice
posted by titus n. owl at 2:39 PM on August 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


I flipped through Chicago Manual of Style looking for a similar provision and didn't see one. In addressing pronoun gender in general the guide states, "A good writer can usually recast the sentence to eliminate the need for any personal pronoun at all." There's a section on bias-free language, but the focus is on gender neutrality, and again the favored tack seems to be avoiding pronouns altogether.

I didn't see anything relevant on a cursory look through Modern American Usage, either. This makes sense, I suppose. It's probably a more relevant issue for reporters than authors. It's been a long time since I've looked for AP's stylebook and mine appears to have gone missing from the shelf. I'd have been curious to see how old it was and whether the rule was in that edition.
posted by cribcage at 2:43 PM on August 23, 2013


I hate ________________ so much I WILL NOT DO WHAT ________________ TELLS ME
posted by emmtee at 2:46 PM on August 23, 2013


But then you have to be a decent human to Bradley Manning, and you may not be in the mood for that. Just saying.

Not to mention that "do what Bradley Manning tells you to" doesn't sit well at all.

You are being asked to be decent to your fellow posters, and to do what our community here asks you to do in respecting transgender people. If you can't do that, you don't really have to comment on this subject if you don't want to.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:47 PM on August 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


I like to imagine gertzedek popping up in Chelsea Manning's life now and then to like knock a cup of water out of her hand. "Cool water's too good for ya!" Or steal a parking space away. "Think on your crimes!" Or take a long time to respond to a question in a professional setting. "I call that the traitor payback pause!"
posted by bleep-blop at 2:48 PM on August 23, 2013 [18 favorites]


I have a family friend who changed his name. He's not trans*, he didn't have a particularly rough childhood, he just changed his name from what it said on his birth certificate to something entirely different. Truth be told, I didn't even know he had changed his name until well into knowing him.

I suppose I could call him by his birth certificate name, if I wanted to. But the question naturally begs itself: "why?" Why would I do that except to piss him off and confuse other people who don't know his birth name? Is there some greater ontological significance to the name his parents wrote down on a birth certificate and signed for? Should we all really be calling Bob Dylan Robert Zimmerman, because that's what he writes on his taxes? Is there any value gained from that enterprise other than being a dick?

Here, of course, you don't get to piss off the person who changed their name. You just get the chance to hurt and confuse a bunch of other people whose circumstances you don't know who might want to change their name someday or have changed it already. All this to adhere to some weirdly eccentric notion of truth - what's written down must be right - or to hurt someone you don't even know?

Bit switch. Really simple bit switch in your brain. A public figure I've never met named Bradley is now a public figure I've never met named Chelsea. Done.
posted by Apropos of Something at 2:53 PM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


How does one go about choosing their name once they have decided to live as the gender that they identify as?

I found the Breanna/Chelsea choices of name interesting too, and I wondered how much of the choice was based on practicality vs. preference. "Breanna" has the advantage that any nametags or paperwork that refer to "B. MANNING" can still refer to her chosen name. "Chelsea" sounds enough like "Bradley" that it might be easier to get used to saying or responding to. Dunno.

As additional anecdata, though, of the trans people I know (maybe half a dozen?) few if any use simple genderswapped versions of their earlier names or even same-first-initial names. I don't know all of their birth names, though.

I have a very hard time understanding why someone could be flummoxed [...] by the rather tiny imposition to flip a bit switch in their brain

Eh, I have total sympathy for being flummoxed. Chasing down pronoun referents is one of the more difficult unconscious things we do when writing and understanding complex sentences, and we rely on gender agreement a lot to simplify it. Overriding a drilled-in habit that rarely has to be overridden is hard. I think there's enough hatred in the world already without getting upset at people who are being respectful but not coming across well. Save your ire for the people are actually being assholes about it, there's no shortage.
posted by hattifattener at 3:11 PM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Let's put it like this. Let's say one meets with Bradley Manning in a social setting. A person who has no sympathy for him and actually think he's a dick for doing what he did, independent of his gender orientation. Let's say this person goes to a dinner party tonight and he's there. It's possible that this person would refuse to shake Manning's hand and refuse to be convivial with him. Stay with me, people. This is not far-fetched: there are political/social figures roaming this world here that would receive similar treatment from all of us.

Now, I see acquiescing to Bradley's request to change the pronoun and name we use to address him, at this stage, as a courtesy. Much like shaking hands with him or acknowledging his presence at a dinner party independently of my feelings about him. "Yes, Chelsea, I care about you and your psyche and I understand that 'the CPU is not made for this motherboard' and I totally feel your pain so I will adhere to your request, because I'm a cool guy."

What I think I'm hearing (and please correct me if I'm wrong) is that it's not a matter of courtesy. Whenever a person announces that they would like to be addressed using a different name and pronoun, that announcement is a papal bull. All men and women of integrity shall obey it and immediately address the person as the person has chosen to be addressed. Regardless of how you feel about that person. And regardless of which steps that person has taken towards transitioning into their chosen gender.

I honestly think that were Manning a more sympathetic figure, more news outlets would be willing to extend that courtesy. But the problem is: he's not. Outside of certain bubbles of the internet where the Assange Apologists (who see him as a Saint) and the GLBTQ community (who see him as one of their own) gather, Manning is pretty much universally reviled. And people need to learn to live with that fact. Honestly, taking Kristin Beck's cue and distancing itself from Manning is probably not a bad strategy for the trans community, though it's easy to understand why he's being embraced.
posted by gertzedek at 3:51 PM on August 23, 2013


Her. We do not misgender people here. Even if you don't respect them. Even if you think they're traitors. Even if they're not mefites.

Every time you call Manning "he" now that you know she prefers female pronouns, you're telling every trans* mefite - including the ones right here in this thread - that if they don't conform to your exact specifics of behavior and ideology, you don't think they deserve to even be called what they want to be called. You're saying that to their (text) faces. That is bullshit, and your reasoning is stupid, wrong, and offensive.
posted by rtha at 3:54 PM on August 23, 2013 [35 favorites]


It's a matter of courtesy in the same way that not calling everyone "Hey, asshole" is a matter of courtesy.
posted by Apropos of Something at 3:55 PM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


[To put it in more official terms, deliberate misgendering is something we Do Not Do here. Ideology doesn't come into it. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 3:59 PM on August 23, 2013 [23 favorites]


Now, I see acquiescing to Bradley's request to change the pronoun and name we use to address him, at this stage, as a courtesy.

So basic human decency is just a courtesy, got it. I'll have to remember it the next time someone's going on about some group being subhuman. "They just aren't extending them the courtesy of pronouns. 'It' is perfectly serviceable."

Wait... What I think I'm hearing (and please correct me if I'm wrong) is that it's not a matter of courtesy. Whenever a person announces that they would like to be addressed using a different name and pronoun, that announcement is a papal bull. All men and women of integrity shall obey it and immediately address the person as the person has chosen to be addressed. Regardless of how you feel about that person. And regardless of which steps that person has taken towards transitioning into their chosen gender.
Cool, you're getting it! It's almost like 'basic human decency' is something extended to all human beings as a baseline of social behavior!

taking Kristin Beck's cue and distancing itself from Manning is probably not a bad strategy for the trans community, Ok, this is just disgusting, right here.
posted by CrystalDave at 4:00 PM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


So if one realizes one is trans* and wants to adopt a new name and identity, this is only valid if one is a good person? Where do you draw the line? I'm sure there are trans* people out there who have murdered, stolen, etc just as there are cis folks who've done the same. Do we revert to calling them their original name if we disapprove of something they have done? I really hate people who take up two spaces in the parking lot. Is that enough?
posted by skycrashesdown at 4:01 PM on August 23, 2013


What I think I'm hearing (and please correct me if I'm wrong) is that it's not a matter of courtesy. Whenever a person announces that they would like to be addressed using a different name and pronoun, that announcement is a papal bull.

