By Mary Metzger
It takes a lot of courage to be who and what you are when who or what you are contradicts the values of your society. Thus, even under the best of circumstances it takes a lot of courage to be out and gay. No matter what laws may exist on the books to protect your rights, there are narrow minded, hateful, fearful and religious people in every corner of every nation, including America, who would do you harm, even go so far as to kill you, and get some deep sense of worth and satisfaction out of doing it. This is particularly true when the individual involved in transsexual. One in two transgender individuals are sexually abused or assaulted at some point in their lives. . This indicates that the majority of transgender individuals are living with the aftermath of trauma and the fear of possible repeat victimization. (https://www.ovc.gov/pubs/forge/sexual_numbers.html. A new report highlights just how perilous it is to be a transgender person in the United States. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) in conjunction with the Trans People of Color Coalition (TPOCC) analyzed the known data surrounding the untimely deaths of transgender people and released the findings. At least 25 transgender people were killed in the United States in 2017 https://www.fastcompany.com/40498772/2017-was-the-deadliest-year-for-transgender-people
While 2018 was not as deadly, it did see some horrific murders of transgender people such as Blaze Bernstein who was stabbed more than 20 times by an avowed neo-Nazi and member of the Nazi group Atomwaffen Division. In another horrific case Amia Tyrae, a black transgender woman, was found dead in a motel room in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with multiple gunshot wounds. Nevaa White, a friend of Tyrae’s, said that Tyrae had lived her life as an openly trans woman since 2009. White also said Tyrae was bullied and “didn’t have an easy life. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_violence_against_LGBT_people_in_the_United_State
All things considered, how much courage did it take then for Bradley Manning to announce before the world that she was Chelsea Manning? A whole lot.
Then there is the issue of how much courage it takes to expose the crimes of one’s nation? How much courage did it take for Bradley Manning to become a whistle blower? How much courage did it take to turn over secret government files to Wikileaks knowing that he then would be charged with serious crimes and face the death penalty for?
Manning, 24, was arrested on May 29, 2010 at the Forward Operating Base Hammer where he was working as an intelligence analyst, and initially held for almost three months at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, and then transferred in July 2010 to the Marine corps base at Quantico in Virginia. He was held there for another eight months in conditions that aroused widespread condemnation, including being held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day and being made to strip naked at night. For a period of time he was held under Prevention of Injury rules meaning he is ‘deprived of sheets and a separate pillow’. In response to the harsh treatment of Manning Judge Juan Mendez, special rapporteur for the UN, completed a 14 – month .investigation and concluded “The special rapporteur concludes that imposing seriously punitive conditions of detention on someone who has not been found guilty of any crime is a violation of his right to physical and psychological integrity as well as of his presumption of innocence,”
In his opening letter to the US government on December 30 2010, Mendez said that the prolonged period of isolated confinement was believed to have been imposed “in an effort to coerce him into ‘cooperation’ with the authorities, allegedly for the purpose of persuading him to implicate others.” Mendez said that he could not reach a definitive conclusion as to whether Manning had actually been tortured because he had consistently been denied permission by the US military to interview the prisoner under acceptable circumstances, The Pentagon has refused to allow Mendez to see Manning in private, insisting that all conversations must be monitored. “You should have no expectation of privacy in your communications with Private Manning,” the Pentagon wrote. Mendez countered that “the lack of privacy is a violation of human rights procedures”, and so unacceptable to him.
The conditions under which Manning found himself while in prison, particularly the humiliation of being stripped naked each night and kept on 23-hour lockdown, led him to attempt suicide twice. After his attempts he was forced to wear a suicide-proof suit. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1365493/Pentagon-tells-Obama-Bradley-Mannings-prison-treatment-appropriate–gets-just-hour-outside-cell.html
So, Chelsea Manning does know what it is like to be in prison; she knows that it can be bad enough to make you want to kill yourself. And knowing what it was like Manning once again stood up to the powers that be and refused to answer questions from a federal grand jury in Virginia knowing she would be put in jail for her defiance. She knew beforehand what would be asked of her, how she would respond, and what the cost would be, and accepted it all. She told reporters before she entered the courtroom that she was prepared to go to jail following the closed contempt hearing for her resistance to provide testimony. On Wednesday, Manning did appear before a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in an undisclosed case but refused to answer any questions.
She responded to each question with the following statement: ‘I object to the question and refuse to answer on the grounds that the question is in violation of my First, Fourth, and Sixth Amendment, and other statutory rights.”. US district judge Claude Hilton held Manning in contempt of court and ordered her jailed-on Friday after a brief hearing where Manning confirmed she has no intention of testifying. She told the judge she “will accept whatever you bring upon me”.
The judge said Chelsea will remain jailed until she testifies or until the grand jury concludes its work, which could be 18 months or more.
The justice department has been investigating WikiLeaks for some time. Last year, prosecutors in Alexandria inadvertently disclosed that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is facing unspecified, sealed criminal charges in the district. Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid arrest.
“In solidarity with many activists facing the odds, I will stand by my principles. I will exhaust every legal remedy available,” she said. “My legal team continues to challenge the secrecy of these proceedings, and I am prepared to face the consequences of my refusal.”
That Chelsea Manning has a brave heart.
Mary Metzger is a 72 year old retired teacher who has lived in Moscow for the past ten years. She studied Women’s Studies under Barbara Eherenreich and Deidre English at S.U.N.Y. Old Westerbury. She did her graduate work at New York University under Bertell Ollman where she studied Marx, Hegel and the Dialectic. She went on to teach at Kean University, Rutgers University, N.Y.U., and most recenly, at The Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology where she taught the Philosophy of Science. Her particular area of interest is the dialectic of nature, and she is currently working on a history of the dialectic. She is the mother of three, the gradmother of five, and the great grandmother of 2.