“So why is this movement refusing to acknowledge the existence of Breanna, insisting on using Bradley despite a strong preponderance of evidence that Breanna should be used?”
by Veronica Nowakowski
from The Socialist Webzine
From socialists to progressives, a rallying call has come for one Private Manning to be freed. Manning had taken documents of US war crimes in the Bush era, from US Government computers, and released the information to Wikileaks, who in turn disseminated them to the world. These documents had no effect on the national security of the United States, nor the security of its forces, yet they embarrassed the United States greatly by revealing its misdeeds. As a result, Manning was charged with releasing national defense information to an unauthorized source and aiding the enemy. In truth, Manning was a whistleblower and a hero, shedding light on what ought not be hidden.
Some would say that Manning allegedly is this hero, however, as the defense does not deny that this was done by Manning’s hand, but rather try to explain the reasons why. If Manning does not deny being the hero with life and limb on the line, I shall not deny it either.
When the cries go out in marches and on the internet to “[f]ree Bradley Manning” and pictures are posted of a uniformed Bradley Manning, however, it makes me sick. I wholeheartedly want Private Manning released, given medals of honor for the deed even; but one transwoman to another, I recognize her as Breanna Manning. To understand why this distinction is so important, it’s key to look at a conversation she had with Adrian Lamo, the villain that reported her, beginning May 21, well before she was arrested:
(10:33:58 AM) bradass87: im already starting to give “Breanna” a digital presence… twitter, youtube accounts set up in her name
(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 [a] boy…
In Breanna’s defense trial, her official defense is that her gender issues led her to take these actions, and, whether or not her gender issues actually drove this heroism, she is holding to the story she said before she ever thought she was being investigated, that she is, in fact, Breanna. More troubling yet, she says she wouldn’t mind paying the penalty for what she is being tried for if it wasn’t that pictures of her as a boy would be the image people across the world would remember her by. When there are calls to free Bradley sporting those very pictures of her as a boy, her worst fears are coming true thanks to those who are supposed to be her supporters.
Many in the movement to free “Bradley Manning” justify the use of the name because there has been no “confirmation” of Breanna’s identity. Despite releasing this information in these discussions prior to her arrest, and her subsequent defense, she released pictures of herself dressed en femme, or as a woman, her true self, in layman terms, to her commanding officer. They found information on Hormone Replacement Therapy in her possessions. The logs of these chats were also found on her computer. If a scapegoat defense was needed by her, she could have just stuck with being gay in the military. There is no way for more confirmation, beyond this, to reach us given Breanna’s seclusion. It certainly won’t come from her family, as these same chat logs show:
(2:56:34 PM) bradass87: my family is non-supportive… my boyfriend ditched me without telling me… im losing my job… losing my career options… i dont have much more except for this laptop, some books, and a hell of a story
There is no evidence, only speculation, that Breanna may really be Bradley.
So why is this movement refusing to acknowledge the existence of Breanna, insisting on using Bradley despite a strong preponderance of evidence that Breanna should be used? I can only assume that there is transphobia at work, conscious or not. When faced with trusting the story of someone they are heralding and calling for their freedom or not to trust them, they choose to suggest that person might be lying.
Really, they’re faced with the question of whether they are comfortable with a hero, someone whose courage is to be emulated, is transgender or not. Because they aren’t comfortable with that truth, they hide from it and make excuses as to why it might not be true. My own mother and a good friend both tell me that I’m not really transgender, I’m just confused and need to get a girlfriend – because they don’t want to accept the truth that they have someone transgender in their life. It’s not an uncommon story.
I am calling for Manning supporters to stop and realize that someone who is transgender can be a hero, someone to be emulated, and you have already found one. Embrace that and rethink how you feel about transpeople. We have accepted the equality of women, racial minorities, and homosexuals and feel comfortable looking up to them as heroes: it’s time to accept the same value in transpeople. Stop saying “Bradley Manning” and stop showing those pictures of her as a boy. Denying Breanna exists is the ultimate insult to this hero, a fate she saw as worse than life imprisonment, nonexistence.