Even more, actually, since non-Catholics are not bound by papal bulls.

Decent human beings are bound to call people by the names they wish to be called. Misgendering her and calling her by her former name instead of her chosen name doesn't make you look like someone standing up for truth and righteousness or patriotism or....whatever you think it makes you look like. Unless you want to look like a spiteful person straight from the elementary school playground.
posted by rtha at 4:04 PM on August 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


gertzedek, I think I've demonstrated my contempt for (some of) the things that Manning did, and I think you and I are of a similar mind on that point and the consequences thereof.

However, I also believe that Manning is a human being who bears a heavy burden that is completely unrelated to those things, and respecting her wishes in this matter is a triflingly small thing that one human being can do for another. It costs me nothing to think of her as "Chelsea" even as I approve of her being taken to Leavenworth. And so, as one human being to another, I choose to respect her wishes in this small regard. I hope you will be able to as well.
posted by Etrigan at 4:23 PM on August 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


"What I think I'm hearing (and please correct me if I'm wrong) is that it's not a matter of courtesy. Whenever a person announces that they would like to be addressed using a different name and pronoun, that announcement is a papal bull. All men and women of integrity shall obey it and immediately address the person as the person has chosen to be addressed. Regardless of how you feel about that person. And regardless of which steps that person has taken towards transitioning into their chosen gender. "

There are plenty of black people I don't like, but it doesn't take a papal bull for me to not call them "nigger." That's a "courtesy," but also one of those general, "I'm not a hateful bigot" things.

"Honestly, taking Kristin Beck's cue and distancing itself from Manning is probably not a bad strategy for the trans community, though it's easy to understand why he's being embraced."

And if you need a self-serving reason not to misgender people, realize that your ambiguous referent makes it seem like you're referring to Beck as "it" ("itself"). If you generally act in a manner that makes that seem like you deserve the benefit of the doubt, and you meant that "itself" to refer to the broader LGBT community, people won't dismiss you as a hateful little shit over a single misstep. Otherwise, it just reads as a piece of your other assholish predilections.
posted by klangklangston at 4:41 PM on August 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


I see acquiescing to Bradley's request to change the pronoun and name we use to address him, at this stage, as a courtesy. Much like shaking hands with him or acknowledging his presence at a dinner party independently of my feelings about him.

I dislike the in-person analogies. I don't think many people would disagree it would be shockingly rude to walk up to Manning at a dinner party and pointedly say, "Hi, Bradley. How's it going, Brad? Hey Brad's date, how did you meet him?" I agree with you that courtesy is the issue in face-to-face interactions, but we're not talking about face-to-face interactions so I think courtesy becomes less the issue. (And I think it begs the question to buttress the word courtesy with the phrase human decency.)

In the context of how we or journalists speak about Manning, I'd be inclined to move the focus from courtesy to the issue that Chicago Manual of Style raises in discussing bias-free language: credibility.
Discussions of bias-free language—language that is neither sexist nor suggestive of other conscious or subconscious prejudices—have a way of descending quickly into politics. But there is a way to avoid the political quagmire: if we focus solely on maintaining credibility with a wide readership, the argument for eliminating bias from published works becomes much simpler. Biased language that is not central to the meaning of a work distracts readers, and in their eyes the work is less credible. [...]

Consider the issue of gender-neutral language. On the one hand, it is unacceptable to a great many reasonable readers to use the generic masculine pronoun (he in reference to no one in particular). On the other hand, it is unacceptable to a great many readers (often different readers) either to resort to nontraditional gimmicks to avoid the generic masculine (by using he/she or s/he, for example) or to use they as a kind of singular pronoun. Either way, credibility is lost with some readers.
I'm not suggesting that should answer the question for you. But to my mind, it's a more useful and constructive way of framing the question than asking it in terms of courtesy.
posted by cribcage at 4:47 PM on August 23, 2013


Let's put it like this. Let's say one meets with Bradley Manning in a social setting.

If you can't behave like a civilized person with the other guests, don't come to the party.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:26 PM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


> Decent human beings are bound to call people by the names they wish to be called.

So if you send mail to Manning at "the confinement facility," as many certainly will, don't forget to address it to Bradley Manning, per Manning's explicit request in the press release. Which, New York Magazine reports, was released on paper headed "Bradley E. Manning".

If you err and flip-flop incorrectly the default assumption here will be that you are a hater, not a decent human being. Life is so simple. (On metafilter only.)
posted by jfuller at 5:36 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


my legal first name on my driver's license is still jennifer so on all legal paperwork for legal things in a law setting i need to have my name written down as jennifer. that doesn't change the fact that i am a male dude named lee and it doesn't make it any less offensive to call me by a name i do not prefer in any situation where it's not legally required to do otherwise. same applies here.
posted by titus n. owl at 5:38 PM on August 23, 2013 [18 favorites]


In the context of how we or journalists speak about Manning, I'd be inclined to move the focus from courtesy to the issue that Chicago Manual of Style raises in discussing bias-free language: credibility.

In the context of how we speak about Manning, we don't need to pour over old style manuals: we can elect not to purposefully be jerks.

It would be great if journalists did that, too, and didn't act like their hands are tied by this or that style manual when it comes to someone's name and identity. (And style manuals differ, anyway, so they don't contain any One True Truth about Chelsea that you just have to study them long enough to extract. The only One True Truth about anyone is that they are who they tell you they are.)
posted by Corinth at 5:40 PM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Her gender identity was previously referenced back in this thread about the San Francisco Pride Parade back in May. This comment in particular linked to an opinion piece by Rainey Reitman of the Bradley Manning Support Network which laid out a thoughtful argument for why the author chose to continue to use the male pronoun at that time (February 2012), which can be summarized by this quote: "None of us has the right to switch pronouns for Manning unless he tells us otherwise." It appears as though Ms. Manning has just told the world otherwise, so the decision to refer to her as a "he" is going to be an interesting barometer of editorial decisions.
posted by Dr. Zira at 5:46 PM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


So if you send mail to Manning at "the confinement facility," as many certainly will, don't forget to address it to Bradley Manning, per Manning's explicit request in the press release.

The fact that prisons are consistently unable or unwilling to cope with trans identities doesn't have a ton of bearing on the choices people make outside of interaction with those prisons. I have a trans friend who is in prison. Letters addressed to anything other than his legal name will not reach him. Showing up at the prison and asking for him by that name is unlikely to go well. Hell, introducing myself at the prison by my chosen, not legal, name is likely to lead to a deeply unpleasant situation for me. That doesn't change a damn thing about his identity or the proper way to interact with him.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:47 PM on August 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


> That doesn't change a damn thing about his identity or the proper way to interact with him.

It does emphasize, though, that there are contexts, and not a few of them, in which personal identity is less fluid and mutable than merely "I yam who I say I yam."
posted by jfuller at 5:54 PM on August 23, 2013


NPR has "evolved" on this issue and will now refer to Chelsea as Chelsea and use female pronouns.

