Opinion: Chelsea Manning - A Trans Woman's Perspective

By Amber Enderton | January 25, 2018 |

Chelsea Manning has long been a hero to the trans community. Lionized to a fault, critics of her have often been accused of transphobia. It's easy to see why. While the world saw her as a whistleblower who shed light on the government's illicit actions, particularly in regards to the Collateral Murder video, she has been so much more.

For the past 7 years, she has been at the forefront of the fight for trans women to be treated with respect and dignity in US prisons. From the beginning of her incarceration, word got out about her horrifying treatment. She was forced to sleep in the nude and paraded around naked outside her cell like a freak, even as the bases own medical staff stated she was not a danger to herself and such measures were unnecessary.

Chelsea's incarceration was one of legal battles. Fighting to receive hormones, fighting to be allowed the right to wear her hair in a style allowed to female soldiers; many of the legal battles trans people face behind bars Chelsea also faced. To say that she is an inspiration, enduring all this and continuing to fight after sacrificing so much for the noblest of causes, is an understatement.

So why then are we so quick to toss Chelsea aside when she was seen at a party with white supremacists? Why do we not take her at her word when she says she was there to gain incite and information on them? If there is anybody who can honestly make that claim, isn't it someone who spent 7 years in a military prison for leaking classified documents?

If the abandonment of Chelsea Manning feels like transphobia, it's probably because it is. Footage of one attendee using transphobic slurs and making inappropriate comments about trans women's penises has already been shared online. And such behavior is typical of the altright. Professional bigot Milo Yiannopoulos, one of the founders of the altright, made headlines for his hate filled screeds about trans women. Mike Cernovich, another founder, once wrote a sarcastic article about how he is a "male to male transgender" because he uses testosterone. Believers in their ideology can often be seen swarming Chelsea Manning's Twitter with transphobia on any given day.

It is inconceivable that she could actually be friends with the people at this gathering. Not because she is trans, there are trans women among the altright who are just as bigoted as the rest. No, it's inconceivable because she has been at the forefront of the fight for civil rights for trans people for most of the last decade. Civil rights icons have often been seen going into the lion's den, debating bigots whose very ideology would see them dead. When necessary they've even been cordial with them.

So why is Chelsea Manning, one of the most prolific civil rights icon for the transgender community, being vilified? Maybe it isn't really about her appearance in a few pictures with white supremacists at all. Maybe it is about a society eager to throw trans folks to the wolves, especially one with anarchist and antifascist tendencies.

Until you've gone to prison for seven years taking a stand against racism and imperialism abroad, you've got no right to question Chelsea Manning's solidarity. Chelsea made that sacrifice because she was doing what was right, and no one has any business questioning her dedication to the fight against fascism. She certainly isn't going to sell us out for the transphobic bigots that fill her mentions with vitriol every day of the week.

Chelsea Manning has not let down the transgender community, so let's not let down her. Take a look around.

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