'Bradley' or 'Chelsea' – What to call Pvt. Manning? (+video)
The US Army private convicted of espionage in the WikiLeaks case says the name is now 'Chelsea Manning.' That's set off a debate over how to refer to transgender people.
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The Associated Press style book says this: “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.”Skip to next paragraph
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That’s pretty clear, but it doesn’t exactly answer the “opposite sex” question about Manning.
In a piece headlined “The Soldier Formerly Known as Bradley Manning,” New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan writes, “The development sent Times editors scrambling to their stylebooks and to past articles on other transgender cases of well-known people for guidance.”
Apparently, they’re still trying to figure it out.
“We can’t just spring a new name and a new pronoun” on readers with no explanation, Susan Wessling, the deputy editor who supervises the newspaper’s copy editors, told Ms. Sullivan.
Sullivan notes that a recent article on The Times’s Web site on the gender issue continued to use the masculine pronoun and “Mr.”
“That, said the associate managing editor Philip B. Corbett, will evolve over time,” Sullivan writes. “It’s tricky, no doubt. But given Ms. Manning’s preference, it may be best to quickly change to the feminine and to explain that – rather than the other way around."
To transgender people – there are some 700,000 in the United States by one scientific count – it’s not a subject for tittering, dismissal, or journalistic head-scratching.
The American Psychiatric Association now labels transgender inclinations as “Gender Dysphoria” rather than “gender identity disorder,” which carries less of a stigma. (The professional association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973.)
Advances in transgender rights – which are included in many gay rights laws – have followed.
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia all have laws clearly prohibiting discrimination against transgender people.
The trend has become more controversial with cases involving school children.
Colorado officials recently ruled that a suburban Colorado Springs school district discriminated against a transgender 6-year-old (anatomically a boy, although she thought of herself as a girl) by preventing her from using the girls' bathroom.
In California earlier this month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation requiring public schools to allow transgender students access to whichever restroom and locker room they want. The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, also will allow transgender kindergarten through-12th grade students to choose whether they want to play boys' or girls' sports.
All of this has come into greater focus now that “Bradley Manning” has become “Chelsea Manning.”