I'm glad they came around quickly, but I wish they'd gotten it right to start with. The email there isn't perfect but the outcome is positive.
posted by Corinth at 5:57 PM on August 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


It does emphasize, though, that there are contexts, and not a few of them, in which personal identity is less fluid and mutable than merely "I yam who I say I yam."

The distinction between legal identity and personal identity is important to keep clear, and is in fact the focal point of LGB and especially T activism. Maybe someday they'll be the same thing, but in the meantime, insisting that because the former tends not to acknowledge the latter then personal identity is invalid is exactly the sort of political position that most people here would rather not associate themselves with.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:00 PM on August 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


I went to school with someone who was enrolled with the 'wrong' surname, as it turns out when you show up and say "I'm Jane Doe and would like to register my daughter for school" they take it for granted your daughter's surname is legally Doe.* As far as I know, the school never figured it out. It probably would have become a big problem applying for college, but her family managed to legally change her name in high school. Come to think of it, I went to school with another person registered with the 'wrong' surname. The INS had managed to misspell her father's name** and so they all had this misspelled surname. Sometime in junior high, her parents decided enough was enough and they would spend the money to change all their names.

I mention this because neither of these people's names actually changed and I think it's contrary to what jfuller said about identity being less fluid that being who you say you are. Paper is less fluid, but who you are is pretty reasonably fluid. That one has to write 'Bradley' on a letter mailed to Chelsea is doesn't make her identity go poof any more than my friend having a totally different surname on her driver's license because she happened to start life with her (long gone) father's surname.

*Here, at least, you have to show papers to register your kid for school, but apparently not where I grew up.
**As I recall, he was changing his name to make it more American-friendly, so the mangling of the part he kept was more galling.

posted by hoyland at 6:02 PM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Chelsea Manning is not a tuber.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:03 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


since various forms of sexism and cissexism are firmly entrenched in our society, and only recently beginning to be openly challenged, there are a variety of legal hurdles placed in the path of a trans* person wishing to transition. a lot of things, on a legal and paperwork level, can seemingly complicate issues of nomenclature.

but of all the things that can create delays, difficulties and confusion regarding a person's gender, whether a third party thinks that person is ~Nice~ doesn't seem like a logical decision-making factor
posted by titus n. owl at 6:10 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


requested a shift ... which most media outlets (including the original AP report) have ignored

Hah ... THERE's a surprise!

At best, US 'media outlets' (can't speak for the rest) - are about framing and maintaining the status quo. Because when they don't, they become targets. Ask the NYT. Ask The Guardian.

To the extent the equation The medium is the message is true, changing one WILL change the other. The people can't change the medium but they CAN change the message.
posted by Twang at 6:39 PM on August 23, 2013


I put my transition on hold once I began my new job and started relocating from Washington back to Texas, and well, Chelsea just handed me my ass big time.

Brave woman. I wish I was as strong as she is.
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:17 PM on August 23, 2013 [13 favorites]


Brave woman. I wish I was as strong as she is.
*hugs*
posted by yeoz at 7:19 PM on August 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


> exactly the sort of political position that most people here would rather not associate themselves with.

I am a good deal less inclined than the average here to say "Do it my way or you're a Bad Person." That's way too Calvinist for me.
posted by jfuller at 7:19 PM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


For transgender prisoners, hormones seen as matter of life and death
posted by yeoz at 8:06 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


The horrible thing here is that she obviously knows how much more danger she's likely to be in, having come out - military prisons are their own thing to some extent, with much lower reported rates of assault etc, but that cuts both ways in terms of some civilian prisons having at least a degree of provision for trans inmates, whereas the number of out trans women in male military detention may well be close to zero and the regulations and training to support them at a similar level.

It's kind of ironic that she comes out under the circumstances of literally having NO CONTROL over whether or not she can transition officially/get hormones/be able to do anything at all about this for the next 35 years. It flabbergasts me that the desire to say I'M A GIRL is so strong that you are willing to risk multiplying the amount of abuse you're going to get by a gajillion instead of trying to hide that while you're in jail. If it were me, hell, I'd hide it rather than paint the target on myself. But I'm an asshole cisperson, so what do I know.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:34 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Consider the issue of gender-neutral language. On the one hand, it is unacceptable to a great many reasonable readers to use the generic masculine pronoun (he in reference to no one in particular). On the other hand, it is unacceptable to a great many readers (often different readers) either to resort to nontraditional gimmicks to avoid the generic masculine (by using he/she or s/he, for example) or to use they as a kind of singular pronoun. Either way, credibility is lost with some readers."

Huh, that's odd that the Chicago book is so much stodgier than the AP, them of the Internet and World Wide Web (just fixed e-mail). The AP's rules have been, for a long time, that "he or she" is the proper form for an indeterminately gendered person ("Use 'one' sparingly"). Those were the rules back in 2005 even.
posted by klangklangston at 8:35 PM on August 23, 2013


"I am a good deal less inclined than the average here to say "Do it my way or you're a Bad Person." That's way too Calvinist for me."

Dude, an appeal to official documentation is weak sauce to hang justification on, and people who screw up once or twice don't get ire — it's the folks trotting out weak sauce justification and continuing with their "mistake" that gets called out.
posted by klangklangston at 8:37 PM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


All politics/courtroom/etc aside - Manning has been known for his entire life (and certainly the entire duration of his "media life") as Bradley Manning - a man. He was born with boy parts, boy hormones, etc. Just because he wants to be a woman and be called "Chelsea" doesn't automatically grant him that reality. Sure, once he goes through with it and has surgery, hormone treatment, legal name change, whatever else is involved - OK, then he can be she.

But until then, I don't think it's unreasonable for people in general and media outlets specifically to continue to refer to him as "Bradley" and "him." davidmsc

...that announcement is a papal bull. gertzedek


I grew up with gender being absolute. There were some public cases of sex transition, notably Christine Jorgensen, treated as news of the weird, that showed that gender might not be absolute. Over time, I've learned about intersexuality, transsexuals, that gender is not so straightforward. Still, gender's a pretty strong attribute. It's difficult for me to think of N, who I've long known as male, as female, and to apply the female pronoun consistently.

Timing? When was there a good time to make this announcement? Before and during trial? Don't Ask Don't Tell ended after Manning was arrested.

The reason it matters about the AP Stylebook is that having standards makes it manageable. Otherwise, it's arbitrary. You should call her "she" because she has made a verifiably good faith transition from male to female. At this time, it's quite rare for someone to make a public announcement correcting their gender presentation and then change their mind. It just makes sense to have a standard for how to refer to people consistently. On a personal level, it's a matter of respect.

I feel so bad that she is probably going to be denied living as a woman, with presentation, hormone therapy, and possibly surgery. As Corporal Bradley Manning, she didn't have the chance to dress as a woman because it would have ended her job, with a discharge that would affect every job application for life. Getting the psychological and medical support for hormone therapy likely wasn't possible. Prison life for a woman who is transsexual? I can only hope her high profile gets her a little more protection, but I'm not optimistic.
posted by theora55 at 8:47 PM on August 23, 2013


NPR and MPR (the local NPR affiliate) long since showed that they don't want me to listen. They have a pretty horrible record on trans issues, from what I've seen. When they do report on trans issues, it seems to be during sweeps week, and full of bingo card-worthy tired tropes.

