So, Bradlley Manning is no more. Welcome, Chelsea Manning.
One might question her choice of name which in America is probably most associated with Hillary and Bill’s daughter, but in the UK refers to a fashionable district that is synonymous with both punk and narcissistic self-regarding affluence. It’s also the name of the football club with the most charismatic and fascinating manager in the sport’s history.
But even though I’ve written a bit about cross-dressing and transgender lifestyles (One Snip Short) and rather more about hermaphroditism of one non-specific fashion or other, I’m actually rather squeamish about the whole thing. Perhaps like most men I’m just anxious about my gender identity. Or maybe my fascination with the boundaries of sexuality and permissiveness just reaches its limits when it comes to the notion of a man changing their gender to that of a woman (or the rather rarer phenomenon of turning the other way).
Whatever my own attitudes (and at least I’m honest about my lack of deep understanding), this should not detract from the huge personal sacrifice that Chelsea Manning has made in the service of what she believes to be the truth,
There are two things I want to highlight.
One is the extent to which a man already conflicted by his gender identity recognised the extent to which his moral identity was also being compromised in the service of a nation whose soldiers clearly think the murder of innocent civilians from a distance by helicopter is great fun and whose employers (the military establishment and the government) believe that a little bit of understandable fun in the blood and gore of Muslims in a faraway land is a lesser crime than revealing such lapses of judgment to the world as a whole.
The other, which has been visited with a ridiculous degree of vindictiveness on Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian, and, of course, Chelsea (nee Bradley) Manning, is the extent to which the US establishment (even when run by a Harvard educated black lawyer) will go to for the simple reason of protecting its precious pride. And this nation whose history has many heights, but also many lows (such as slavery, ruthless exploitation of the poor, the crushing of weaker nations in the name of anti-communism and, more recently, anti-terrorism) not only beats its breast like a cornered gorilla but gets its poodles, such as my own unprincipled government and that of its other vassals to do its dirty work.
And in all this unpleasantness, is it any surprise that Russia (despite its primitive attitude towards homosexuality) comes out looking not so bad really and the South American countries, particularly Brazil and Ecuador, now look like the bastions of liberalness and decency that once upon a time Britain and America claimed for themselves.