He Is Not Bradley Manning. She Is Chelsea Manning. Deal With...

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GENDER AUGUST 22, 2013

He Is Not Bradley Manning. She Is Chelsea Manning. Deal With It.

Bradley Manning, the Army private sentenced Wednesday to 35 years in prison for leaking government files to WikiLeaks, announced Thursday in a statement to NBC's "Today" that he is, as of now, a she:

As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility).

Thank you,

Chelsea E. Manning

This morning, Wikipedia users changed Manning's entry on the site accordingly, such that it now reads, "Chelsea Manning (officially Bradley Edward Manning; born December 17, 1987)" and refers to Manning throughout as "she." And yet, from ABC News to CBS News to Reuters to The New York Times to Politico, much of the mainstream media insists on using the male pronoun. Even the "Today" article about Manning's statement defiantly refers to her as "he," most notably when quoting the very sentence in which Manning asks that she be referred to as "she."

The Guardian, to its credit, changed its topic page to "Chelsea Manning." This should not be the exception, but the rule. Even the Associated Press stylebook says so: that reporters should "use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth. If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly." There should be no doubt that Manning presents herself as a woman. She even wants to change her physical appearance to represent that. (Fort Leavenworth officials have said they don't provide hormone therapy. Manning's lawyer, David Coombs, said, "I’m hoping that Fort Leavenworth would do the right thing and provide that. If Fort Leavenworth does not, then I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that they are forced to do so.”)

If you're a news outlet and you're at all confused about this—and really, you shouldn't be—you can always go the route of The Washington Post's Aaron Blake, who eschewed the pronoun entirely in favor of "Manning" and descriptors like "the 25-year-old former intelligence analyst." But this can get clumsy, and today is hardly the last we'll hear from Manning, so reporters and editors alike ought to get in the habit of referring to Chelsea Manning in the way she prefers.

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posted in: the plank, media, military, chelsea manning, bradley manning, prison, politics

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