Most of the time, though, they just work hard not to acknowledge our existence at all. Earlier this year, they did a report on Stonewall (similar to this one) where the reporter did her level best to not mention anything about trans people. It was "gay gay gay lesbian gay...". Not just casual erasure of trans history, but forcible, intentional erasure.

And sometimes, they just flat-out insult us. It was a show in April that referred to crossdressing as a "problem" on the level of drug or alcohol addiction that finally convinced me that Public Radio doesn't like me or want me listening to them.

It's nice that they came around on the issue of Chelsea Manning's pronouns, but they shouldn't have even had to 'come around' in the first place. And they managed to insult people like me yet again before they did so.
posted by jiawen at 9:54 PM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Another thing that bugs me about all this is it's a reminder of how we trans people are supposed to bow and scrape for cis people's 'acceptance' and 'inclusion'. We need to passively wait while cis people judge us -- for passability, productivity, sanity, legality, whatever -- and, perhaps, deign to give us basic respect. Respect that can be suspended at any time, we are reminded constantly -- lest we ever get the impression that our rights are anything but conditional and dependent on the whims of cis people. It ignores power we already have and reduces us to passive observers in our own liberation, while elevating cis people who deign to give us respect.

I really wish we could get beyond the whole rhetoric of inclusion. I hope this situation will end up creating some small amount of progress in that direction, but for now, it's really painful.
posted by jiawen at 10:09 PM on August 23, 2013 [14 favorites]


Re names, one trans person I know did just take the male variant of his assigned female name...which was one of those female names that were feminized male names to start with. It suits him.

He also makes quite a suave looking dude now that the beard has come in.

I can't imagine the bravery of this young woman, who has endured enough to break lots of people. I hope she has the strength for whatever her future holds...and stays safe.
posted by emjaybee at 10:16 PM on August 23, 2013


jenfullmoon: If it were me, hell, I'd hide it rather than paint the target on myself. But I'm an asshole cisperson, so what do I know."

I won't speak for her, but I can speak for me, as an asshole trans person, in her situation. If I had already been yearning to come out and begin transition for years, but was unable to because ugly shit was going down, and then finally stretched before me was ten or more years of sameness, the question I'd ask myself is, if I barely contained this for the last few years, what are the odds I can contain it for ten years or more, especially with nothing to keep my mind off it? The odds are low. So if I'm going to wind up having to come out during this stretch of sameness anyway, it's better to do it now, to make sure that people know how I prefer to be referred to, to try to use what little attention I have to improve trans care for myself and other prisoners, but most of all just so I can get this shitty old life over with and start being myself finally.
posted by Corinth at 11:04 PM on August 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


"Re names, one trans person I know did just take the male variant of his assigned female name...which was one of those female names that were feminized male names to start with. It suits him."

"You always looked like an Ashley."
posted by klangklangston at 11:14 PM on August 23, 2013


Sorry for the trans 101 question, but I didn't see it explained in the thread yet and I've never run into this before.

When is a trans person considered to be gay? I would have assumed that someone who identifies as female (as Manning does) and prefers men (as Manning does) would be considered heterosexual, but she's referred to by several posters here and some news articles I've read as both gay and trans. Shouldn't the latter mean the former is no longer true? Are people just saying both because the trans information is (officially) new and we just haven't gotten all of our words adjusted yet? Or is it that homosexuality is determined using sex rather than gender identity/presentation? I guess the fact that she identifies as female doesn't remove the penis, and the penis is a pretty important part of actually having sex with her....

Basically, can someone untangle me here? Is it more appropriate to refer to Chelsea Manning as heterosexual or homosexual?
posted by IAmUnaware at 2:06 AM on August 24, 2013


ut she's referred to by several posters here and some news articles I've read as both gay and trans. Shouldn't the latter mean the former is no longer true?

Yup. If she's exclusively attracted to men (I have no idea if she is or not — but if she is) then she's a straight woman.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 5:30 AM on August 24, 2013


Let's put it like this. Let's say one meets with Bradley Manning in a social setting. A person who has no sympathy for him and actually think he's a dick for doing what he did, independent of his gender orientation. Let's say this person goes to a dinner party tonight and he's there. It's possible that this person would refuse to shake Manning's hand and refuse to be convivial with him. Stay with me, people. This is not far-fetched: there are political/social figures roaming this world here that would receive similar treatment from all of us.

You are making me agree with klangklangston, for an idea of just how strong the taboo you're violating here is.

Look, I completely get what you're saying about having issues being civil to people you don't like. I also disagree strongly with what Manning did (re indiscriminate release of documents NOT gender change) and would be unlikely to hold a pleasant conversation with them, because of feelings.

But there are a lot of ways to be a perfectly fine social ass to Manning without being an ass to the rest of your fellow humans. Do not think of it as being courteous to Manning, think of it as being courteous to other people who are similar to Manning only in terms of gender. Trust me, you're not being polite if you say "I think she's an ass, a traitor, blah blah blah." No one is going to hear the "she" and say OH MY GOD HE SYMPATHIZES WITH MANNING. It's okay. I promise.
posted by corb at 5:36 AM on August 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


How does Adrian Lamo live with himself? I'm not asking a rhetorical question here, I'm genuinely perplexed.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:52 AM on August 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


The more I read about Manning, the more I wonder how this person ever decided to join the military. Was there a more hostile environment for a gay person who's kind of short and having emotional problems? (I guess we'll see if military prison is worse). Reading the chats between her and Adrian Lamo, it's clear she was very stressed with being a closeted transgendered person stationed overseas involved in a war she was against. She seemed like a poor, messed up kid. It was somewhat common knowledge that Chelsea Manning wanted to transition to being female for a while. Anyway, I'm not entirely down with her actions in leaking military secrets, but I hope that finally being publicly out as a woman brings her some modicum of peace.
posted by bluefly at 7:01 AM on August 24, 2013


The more I read about Manning, the more I wonder how this person ever decided to join the military.

As noted in the story of Kristin Beck, the idea that the military will "make a real man out of me" may have played into it. It's been suggested that trans people are actually over-represented in the military compared to their numbers in the civilian world for this reason. When most of society is saying that a nonconforming gender identity is "confusion" or a disorder or demonic, doing what's perceived as the manliest thing there is can look like a way to break free of that "problem."
posted by Etrigan at 7:31 AM on August 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


No one is going to hear the "she" and say OH MY GOD HE SYMPATHIZES WITH MANNING.

Or at least, no one worth bothering with.
posted by Etrigan at 7:33 AM on August 24, 2013


Part of the trans experience can include trying to "fix it" by various means, and those means typically create more misery.
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:01 AM on August 24, 2013


Huh, that's odd that the Chicago book is so much stodgier than the AP, them of the Internet and World Wide Web (just fixed e-mail). The AP's rules have been, for a long time, that "he or she" is the proper form for an indeterminately gendered person ("Use 'one' sparingly"). Those were the rules back in 2005 even.

This is totally a tangent, but I think they're guides with two different purposes. I expect the AP to have a ruling on Myanmar vs Burma for example and I expect Chicago to tell me to consult the publication I'm working for. (I'm speaking hypothetically, I most certainly do not do this for a living. I looked really quickly and I didn't spot disputed country names anywhere.) So being non-committal on gender neutral language strikes me as about par for the course--telling you to make a choice, but not what choice to make.

The more I read about Manning, the more I wonder how this person ever decided to join the military.

