Friday, August 23, 2013

An Open Letter to Anna Bross and Other News Editors

Today Anna Bross declared that NPR will not refer to Chelsea Manning as she/her, but will continue to use he/him despite Chelsea's express wishes.  Of course, NPR isn't the only news outlet stigmatizing and refusing to honor Chelsea's wishes. Below is the letter I just emailed her.  It applies to any news organization that refuses to recognize Manning's agency.

Ms. Bross,

As a long-time listener of NPR as a source of news with intelligence and depth, I am disgusted at your ignorance about transgender people and gender identity in general.  Your choice to continue to refer to Chelsea Manning, despite her stated wishes, as he/him is a display of the worst kind of heteronormativity, cis-gender privilege, and systematic genderbashing.  Do you understand those terms?  If not, I suggest you do some research.  Gender is not about genitalia, it's about how we understand ourselves.  Some people, like myself, and likely yourself, understand our gender (male in my case, female in yours) as aligning with the sex were were assigned at birth.  (You need to understand also how sex also is much less clear than what you likely believe.)  Others understand their gender differently from their assigned sex.  Chelsea Manning has stated that she is one of those people.  

Your insistence on continuing to use male pronouns for Chelsea, or anybody, who states a preference to be referred to otherwise (such as she/her, or perhaps ze/hir) needs to be honored.  Why do you feel like you have the authority or right to police and decide for Chelsea, or anybody, their gender?  Why do you think it's ethically sound to decide what Manning's sex is?  Are you a genitalia expert?  Have you seen Manning's genitalia?  Do you know whether Manning has a penis or just an enlarged clitoris?  Do you know Manning's chromosomes?  If not, I'd strongly urge you to let Chelsea decide what is proper to call her.  Even if you knew all of this information, you do not have the right to police other people's decisions about how they wish to be known.  

Would you object if, although you seem to present and identify as a woman, as female, news outlets, friends, family, the public, decided to call  you a man and refer to you as he/him?  I suspect you'd object strongly to this because you see yourself as a woman.  So does Chelsea.  It doesn't matter who you think she is.  I expect better from NPR and its staff: I expect you not to promote systematic discrimination.  Your actions today have done this.

I have donated to NPR in the past, but I will no longer do so unless you reconsider this decision.  I'm sure my donation is a small sum compared to your corporate partners, but it's what I can do other than urge you to consider how you are harming the life of not just Chelsea Manning, but effectively declaring that no trans person has the right to declare their own personhood and terms of engagement with others.

I urge you to rethink your position.

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