A Word In Edgewise: A New Language for a New World


Pfc. Manning announced, shortly after her recent sentencing, an ongoing gender issue: Manning wishes to be addressed as “Chelsea” and to start hormone replacement therapy.

This request will open up further legal issues for both Manning and the military. Ellen Wulfhorst of Reuters wrote, “Unlike the court-martial…the next challenge could play out in federal court over a far different issue: sexual identity,” and will raise unprecedented legal questions such as will the Army provide any necessary therapy.

Whatever one thinks of Manning, transgender individuals in the military is not a new issue. This author’s “Transmission Impossible,” appeared in Lavender, July 2004. Manning is not unique.

Take Kristen Beck’s new memoir, Warrior Princess. Beck was “Christopher” throughout her twenty-year, thirteen-deplyoment service as a Navy Seal, being awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

Beck, commenting on Manning, recently wrote that barring parole or pardon, the US military is responsible for her for the next 35 years; obliged to ensure Manning’s safety and to avoid “cruel and unusual” punishment. Beck added, “After an accredited medical doctor certifies Manning’s transgender status–an assessment that could take months–the military and Department of Defense must make some very hard decisions. The diagnosis from an accredited doctor changes many aspects of Manning’s future and, possibly, regulations within the military.”

And consider Col. James Pritzker. After serving eleven years in the Army and sixteen in the Illinois Army National Guard, and accruing a net worth of $1.5 billion, Pritzker announced through Crain’s Chicago Business: “As of August 16, 2013, J.N. Pritzker will undergo an official legal name change, will now be known as Jennifer Natalya Pritzker. This change will reflect the beliefs of her true identity that she has held privately and will now share publicly. Pritzker now identifies herself as a woman for all business and personal undertakings.”

It may seem to one not affected that the “transgender thing” is proliferating. It is. Not, I would posit, because there are now more affected individuals, or that it has become ‘fashionable,’ but because there is now a vocabulary with which to express one’s feelings. People who grew up without a way to speak of their true selves, now have a vocabulary and grammar and are using them to articulate their needs.

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