People will try very very hard not to be trans. Putting yourself in a situation, consciously or not, where it is categorically not an option can seem like a good way of doing this. Trans people will also join the military for all the other reasons people join the military, like if they think it's the only possibility they have to go to college. Sometimes people feel military service is really important to them and postpone transitioning for it.

She seemed like a poor, messed up kid.

I had some negative experiences with recruiters in high school (which influences the rest of this) and it was pretty clear that their tactics would work particularly well on vulnerable kids. (Adults (with a car with a cool sound system) paying attention to you, taking an interest in your life, etc.)
posted by hoyland at 8:07 AM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


In addition to Beck's rant, the organization Servicemembers, Partners, and Allies for Respect and Tolerance for All (SPART*A) has misgivings about how the issue emerged in Manning's defense:

"Some members of the trans community took strong exception to the way Manning’s legal team coopted gender dysphoria for her defense. Jacob Eleazer, a SPART*A chapter leader, was one. He counsels trans service members through a secretive online group where members can seek legal advice and support. Eleazer objected to the defense’s argument that Manning’s gender dysphoria contributed to giving up thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks. “It’s appropriate for the defense to zealously do everything that they can in order to defend their client, but I also see where that defense is problematic for the trans community in general,” he says. “We have a lot of trans people serving right now, and they aren’t committing treason.”"


posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:22 AM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would have assumed that someone who identifies as female (as Manning does) and prefers men (as Manning does) would be considered heterosexual

You have the right idea. Actually, I'm a little curious myself as to where the "common knowledge" that Manning is "gay" came from. It was the Lamo logs that made me suspect way back that she is most likely a transsexual woman, and the recently leaked (so tempted to bold that word...) photo of Chelsea-as-Chelsea just kind of cemented that impression further for me. Until this announcement, though, there wasn't any clear confirmation so I tried to use gender neutral pronouns when discussing her case, because that seemed like the path of minimal harm. A cynical part of me wonders if Manning's homosexuality was just a more palatable repackaging of her LGBTness than her being trans. It's entirely possible that I missed something somewhere, but I imagine her sexuality is understood the way it is because transsexuality is so poorly understood in wider society.

Anyway, your original assumption is correct. A trans woman who is attracted primarily to men is considered straight; a trans woman primarily attracted to other women is considered gay. Bisexuality need not even go through any Möbius loops. It's not actually complicated at all.
posted by byanyothername at 10:36 AM on August 24, 2013


"The more I read about Manning, the more I wonder how this person ever decided to join the military."

From looking at her history, it also looks like she was a bright, poor, abused kid with nowhere else to really go.
posted by klangklangston at 10:44 AM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


(It's worth remembering that "the trans community" is only bound by this one highly specific medical condition. Some people in there have political alignments I consider icky, and some do the generally troubling thing where they refuse to extend compassion to those they disagree with. Manning being a transgender woman is something that's been written on the wall for a long time; her statement is more of a clarification than an announcement. It's only shocking to so many people right now because people have willfully chosen to ignore or dismiss that particular aspect of her story. Now they can't, and the best thing that could come of this is greater awareness of the awful conditions trans people in prison face. I honestly don't get all of the "this will ruin us" hand wringing. A high profile case that perfectly highlights the cruelties Western society metes out for trans people is probably a good thing; previously, there has not been a publicly visible transition that shows transition to be an actual medical process rather than a magic button no one has to think about being pressed behind a curtain. Manning is not universally considered a "traitor," and many people who have thought about the case reasonably will now be forced to think about transphobia both systemic and personal. That might be ugly, but the long term potential for positive change is there.)
posted by byanyothername at 10:46 AM on August 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


"The more I read about Manning, the more I wonder how this person ever decided to join the military."

In the Here and Now segment I mentioned earlier, Robin Young said, "...there are new studies that suggest that transgender civilians are twice as likely to enlist; some of them thinking that if they enlist in the military, maybe that will change the way they feel. Transgender veterans, 20 times more likely to commit suicide. And the military has organized some task forces to address the issue of transgender [people] in the military."
posted by jaguar at 12:56 PM on August 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


America’s prisons fail transgender inmates

ArmyOfKittens' profile Many excellent links.

Note to media: Get used to calling Manning “she” because there’ll be many more like her
posted by theora55 at 3:11 PM on August 24, 2013


SPART*A's concern isn't just "this will ruin us", it's that Manning's defense team used her gender dysphoria as an explanation for her crime, thus implying that people with gender dysphoria cannot be trusted. Understandable as a defense strategy, dangerous as a precedent. There's a lot of good links at SPART*A's FB page.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 3:43 PM on August 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not the only high-profile person to announce a 'gender-change' this week, but I suspect that certain people will treat retired Army lieutenant colonel and billionaire CEO Jennifer Natalya Pritzker (formerly known as James) very differently.

Basically... Billionaire? Yes ma-am! Because that is how you earn respect in America.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:55 PM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


theora55: "ArmyOfKittens' profile Many excellent links."

Aaaargh I noticed the other day that the Questioning Transphobia stuff had linkrotted.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 5:15 PM on August 24, 2013


TFB, Chelsea specifically said that her dysphoria did not excuse her actions, and there was extra context to the mention of it in the first place - namely, the uber-macho hostile environment of a pre-DADT military and lack of support/response from therapists and superior officers. Plenty of cis people fail under similar circumstances. I do not feel threatened by her coming out - on the contrary, I'm hopeful that the the unfortunate spotlight on her will lead to increased scrutiny of poor treatment of trans people in the justice system, the media, and elsewhere.
posted by Corinth at 5:17 PM on August 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


ArmyOfKittens: "Aaaargh I noticed the other day that the Questioning Transphobia stuff had linkrotted."

Fixed 'em.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 5:24 PM on August 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Dearest Conservatives, There's Nothing "Delusional" About Being Trans
posted by yeoz at 8:44 PM on August 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


I hope she gets out early or when Obama pardons her. Good luck Chelsea, I admire your conviction and that you knew you would go to jail but keep a stiff upper lip.
posted by clavdivs at 12:18 PM on August 25, 2013


This goes back to the academic point that was covered earlier in this thread, but since the thread has slowed I hope nobody will mind my returning to it. Klang noted AP style uses the subject's preferred pronoun, and Yeoz's article notes the same ("The VICE style guide says, 'If someone is transgender or a transvestite, use the pronoun of his or her preferred gender.'").

What about pronouns other than common second-person singular? If someone feels their gender is best represented with the pronoun them, and a style guide has a rule proscribing singular use of them, is there a resolution? Maybe more interestingly, what about the various gender-neutral pronouns (Spivak, "invented pronouns," etc)? If the subject's preferred pronoun is a word the newspapers' readers wouldn't recognize or would think was a typo, what's the resolution?

I'm not so much asking about the arguments whether to use one or the other, since those are obvious enough. But I am curious whether any major style guide has yet tackled those questions, or whether anybody has been in a newsroom where it's come up.
posted by cribcage at 1:19 PM on August 25, 2013


I've not got time to find it right now, but I seem to recall the NYT successfully writing a piece about someone preferring neither he nor she (I forget if they preferred they or their name; pretty sure it wasn't any of the other options). If the NYT manage it, it's not that big a deal. You have a sentence or clause saying "So-and-so prefers [whatever]" and then you carry on.
posted by hoyland at 2:45 PM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


If someone has time to search for it, it was about some band and I think it was posted to MeFi.
posted by hoyland at 2:47 PM on August 25, 2013


Let's put it like this. Let's say one meets with Bradley Manning in a social setting. A person who has no sympathy for him and actually think he's a dick for doing what he did, independent of his gender orientation. Let's say this person goes to a dinner party tonight and he's there. It's possible that this person would refuse to shake Manning's hand and refuse to be convivial with him. Stay with me, people. This is not far-fetched: there are political/social figures roaming this world here that would receive similar treatment from all of us.

