Stuck in the Middle With You

Parenthood in three genders.

Soldiering On

Bradley Manning's lawyers gingerly introduce the "Transgender Defense." Should being trans make a soldier unfit for duty? Read More

As a veteran and transwoman

As a veteran and transwoman myself, I count myself as a survivor. But I'm also a veteran who was granted multiple high security clearances as part of my job. My navy career left a lot to be desired. I'm also a recovering alcoholic who learned to abuse medications dispensed by Navy doctors. Whether I was treated fairly or not, then or now by the VA, has no bearing on living in that oath that I took.

I have no malice towards Bradley Manning on any score. The story just seems be full of tragedy for me with no winners and leaves me full of melancholy.

Military Oath

The oaths that are repeated when one joins the service is to make the new soldier aware of the commitment to being in the military. We can spin doctor all of the human rights/psychobabble from those outside (or have been inside) the service, but the fact remains that each prospective soldier is told that they are committing to being faithful and loyal to each service they may enter, and with that comes such a responsibility. If they didn't want that responsibility, then they should have picked another direction!

I appreciate your use of

I appreciate your use of language, "her" and "she," in this article.

Soldering On

I always enjoy reading anything you write Jenny. This article cuts to my core with memories of all the sadness and disconnect I felt for years. I too immersed myself in sports to be, "a masculine," guy. It didn't work. Like the title of the article, "Soldering On," is what we all do as MTF trans folks before transition.
I never served in the Military yet I believe in honesty, trust and loyalty. Simply stated, Bradley broke that trust and no matter how tragic this situation is, (and it is tragic. Justice must somehow be upheld. There are no simple things about being trans until our minds, body's, hearts and souls are of one gender. For the woman who Bradley is, I wish for her inner peace. "Soldering On," for the future maybe all she can do.


Thanks for the article Jen, I can relate. I have lived as a man most of my life. When I have tried expressing my true gender, I just ended up losing my job and most of my family. I really appreciate how well you present our experience to the world Jen and help them understand our conundrum, as Jan Morris described it.
I have never been in the military. I believe there is a need for our country to have a military. But having said that I also believe the military and our government must be held accountable for their actions and believe that B. Manning is a hero for shedding light on the shameful, immoral, and illegal actions of both.
I believe she deserves the Nobel Prize for her actions.

A significant difference that will probably be lost in the hype

". . . it’s isolation and depression that drive people to break the law-even in the name of justice--not transness itself."

This is what has to be reinforced over and over again, to make sure that people understand the difference, because we know those who would oppress us will do the opposite. Being trans wasn't the problem. Being in the closet was. We all know and acknowledge how the closet can destroy lives. This is just another tragic example of that old fact.

I agree that Manning broke the law. I agree with her conviction. Yet I still strongly believe that she should have been sentenced to time served because of the tremendous service she has done for the American people by exposing shameful acts the military tried to keep secret. My spouse wondered out loud it Manning's transgender status influenced the excessive length of her sentence. I don't see any evidence of that. What I do see is a horrible sentence imposed to make an example to all future would be whistleblowers to stay quiet and let wrongdoers with government powers get away with it.

Why This Column Failed For Me

I greatly appreciated this piece right up to the point of the phrase "they manage to serve without committing treason". Treason isn't a synonym for the acts that Manning admitted to in open court. It is a specific crime that appears both in the Constitution and the United States Code (18 USC §2381) and is a crime that Manning was not charged with. The careless usage of a emotionally and politically-charged term with a specific legal meaning is utterly inappropriate in discussing what is otherwise an entirely appropriate topic. I'm quite disappointed.


Also remove "whistleblower". None of his actions represented a whistleblower. A whistleblower does not release vast quantities of data without knowing that is in it. That is what a stupid, naive and foolish narcissist does.


The sentencing phase of a trial isn't a "defense." The defense left the entire trans matter out of the trial per se, bringing it into the penalty/sentencing phase in order to suggest that had Chelsea's actual pleas to CO and the psychologist been taken seriously rather than being treated as a sort of Klinger-esque attempt to evade service that, just perhaps, she wouldn't have been in a position to release anything to anyone. That seems to be lost by both trans folk and cis folk in the aftermath of her conviction.

I appreciate the notion of attempting to see deeply into someone's eyes in order to see into their deepest heart. But, as a therapist I don't find it a particularly good method of discovering who, what or how my patient might be.

I believe her to have been in the right when she exposed the cynical cables and assuredly in the right when she exposed the criminal murders of Iraqi civilians by the Marines in the helicopter. As a trans woman who served in the USA Army I understand the pressures of dealing with the military while living a lie one hopes will come true so the torture can end. As the one-time holder of a top secret codeword security clearance I also understood that as far as the government was concerned no matter how much the military stressed not obeying unlawful orders that I would be prosecuted if I released information that might expose my own government's criminality.

I think Chelsea understood that as well. If we see anything in her eyes in that picture above I think it must, as you and I both know, be the sheer joy of being one's self, even just briefly. But, that would be reading my experience into her picture. One hopes that she'll be able to be that woman again.

I'm not stuck in the middle with you!

This article sucks! "The military is full of transgender people, and they manage to serve without committing treason..." Treason?
"Like a lot of Americans, I have unsettled feelings about Manning. I was opposed to the war from the beginning, but there’s something about Julian Assange and Wikileaks that leaves me uneasy as well. I do believe that Manning broke the law; at the same time, I think lives may have been saved as a result of Manning’s actions." Seems to me the author is very unsure of her moral grounding. Reminds me of Obama. Hollow!
Why not look at Manning as someone who grew up with an abusive authority figure, his father, like his boyhood friend suggests in a Frontline short they did on Manning which was little more then a smear campaign. Add to that no genuine authority figure in his life who could provide him with a sense of direction, including his mother and stepmother. Also add to this mix the boyhood bulling, the high school bullying, the army bulling he experienced about his sexual and gender issues, and you have someone who harbors a deep resentment of people in positions of power who abuse it, or whole governments who abuse it, and abuse it to the point they engage in wars of aggression, which is illegal under international law, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people. What was the point of this article?

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Chelsea Manning

In these days where privacy breach and extra judicial intrusion into our lives is fierce and on going, there are few enough who have the courage to risk everything to say stop. People like Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, Glen Greenwald and Edward Snowdon are hero's, the thin, stressed line of those with the courage to take these stands.

Alacrity with which politicians kow tow to powerful interest groups and exscuse any level of abuse of power is truly sobbering. These people who do make these stands, I guess have their flaws, but fundamentally they are heroic. Chelsea Manning, has not backed down and is being punished doubly. In that small, unlikely,nerdy looking frame beats a heart of breath taking courage.

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Jennifer F. Boylan is a writer-in-residence at Barnard College and the author of 13 books.


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