(Originally posted at personal blog here.)
I had no idea about any of this until a friend and colleague of mine wrote this very needed piece on the media’s (non) reaction to the mounting evidence around “Bradley” Manning’s transgendered identity.
In the mainstream media coverage, Private Manning is described as a gay male with a gender identity disorder and an alterego named Breanna. In alternative media–outlets that revere Private Manning as an international hero and whistleblower–she is referenced with male pronouns, as popular figures such as Glenn Greenwald proclaim that “he” deserves a medal and Michael Moore writes a series of blogs about “his” courage and frequently proclaims that “he” is responsible for instigating the global uprising against corruption, the kyriarchy and all subsequent uprisings.
Still, as Emily Manuel wonders in her article, why are we so reluctant to embrace a transgendered hero? Would Breanna Manning deserve a medal as well? Why has the media–in the mainstream, alternative, and even activism-oriented press not embraced or even entertained the idea of “free Breanna Manning”? What does it say about our media that it is easier to keep transsexuality hidden, reverting to the time honored image of the heroic man rather than accept and welcome new images of a hero?
There are plenty of reasons and alleged justifications–as B. Manning is in prison, potentially for life the sad reality of the current political climate is that her gender identity may be held against her. However, let us set aside the legal proceedings and simply look at the media–the beat, the intersections, the surrounding conversation, and who it is holding this conversation. In the realm of national security, the sad truth is that it is largely men.
My theory–which is not intentioned to be sexist, man-blaming, or negative against anything besides the system that privileges men and institutionalizes sexism and gender injustice–is the following. Men–the Michael Moores and Glenn Greenwalds quoted in our media and their predominantly male audiences (who can most closely relate to their male perspectives)–want to see themselves in “Bradley” Manning. In solidarity, admiration, and support many progressive, liberal men embrace Bradley Manning as the hero and are reluctant to sift through issues of gender identity–simply because these do not concern them. This further institutionalizes national security as a “male” issue–unintentionally making modern day national heroes conform to a male mold, and ignoring the political implications of intersectional identities.
Perhaps it is time to change this. Perhaps it is time to make traditionally separate journalistic beats like “national security” and “gender justice” intersect, challenge our media and ultimately work through these ideas to make a more just world–where a hero is defined by an action and isn’t referred to as a man when she asks to be referred to as a woman–and that this request isn’t too much for journalists to handle.
Free Breanna Manning.