The reason this breaks down is that it's not just shaking Manning's hand. It's screaming "I won't shake your hand!" and pretending that you're not making a giant self-centred scene or hurting anyone else's ears. *I* am hurt in your efforts to offend Manning's dignity. Misgendering people hurts everyone who objects to the mandatory gender roles imposed by society. I get that you see this as merely treating Manning with the contempt she's earned, but you are also treating me with contempt, and I certainly haven't done a thing to you. You are being discourteous to me, and if you are indifferent to that, well, I don't think you understand manners very well.
posted by gingerest at 6:46 PM on August 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm not so much asking about the arguments whether to use one or the other, since those are obvious enough. But I am curious whether any major style guide has yet tackled those questions, or whether anybody has been in a newsroom where it's come up."

Yeah, I don't think there's an official ruling because by the time you've funneled down to that level, you just add an explanatory note.
posted by klangklangston at 1:13 AM on August 26, 2013


yeah, purposefully misgendering anyone to send any kind of a message does send a message to EVERYONE, and that message is:

"i think it's ok to misgender people when i feel like it"

which in turn means, through inference:

"i don't think trans people are REALLY the gender they say they are, and i'm just humoring them when i use the right pronouns - a courtesy i'm willing to drop if they provoke me, since it's JUST a courtesy and one i don't actually have to respect in any way if i don't feel like it"

and... yyyyyyyeah that's definitely offensive to people besides the One Person You Think You're Going To Hurt Here
posted by titus n. owl at 5:57 AM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, you misgender her, you misgender me. I don't know why this is such a complicated concept.

Analogy: you are a married man on a long car journey with your family. You have to pass a border checkpoint before you can finally get home, and the customs officer -- a woman -- is being unnecessarily obstructive. She holds you up for three hours searching every nook of your car for contraband, which is assuredly not there.

In the end, finally, she lets you go. As soon as you are out of earshot you sigh loudly, exclaim, "Women!" and turn to your wife for a high five.

You sleep on the guest bed that evening.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:09 AM on August 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


I will refer to Chelsea Manning as such out of respect to other trans* people specially here in Metafilter. Though I think toning down the hysteria that "YOU'RE BREAKING A TABOO" is probably warranted in Chelsea's case. I'm mean, she just came out and said "I'm Chelsea now k thx". She hasn't sought counseling. She's has not (to my knowledge) been properly diagnosed, by a medical professional, with gender dysphoria. I'm sorry but I don't think that someone who refers to Chelsea using male pronouns, at this current stage, is being transphobic.

(NOTE: I have looked around to see if Chelsea has been diagnosed or gone through counseling and haven't found anything. I apologize if I'm mistaken.)

This article has a couple of interesting quotes:

"Transgender women don't go through it just like that,” she said outside the LGBT Community Center in Chelsea. “First you got to see a counselor, and then hormone treatments.”

and:

"He wants to play with the government secrets? Let him do his 35 years as a man, and not as a female," Coffey said.

The latter quote is more important than it seems. There's something to be said of Chelsea's choice. She said, in her chat with Lamo:

(1:13:10 PM) bradass87: i just… dont wish to be a part of it… at least not now… im not ready… 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 boy…

Chelsea made a clear choice here. She knew getting caught was a very real possibility, and if she was, she would NOT have the opportunity to transition. It was a very conscious choice. She was very aware of the risks, and one could argue that things even turned out well, considering she thought she could go to prison for the rest of her life (she won't) or be executed (c'mon). But one thing she knew - she would have to go through it "as a boy".
posted by gertzedek at 8:15 AM on August 26, 2013


She's has not (to my knowledge) been properly diagnosed, by a medical professional, with gender dysphoria.

First, you're wrong, she has. Listen to the This Way Out piece I linked earlier in the thread. Second, why is it ANY of your business? Seeking counseling is a medical decision covered by HIPAA, and it's absolutely none of your business. Why not just respect people without demanding to know their intimate medical records? What in the world does that cost you.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:20 AM on August 26, 2013 [13 favorites]


oh do we have a specific list of criteria people have to meet before they're worthy of being taken at face value when they talk about their own identity? (who would know better than the person whose identity it is?) are you going to come examine MY papers and require access to MY medical history, and that of the other trans people on this site, too? when you meet someone in real life do you require to be shown a birth certificate or three other approved medical-history documents as shown in Column A OR two from column B and one from column C before you agree to use the pronouns and name they introduce themself to you with?
posted by titus n. owl at 8:32 AM on August 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


you don't need to treat trans people differently than cis people when it comes to pronouns. you don't even need to KNOW WHETHER A PERSON IS TRANS OR CIS. just USE THE PRONOUNS AND NAME THEY GIVE YOU WHEN THEY TELL YOU WHAT THEY WANT TO BE CALLED, why is that at all difficult? choosing not to do so is actively choosing to reject and hurt people, and i honestly do not understand why people respond to "that choice of pronoun you use hurts me" with anything other than "oh i'm sorry! i don't like to hurt people, so i will make a slight alteration in my vocabulary for you!" but here we are, in a world where the standard response is usually "WELL I WASN'T TRYING TO HURT YOU SO IT DOESN'T MATTER THAT I DID HURT YOU! STOP TRYING TO CHANGE MY BEHAVIOR" or words to that effect
posted by titus n. owl at 8:35 AM on August 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


I will refer to Chelsea Manning as such out of respect to other trans* people specially here in Metafilter. Though I think toning down the hysteria that "YOU'RE BREAKING A TABOO" is probably warranted in Chelsea's case. I'm mean, she just came out and said "I'm Chelsea now k thx". She hasn't sought counseling. She's has not (to my knowledge) been properly diagnosed, by a medical professional, with gender dysphoria. I'm sorry but I don't think that someone who refers to Chelsea using male pronouns, at this current stage, is being transphobic.

Please raise your right hand and promise that the next person you meet you will ask to see their government-issued ID and their medical records before you will refer to them as "he" or "she."

I do appreciate you not misgendering her anymore (and by extension other mefites and nonmefites), but you are still requiring of some people but not others certain steps that you declare necessary...because why?

I get misgendered a fair amount (because I'm a butch woman), and no one except my doctors and the people I might want to have sex with get to know what's in my pants or my head.

Asking to be called what I name myself is not hysteria. You may need to recalibrate.
posted by rtha at 8:43 AM on August 26, 2013 [12 favorites]


rtha: "Asking to be called what I name myself is not hysteria. You may need to recalibrate."

We're talking about Chelsea specifically. My post above was not about you or other transgender people.

