Word is out

Image: New York Magazine

About Bradley Manning, I mean. Among what he reveals: most of those folks holding “I am Bradley Manning” masks don’t know what the hell they’re saying.

Ever since the story began to break, I’ve felt more and more drawn to it as a writer and, yes, as a queer person (any way you want to hear that). As I told someone this morning on Facebook, Manning in so many ways encompasses so many of my themes, from PTSD to gender to whistleblowing, that I sometimes think I made him up.

This has especially been the case with gender stuff — in which dimension I’ve walked very gingerly. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my friends who’ve undergone gender transitions, it’s that only the person in question is entitled to talk about it. Period. Manning was out as gay, but relatively few pursued the clues pointed out by Gawker last year, such as Manning’s chat log saying that “my CPU doesn’t match the motherboard” or that he feared media exposure “as a man.”  Without Manning saying anything of the kind in public spaces, we all steered away from it, even though military intelligence didn’t seem to be (why else have the boy sleep naked in front of other soldiers?).

I didn’t even say anything after I watched the clip from PBS Frontline above, and told my wife that “the way Manning stands in that party, that’s a girl.” Only to my wife: it wasn’t mine to say. Still isn’t in some ways.

But now there’s this breathtaking piece in New York magazine, Bradley Manning’s Army of One.  Steve Fishman, the journalist, seems to be in about the same place I am with Manning, and traces what I call in my book the “this is for fighting, this is for fun” gender wild card – but in the process, he violates all my rules on respect for gender transitions.  In the process, he limns what I can only suggest – that even as in years past to even BE female OR gay in the military was inherently subversive, Manning’s outsider-self may have catalyzed a more profound kind of dissent.

Fishman may have decided that given the stakes — Manning in prison, loose talk of “treason” — he couldn’t do more damage than has already been done. I’m going to ask Manning’s attorney if he feels that way, too. And whether he’s going to make the argument in court that by helping catalyze the Arab Spring, Manning has already done more of his assigned mission (damaging Al Qaeda) than the  men who are calling for his head.

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