I have it easy. I have no idea what it feels like to belong to any of the many unfairly downtrodden or ostracised minorities in any society. I’m a white, 20something english-speaking European male in a Western country with a college education, a steady job, a clean bill of health and a wonderful family. I’ve got good friends, a full fridge, no fear of war nearby and no slurs that can be used against me.
Most pertinently to the news du jour, I fucking love my penis. I use it all the time, and a good portion of the time i’m not using it i’m thinking about using it. For this and all the reasons above, I’ll not patronise anyone by pretending I have the slightest idea what it’s like to stand naked, look in the mirror and think “no, these are the wrong naughty parts”. I’ll never be on the wrong end of a hate crime, nor will I ever feel the sting of the many derogatory terms used on those who suffer in their own genitals. From the little I’ve read on the subject it seems a desperately long road to resolution involving surgeries, hormone treatments and complete upheaval of every part of a persons life, not least typified by lost friendships, violent abuse and even changes in family relationships. Major stuff indeed, and who am I to tell anyone how the deal with it? If PFC Bradley Manning is now Chelsea Manning, that’s her business and I’ll raise a glass to her because I don’t really give a fuck. Her issues are her concern, and the likes of me passing judgement without any real understanding would fly in the face of the few things I believe in. Kudos to you Chelsea, hope it all ends up well for you.
Here’s the thing though. It’s an unpopular fact, but it remains a fact nonetheless.
Chelsea Manning broke the law, and her oaths, and did so at her own risk and in full knowledge of the penalties. Did she do the right thing based on a moral imperative? Absolutely, she acted bravely and in the face of her employers and (probably) idealised interpretation of the USAF. She told the world things that it deserved and demanded to hear. Did she deserve 4 years (YEARS) in solitary confinement with no trial? Absolutely not, nobody in a democracy should have to endure that. Obama’s failure to adhere to the principles his followers voted for is galling and – at this point – completely predictably. The man has turned out to be one of the worst presidents in recent years when it comes to individuals rights and accountability. Did Manning deserve a 35 year sentence? YES. She broke the law. She knew she was doing wrong. She didn’t censor or edit any of the information, instead handing all of the state’s secrets she could find to Julian Assange and Wikileaks. She did the right thing. She broke the law. Now she needs to accept the consequences of her decision. In an ideal world, under a better administration, a decent president would stand for what so , so many of us believe in and commute the sentence or – better yet – issue a presidential pardon. Nonetheless, the sentence is what fits the crime, and the crime was committed wilfully. Do other, bigger criminals deserve similarly monstrous sentences? Absolutely. this week I’ve seen so very, very many comparisons between Manning and less popular, unpunished war and corporate criminals that I can’t keep count. Are they guilty too? Sure they fucking are. Does this make Manning less guilty? Hell no.
I don’t want to use such awkward terms as “taking it on the chin like a man”, but really Manning knew what she was getting into before she did the deed. Now that it’s time for the media circus, suddenly she’s announcing her gender issues to the press? “I didn’t know any better, i was having a hard time with personal issues at the time” is what it boils down to. And hey, here’s a thought : what exactly happens when an already notoriously cis-centric USAF is able to draw a line between the words “trans” and “traitor”? Does the inevitable baying of the forever outcast and outraged sexual equality lobby actually add anything to their cause? I say no. Please, PLEASE don’t let this become a no-win cause celebre for a woman that has absolutely no legal defence for what she did and is now blatantly deflecting the issue onto something completely different. As I said earlier, I have no idea personally, but I imagine transgender people across the world probably have enough on their plate without making their poster child an indefensible convicted felon.