Answering my own question on the post above, Chelsea was indeed diagnosed by Army doctors. This is a much stronger case than just sending out a press release. I see that people are willing to take whatever comes out of Chelsea Manning's camp at face value. I do, however, understand that people who ask for further proof, specifically in Manning's case, are not being by definition transphobic.
posted by gertzedek at 9:13 AM on August 26, 2013


you used the word "hysteria" to describe the actions and statements of people in this thread who want you to understand that calling someone by the name and pronouns they choose is basic courtesy, for reasons multiple people have tried to explain, and you don't seem to be processing why it is inappropriate to interrogate a trans person about their transition process before you decide it's okay to call them by the things they told you they are. ANY TRANS PERSON. because this IS generalizable. IT IS A REAL PROBLEM IN REAL LIFE that people don't respect ANY TRANS PERSON's personal identity until after they've jumped through hoops. you can say "oh but this is a special hoop i am only applying to this person" but it looks, feels, smells, tastes, and is labelled just like the standard-issue hoop that is regularly held up in front of Trans People As A Whole.
posted by titus n. owl at 9:33 AM on August 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


My post above was not about you or other transgender people.

It is, actually. You may not mean it so, but that's how it sounds. Why does Manning need "a much stronger case" before you (or anyone else) decides you won't misgender her? Why does that case need to be a release of medical records - of no relevance to anyone except her doctors, people she might have sex with, and, I guess, her jailers - rather than just an anouncement?
posted by rtha at 9:35 AM on August 26, 2013 [9 favorites]


I do, however, understand that people who ask for further proof, specifically in Manning's case, are not being by definition transphobic.

No, they are. Demanding someone 'prove' they are 'really' trans is pretty high on the list of ways of displaying one's transphobia. That you don't like Manning doesn't give you a magic get of transphobia free card.
posted by hoyland at 9:35 AM on August 26, 2013 [12 favorites]


This article has a couple of interesting quotes:

"Transgender women don't go through it just like that,” she said outside the LGBT Community Center in Chelsea. “First you got to see a counselor, and then hormone treatments.”


Also, with all due respect, if this quote was 'interesting' to you, you're probably not equipped to have this conversation without doing some research first.
posted by hoyland at 9:38 AM on August 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


i don't like rick perry but i don't express this by misgendering him
posted by titus n. owl at 9:44 AM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


"She's has not (to my knowledge) been properly diagnosed, by a medical professional, with gender dysphoria.

So, you were wrong about this, but the larger point is that this doesn't really matter. Transgender people have all sorts of different ways of coming to their trans identity. You wouldn't say that a guy couldn't call himself gay until he'd been diagnosed as such.

I'm sorry but I don't think that someone who refers to Chelsea using male pronouns, at this current stage, is being transphobic. "

Wassup, Cissplain.

"Chelsea made a clear choice here. She knew getting caught was a very real possibility, and if she was, she would NOT have the opportunity to transition. It was a very conscious choice. She was very aware of the risks, and one could argue that things even turned out well, considering she thought she could go to prison for the rest of her life (she won't) or be executed (c'mon). But one thing she knew - she would have to go through it "as a boy"."

Uh, she'd rather be executed than called a boy is a pretty clear statement of preference, and that she knew there's a risk of immoral treatment by the U.S. government and still went through with exposing war crimes is a pretty courageous thing. Also, just because the U.S. government doesn't recognize transgender people as the gender they identify with doesn't mean that's right or just that she go through that. People are sentenced to jail time, they're not sentenced to inadequate medical treatment or harassment, not in a just system.

"Though I think toning down the hysteria"

Sup bro, dunno if you know, but "hysteria" is a pretty fucked up thing to allege here, what with the sexism and uterine implications, yo.

"I do, however, understand that people who ask for further proof, specifically in Manning's case, are not being by definition transphobic.

Broseph, just inventing a definition of "transphobic" that doesn't include what trans people feel is transphobic — being challenged to justify their identity — is pretty fucked up. Do better, dude.
posted by klangklangston at 1:35 PM on August 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


Broseph, just inventing a definition of "transphobic" that doesn't include what trans people feel is transphobic — being challenged to justify their identity — is pretty fucked up. Do better, dude.

I think I was one of the first people on Metafilter pointing out Manning's gender identity - before the big announcement - but I do have to say we need a new fucking word for people who are trans doubters or trans challengers or whatever. Transphobia has pretty clear roots and is pretty specifically around fear - just like homophobia. We need to stop using it as a catch all phrase for everything disliked around trans issues. People don't have to be afraid of trans people to be dicks.
posted by corb at 2:34 PM on August 26, 2013


> I honestly think that were Manning a more sympathetic figure, more news outlets would be willing to extend that courtesy. But the problem is: he's not.

Sympathy for the person tends to get steamrolled by prejudice and resentment. To go back to my earlier non-trans* example, Cassius Clay was a freakin' rock star of a boxer, and the the backlash against him when he changed his name to Mohammed Ali was seriously ugly. The problem isn't how people feel about the person, it's the legitimacy and subtext that they assign to the change.

A name/pronoun change is contentious when it requires people to talk the talk -- use some active effort to break a habit -- even if they do not personally approve of, accept, or understand the reasons for the change.

So what. People get used to respecting social conventions despite conflicting personal feelings all the time, in all sorts of situations. If someone thinks that they're losing that much by adhering to some very basic courtesy conventions of preferred name and pronouns, then they've got a pretty superficial fight in the first place.
posted by desuetude at 2:40 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Trans+resistors

TRANSISTORS
posted by zombieflanders at 2:41 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


But the point is that challenging someone's gender identity is stripping them of their human dignity and autonomy, which is part and parcel of the phenomenon of transphobia.
posted by gingerest at 2:42 PM on August 26, 2013


I think I was one of the first people on Metafilter pointing out Manning's gender identity - before the big announcement - but I do have to say we need a new fucking word for people who are trans doubters or trans challengers or whatever. Transphobia has pretty clear roots and is pretty specifically around fear - just like homophobia. We need to stop using it as a catch all phrase for everything disliked around trans issues. People don't have to be afraid of trans people to be dicks.

Fear of deception is often deep at the heart of these conversations. Fear they are faking it to snoop in the bathroom, fear they are concealing it to have sex with people who would not otherwise consent. Add fear they are using it to manipulate the justice system to Manning's case I guess. It's not about simple confusion, it's fear.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:43 PM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Behind the scenes at CNN: How the media fails on Chelsea Manning’s gender.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:59 PM on August 26, 2013


This article has a couple of interesting quotes:

"Transgender women don't go through it just like that,” she said outside the LGBT Community Center in Chelsea. “First you got to see a counselor, and then hormone treatments.”
This kinda bothers me.

Several trans women I know (myself included) were self-medicating hormones long before we ever spoke to a counselor or a doctor. I don't really think that makes us (or me) any less trans than any other trans* person. I'm pretty sure I'm still a trans woman despite not having seen my therapist until several months after I had started self-medicating. And I'm pretty sure this is and was the right the thing for me to have done.

There's a lot of medical gatekeeping that goes on (read the previous mefi thread!), between unsupportive therapists and doctors or outright refusal to provide services, that many trans* people don't bother entering the system at all and find it significantly easier to (self-diagnose and) self-medicate. It doesn't really help either that many doctors and clinics that do offer such services are often bound by extensive wait lists, or insufficient resources to offer services to everyone (or that many people seeking treatment are often limited themselves by severe depression and anxiety, or other comorbid conditions). It shouldn't be a surprise at all that many trans women self-diagnose and self-medicate.

