The True Bradley ‘Chelsea’ Manning Story is Stranger Than Fiction
Because Manning was gay, upset with the military and transgender, his cause proved irresistible.
Imagine this scenario for a moment. You are a budding novelist, and you present a new proposal to your agent. The agent looks it over and sends it back, assuring you no publisher would ever go for it. “It’s just too far-fetched,” you are told. “Best to go back to the drawing board.”
What was the scenario you concocted? It went like this.
There was a gay private in the army who gained access to a cachet of nearly one million secret military documents. When his gay lover broke up with him, he was depressed. So he decided to download and release these documents, likely costing the lives of our men and women on the field.
He was tried and convicted of crimes against the state and sentenced to 35 years in prison. However, while in prison, he insisted he was actually a woman, not a man. Eventually, the government paid for his sex-change surgery, after which the president decided to commute his sentence. After which he was hailed as a national hero and did his first TV interview, now as a woman.
Well, I could see why a publisher would reject such a story. Who would ever believe a narrative like this? It strains credulity — especially the part about this guy becoming a national hero. But, as the saying proves true once again, truth is stranger than fiction.
The Truth of Bradley Manning
As you realized from the opening lines of this article, this is the true story of Bradley “Chelsea” Manning, not the plot of some far-fetched fiction novel.
Welcome to America, 2017, the country that generates headlines like this: “Transgender man and father-of-two adopted children happily announces he is pregnant with his gay husband, a year after suffering a miscarriage.”
Now that Bradley is Chelsea, how could he not be an LGBT hero? Being “courageous” enough to transition from male to female (or vice versa) as a public figure is the instant path to fame. Then, getting pardoned by the president — what more could you ask for?
Try to wrap your brain around that one for a while. A transgender man is pregnant. He has a gay husband. He previously suffered a miscarriage.
In other words, this is a woman who identifies as a man, who is “married” to a man who is attracted to men (even if they have female private parts and woman), and “he” is now pregnant after having a miscarriage.
It reminds me of another story I read some years ago in the Village Voice, originally published in 2000 (yes, 17 years ago). It was titled, “Two Dads with a Difference: Neither of Us Was Born Male.” (Check out the couple’s picture here.) As the article, written by one of the “Dads” explained, “We are transgendered men (female-to-male, or FTM). My boyfriend is the mother of my child.”
So, in this case, two women, apparently attracted to men, chose to identify as gay men. But at least one of them still had her female organs and so could conceive and give birth to a child. (I wonder what happened to that precious child?)
Against backdrops like this, I guess the Bradley-Chelsea Manning story isn’t that unbelievable at all, if not for the political intrigue.
According to reports in 2010, “The US Army intelligence analyst, who is half British and went to school in Wales, appeared to sink into depression after a relationship break-up, saying he didn’t ‘have anything left’ and was ‘beyond frustrated.’
“In an apparent swipe at the army, he also wrote: ‘Bradley Manning is not a piece of equipment,’ and quoted a joke about ‘military intelligence’ being an oxymoron.”
Manning claims that he released the documents to Wikileaks because “I have a responsibility to the public.” Our military, he argues, was covering up atrocities we committed against our enemies. So with little or no thought to the consequences of his actions, he decided to play the hero.
Not Everyone in the LGBT Community is Applauding
Interestingly, although Manning has become an LGBT icon, not everyone in the LGBT community has celebrated his actions.
Writing for Out.com in 2012, James Kirchick declared, “Bradley Manning is No Gay Hero.” He felt Manning disgraced the names of gays who had served with distinction in the military, writing, “Rather than claim Bradley Manning as a hero of the gay community and campaign for his release, we should be the ones advocating most loudly that he face the strictest possible punishment for his treachery.”
But now that Bradley is Chelsea, how could he not be an LGBT hero? Being “courageous” enough to transition from male to female (or vice versa) as a public figure is the instant path to fame. Then, getting pardoned by the president — what more could you ask for?
I seriously doubt that Bradley Manning would have been pardoned by the president if he had been a conservative, heterosexual Christian. And I seriously doubt that he would have been hailed as a hero by other conservatives, even if felt it his duty to expose alleged military abuses.
But because he was: 1) gay; 2) upset with the military; and 3) transgender, his cause proved irresistible.
A Surprise Twist?
So, maybe you can write that novel after all.
Or better still, how about adding a surprise ending to the plot, a real twist? Chelsea Manning has a radical encounter with God, resulting in a dramatic conversion, after which he goes back to being Bradley, marries a fine Christian woman, and spends the rest of the years undoing the damage he did.
I would buy that book.