Over the week that has passed since Chelsea Manning officially came out as trans I have heard several different positions taken by people withing the trans-communities.
That there are differing opinions is to be expected, we are after all a very diverse coalition of people with different views on life and different personal politics.
I should know I am often labeled as ultra left by people I consider to be ultra right wing.
For the record I learned Chelsea Manning was trans many months ago when Zinnia Jones (Lauren McNamara) wrote of her on-line conversations with Chelsea.
I consider the actions of Chelsea Manning to be heroic. I always consider the exposing of war crimes to be an act of heroism. I consider her up there in the ranks of heroes like Daniel Ellsberg, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange.
I remember going to school in the 1950s when I was indoctrinated in the ideology of patriotism. My country right or wrong. My country is always good, we value human life more than all those other countries. We act only in self defense.
All the lies one has to believe to be an unthinking patriotic militarist.
Being a transkid meant dealing with a lot of contradictions cis-gender kids did not have to contemplate.
Alienation led to questioning. Being an avid reader of extra material in addition to our Social Studies texts raised more questions. The first war I had doubts about was the Spanish-American war. Mark Twain and others spoke out in loud opposition to that war.
By the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis I had started learning the “People’s History”. Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie taught it for years before Howard Zinn published his book.
By then I was questioning our support of right wing dictators every where. My opposition to the war in Vietnam was early and complete.
I became involved in the Draft Resistance Movement and later aided and abetted deserters.
I supported the Winter Soldiers and Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
I’ve always thought that every veteran no matter the form of discharge should be eligible for health care and other benefits.
I question the actions of some in the military and believe they should be prosecuted when they commit atrocities and war crimes.
But more I question the legitimacy of those who send others out to fight and commit murder for dubious reasons that often have more to do with protecting corporate interests than defending our nation.
I have stood up for and signed petitions in support of the rights of LGBT people to serve in the military if that is where their hearts and minds lead them.
Those who choose to serve should be able to serve. It is a matter of conscience.
Just as it is a matter of conscience for those of us who oppose these wars.
I disagree with those trans-folks who served and may still be serving, when they call Chelsea Manning a traitor.
Since when is it treason to expose war crimes?
I continue to support the right of trans-folks to serve, the rights of trans-veterans to have full access to all benefits. Further I believe that anyone who has received a less than honorable discharge for being LGBT should immediately have that discharge upgraded to honorable.
I fully believe that Chelsea Manning should be able to receive the medical care she need as a trans-person including hormones and surgery. America claims to have all sorts of high ideals. Time for us to live up to those ideals.
One of those ideals is that we do not torture or abuse prisoners, nor do we deny them needed medical treatment.
Chelsea Manning is in prison for exposing the wanton murder of civilians by US Troops. She isn’t in prison for murder or some other sort of violent crime.
When I wrote about the case of Michelle Kosilek, a year or so ago, I said the case wasn’t really about her but that it was good that the rights of TS/TG people to receive medical treatment in prison was argued using the least sympathetic of people. The precedent has been established using Michelle Kosilek, some one so despicable and hard to support that many of us had a hard time supporting her.
But if we claim hormones and SRS are medically necessary then the principle of providing such treatment to prisoners has to be defended.
I understand the concerns of people in TAVA and other organizations that support the right of trans-folks in the military but no one TS/TG person actually represents all of us, they represent only themselves. It is up to you to make that distinction.