I don't think of counseling or hormone therapy as necessarily absolute requirements for someone to be seen as the gender they identify with. Every trans person has their own reasons, wants and desires (and their own narrative). They are entitled to make their own decisions regarding their treatment and transition, whether that means seeking or not seeking counseling, or seeking or not seeking hormone therapy. None of those choices makes them any less trans, or any less the gender they choose to identify as.

I'm pretty sure Chelsea had been seeing a therapist for a long time too before any of this (as mentioned in many of the articles linked above) and even clinically diagnosed with gender dysphoria (as above). Still, I'm not sure why that matters. Tons of trans women self-diagnose and self-medicate. They're still trans*. We do go through it just like that. I'm not sure why we can't just take Chelsea (or any another trans woman) simply at their word.
posted by yeoz at 3:39 PM on August 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


trans doubters or trans challengers or whatever.

Protesting that they're not afraid of gay people is a textbook homophobe move, though. If we decided to call the transphobes who come into these threads proclaiming how they (and only they) and tell who's "really" trans "doubters" instead, we'd be acting as if there was, well, something to be doubted. We're at about a century since doctors started experimenting with medical transition. It's not like it's a new-fangled idea that people haven't devoted a lot of energy to thinking about, so it's weird to give space to people who haven't thought about it and then decide that they know how things should be.
posted by hoyland at 3:41 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


We do go through it just like that. I'm not sure why we can't just take Chelsea (or any another trans woman) simply at their word.

I was struggling with that sentence earlier and came to the conclusion that the person was badly misquoted or taken out of context. Because it makes no sense in the context of the article. I almost suspect the reporter asked something like "What do you think about her having a sex change operation?" and the person rolling their eyes and giving the speech.
posted by hoyland at 3:44 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh. That... makes sense. I feel a little dumb now. :D
posted by yeoz at 3:45 PM on August 26, 2013


if somebody says "this thing is transphobic and it hurts me!" and the response is "nuh-uh, i'm not afraid of trans people!" the actual issue is not being addressed in any way. nitpicking about the literal etymology of the word is not a profitable argument now any more than it was when it was being used solely to derail arguments about homophobia
posted by titus n. owl at 4:10 PM on August 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


I agree, and I also thought corb was coming from a place of "it would be cool to totally take the 'but i'm not afraid of trans* people' line of argument away from people who are being dicks about this."
posted by MoonOrb at 4:20 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


to be clear i did not assume corb had ill intent here, i just don't see any purpose in working with that group of people on that point, because it sure didn't work re: the word "homophobia" and i have no reason to think it would be any different now. i mean it's not like this exact discussion about "well maybe we should come up with a new word" wasn't done about that, too, y'know?
posted by titus n. owl at 4:31 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Fight for Trans Rights in the Military
posted by yeoz at 6:21 PM on August 26, 2013


Drinky Die: "Fear of deception is often deep at the heart of these conversations. Fear they are faking it to snoop in the bathroom, fear they are concealing it to have sex with people who would not otherwise consent. Add fear they are using it to manipulate the justice system to Manning's case I guess. It's not about simple confusion, it's fear."

Fear of what it means about them, the doubter, as well. "I believed that my perceptions (uh, assumptions, really) were correct, and now you've disproved them and made a fool of me."

But the fear is generally expressed as anger -- admitting that it's actually fear is going straight to the uncomfortable place from which it sprang. Homophobia and transphobia are psychologically accurate terms, but they're too scary for the people thus afflicted to accept.
posted by desuetude at 10:08 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Democracy Now: "Empowering, So Brave": Trans Activists Praise Chelsea Manning, Raise Fears over Prison Conditions
posted by Lexica at 10:27 AM on August 27, 2013


The New York Times and The Associated Press Will Refer To Chelsea Manning By Her Preferred Pronouns
I know that some might prefer that the change be made without comment, and readers simply be expected to figure it out for themselves. I think it’s worth recognizing that there’s a period when it makes sense for publications to explain Manning’s transition, and their own change in style, to their readers, and that there are real opportunities for good explanatory journalism in that explanation. This is a reasonable matter of editorial clarity, at least for an intermediate period. Not everyone is following the leaks story with the same level of attention, and it’s worth making clear to readers that the person who once was Bradley Manning now is Chelsea Manning to preserve the continuity of the story for those in the audience who didn’t catch her announcement. There’s no reason to penalize readers who are getting up to speed now for not having been on the story with the same ferocity as the most dedicated from day one.

And it’s also an opportunity to educate those same readers about the process of transitioning, and the fact that Manning will be incarcerated in a facility for men rather than with other women and denied hormone treatment will imprisoned, two practices that are widespread in the American prison system. I understand that it may feel condescending to some in the audience to include these basic explanations and facts in stories about Private Manning, but the reality is that a quarter of Americans don’t report understanding what it means to be transgender. Offering clear, respectful explanations is a service both to those Americans, and to the families, friends, and neighbors whose lives they might better comprehend as a result. The interests of transgender people and those still unfamiliar with them are the same in this case, or at least they ought to be, when practicing thoughtful journalism.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:32 AM on August 27, 2013


The New York Times explanation is interesting and exactly what I was curious about in terms of newsroom discussion.
Susan Wessling, the deputy editor who supervises The Times’s copy editors, told me that there are two important considerations. “We want to respect the preferences of the subject,” she said, “and we want to provide clarity for readers.”

Toward that end, she said, “We’ll probably use more words than less.” In other words, The Times will explain the change in stories.

“We can’t just spring a new name and a new pronoun” on readers with no explanation, she said. She noted the importance in the stylebook entry of the words “unless a former name is newsworthy or pertinent,” which certainly applies here.

An article on The Times’s Web site on Thursday morning on the gender issue continued to use the masculine pronoun and courtesy title. That, said the associate managing editor Philip B. Corbett, will evolve over time.
This is the kind of debate/issue that copy editors live for. My understanding from outside the newspaper industry is that it's a big deal for a news editor to say, "We'll probably use more words than less."
posted by cribcage at 10:56 AM on August 27, 2013


corb: "I think I was one of the first people on Metafilter pointing out Manning's gender identity - before the big announcement - but I do have to say we need a new fucking word for people who are trans doubters or trans challengers or whatever. Transphobia has pretty clear roots and is pretty specifically around fear - just like homophobia. We need to stop using it as a catch all phrase for everything disliked around trans issues. People don't have to be afraid of trans people to be dicks."

"Assholes" works for me.
posted by scrump at 1:18 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Chauvinist seems like it fits. What you're describing is a form of hyperbolic gender normativity and an attempt to police compliance with it.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:17 AM on August 28, 2013


"Cissexist" would work and is in wide enough use. But then we would get another chance to watch the "I don't identify as cisgendered!" shit show, and no thanks.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 5:38 AM on August 28, 2013


that's just it and is why i don't think it's even worth caring: no matter what you come up with, SOMEBODY is going to be the kind of asshole to turn ANYTHING YOU CHOOSE TO USE AS TERMINOLOGY into YET ANOTHER DERAIL ABOUT THAT TERMINOLOGY. there is no way to win the fight so i don't think there's even a point in engaging
posted by titus n. owl at 6:48 AM on August 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


I really like transphobic and homophobic. The fact that people protest so much that they're not AFRAID, just hateful, is, well...delightful to me. You're onto something if they have to worry about what THEY are called.
posted by agregoli at 7:02 AM on August 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


Chelsea Manning’s Prison
posted by homunculus at 8:56 PM on August 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


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