PHOTO: Private Manning at the time of their arraignment. Courtesy [Private] Manning Support Network.
For over 18 months, an Army soldier was held as a political prisoner by the U.S. government with no trial. This soldier is accused of sharing classified information with the world media through the Web site WikiLeaks. There is much about this story that is not well known, including the guilt or innocence of Private Manning. The members of the San Diego Alliance for Marriage Equality (S.A.M.E.) want to make it clear that we support Private Manning, regardless of the degree of responsibility for sharing classified information, regardless of the outcome of the so-called “court-martial” Manning is facing, and regardless of his or her gender identity.
In September 2010 S.A.M.E. was listed with other organizations as a signatory to an open letter calling for Private Manning’s release, and support for his or her alleged action in releasing the video “Collateral Murder,” which, according to former National Lawyers’ Guild president Marjorie Cohn, showed evidence of several U.S. military violations of the Geneva Convention. As an organization, we continue to lead rallies and marches for Private Manning for several reasons. First and foremost, many of us feel that if Private Manning did in fact leak the video “Collateral Murder,” the so-called “U.S. Embassy Cables,” or the “Afghan War Diaries,” then Manning should be protected as a whistleblower and thanked for showing courage in exposing war crimes and other rampant forms of corruption. We stand up for anyone who makes such bold efforts to hold the government accountable for criminal behavior. We respect and recognize the noble rationale expressed in the words often attributed to Manning through a chat-log: “I want people to see the truth … because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.”
Many of us in the LGBT [Queer] community know first-hand the violence that arises when people dehumanize others. Manning has been dehumanized and abused by an embarrassed U.S. military machine. According to the British newspaper The Guardian (April 10, 2011), 250 top U.S. legal scholars describe the treatment this soldier has been subjected to — including forced nudity, sleep deprivation, and isolation — as “torture.” No person from anywhere in the world should be subjected to torture, ever. We stand against the barbaric and illegal treatment of Manning, which invalidates the legal process against Manning and exposes the vindictive nature of this soldier’s “court-martial.”
If the allegations are true, Manning would have faced a crisis of conscience that would wither even the most moral among us. But there is another personal trial that may trump Manning’s ethical one. Some of the chat-logs and courtroom testimony indicates that Manning was questioning his or her gender identity. As most Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual people will tell you, “coming out of the closet” is a frightening experience under the best of circumstances. For Manning, he or she is isolated from supportive friends and family, employed and imprisoned by a giant entity that considers Transgender identity a condition of disease, and is afforded no level of privacy or respite.
We respect the right to privacy of gender or sexual identity for everyone, and barring a public affirmation by Manning, we choose to adopt a gender-neutral reference as we have here in this letter. Furthermore, we want to state unequivocally that no matter how Manning identifies, as Bradley or Breanna, Private Manning is one of the great heroes of our time, comparable to Daniel Ellsberg. We demand an end to the biased “trials” and imprisonment, and furthermore, we call for the initiation of criminal proceedings against those whose war crimes and other illegal behavior the aforementioned WikiLeaks communications have exposed.