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Trans Fatalism and Bradley Manning

FatalismWas everyone here aware that US Army soldier Bradley Manning, the person who made Wikileaks a household name (prior to this I assumed it was some sort of ‘golden showers’ thing and kept my distance) may be transgender? No one tells me anything. Seriously, we could be marked for extermination, packed into trains, and I’d think we were all just going for ice cream until someone elbowed me in the ribs and clued me in. Regardless, it came as a surprise to me. Kind of.

Here’s the part where I go off on a tangent for a spell, so feel free to skip ahead to the main point if you are one of those baffling people who reads the last page of a book first. So, before getting to my point, I want to say that this is not so good for the trans. It’s hard enough for us to regain the trust of those around us, and society in general, after skulking around for so many years as the wrong gender without significant acts of high treason, or at least the perception thereof. “First you lured me in with the pretense that you were a man, and next thing I know you’ll be priority mailing the Mrs Field’s cookie recipe to Kim Jong Un!’ Don’t laugh; with delicious gooey cookies in supply, he can keep that poor population in line for the next few decades. Seriously though, ‘trans = traitor’ is just not the kind of two and two that does us a whole lot of good.

From what I read, Bradley did what they did (giving the benefit of the doubt here pronoun-wise) out of a sense of correcting what they saw as a great wrong, and did so with a sense of fatalism. Bradley allegedly contemplated a life in prison as a result of their actions prior to taking them. Unfortunately, that sense of fatalism is something endemic to the trans population. Now that I’m getting to the main subject, let’s talk about that for a minute. To be clear though, I’m not going to directly address suicide here. Trans suicide is a very serious topic that I don’t have the right background or experience to tackle without the risk of causing harm, so I won’t do it. I consider myself very fortunate for being part of an all too small subset that never contemplated this, but believe in showing the utmost compassion and empathy for those who have.

Fatalism, however, is another story. I think that prior to full self-awareness and willingness to address the problem, many trans often have a certain sense of doom when it comes to contemplating the rest of our lives. It springs from the dawning realization that these feelings just don’t seem to be going away, no matter what actions we take to try to correct or heal ourselves. In fact, they just keep getting worse, and the world becomes a bleak and scary place with the walls closing in with almost imperceptible slowness. This fatalism is really just the expression of a loss of hope, that everything is not going to turn out OK, and that hard work and perseverance aren’t going to mean a damn thing. It’s not necessarily true, but those of you reading this who are trans might be able to understand where I’m coming from.

The real piss of it is that launching oneself into transition doesn’t always cure this sense, and many of us turn into big negative Nellies as a result. The reason is that transition doesn’t cure all of one’s problems, just one, while introducing a big hoary host of others in the process. The loss of relationships, loss of regard of peers, loss of employment, loss of anonymity, and even lost of self-esteem are common, and generally weighed against the benefits of transition in the hopes that a clear winner will be made clear and tell us what to do. It also comes with the sudden realization that the completion of transition is not life’s endgame. I’ve just come to this one myself. While October is a huge milestone in my overall existence and the capstone of my transition, I have to start planning my life for after that time. It’s a strange feeling when the final barrier comes close enough to understand there are lots and lots of them after that. No worries; I’m ready. At least that will be behind me and I’ll be a bit wiser for it.

Back to Bradley. Bradley’s sense of fatalism brought them to a place where the consequence of action probably seemed vague and meaningless; just another possible bleak future in an already bleak existence. As a result, Bradley will probably spend most of the remainder of their life in prison and I find that very sad. Whether you consider Bradley a hero of villain for doing what they did is immaterial. Bradley will likely not have the opportunity to make other difficult roads we here are more familiar with, or at least not for a long time. Because of this, and so many others like Bradley, I think we are behooved to keep in mind that being transgender is not an insurmountable problem, and that transition in and of itself only solves so much, but pushing forward is like opening oysters. It’s going to be hard, you might get cut, you might find a pearl, and at the very least, you get to eat oysters.

Finally, I want to once again reiterate, especially to anyone who stumbles on here doing some shady research. Being transgender in no way, shape, or form predisposes someone to being more likely to commit acts of high treason, or really any type of activity that can be considered unethical according to government or industry standards. Seriously, most of us are trying to shake the whole ‘deceptive’ label all together and really didn’t need this sort of thing.

About michellelianna

I'm a transgender woman now in the maintenance stages of transition having all the electrolysis and surgery one can reasonably be expected to undertake. While busy exploring my new world, I took to blogging about it with dubiously popular results. I don't have quite as much to say as I used to, but I'm not quite done yet either.

23 responses »

  1. As a non-USA person I couldn’t care either way about Bradley Manning. Don’t think he’s a hero or a villain. That feelling you were talking about has a (pretty ridiculous) name: FOREDOOMANCE!

    You might want to look it up.

  2. yeah, i know this fatalism of which you speak. had it forever (we’re talking decades here, hunny! … couple score of decades!). always knew i’d be found out eventually. but … even though i know that eventually the hammer will fall, i’m just not overly fearful of it any more. it’ll just be another pothole on the road to … um … somewhere, wherever the heck that is!

    came out to gf, and very bestest friends and the rgular tears on the pillow just stopped. the fear just got itself replaced by a permanent sort of sad skepticism that a full time happy and wholesome life (from birth to death) for ‘our kind’ will never happen during my lifetime. doesn’t mean the struggle shouldn’t continue though (as MHP says).

    had heard about bradley’s alleged trans-ism on one news report at the very beginning of this fiasco, but then it never seemd to get raised again in the msm, only in trans related bloggy things!

    deja (parentheses lover)

    • I get into the same gloom and doom from time to time myself. Hooray for you coming out to the GF and BFF! The nice thing about getting rid of the fear is knowing that you are one step further ahead of the game. 🙂

      • … so a few days later it is, and just wanted to let you know i’ve passed along your idea of ‘trans-fatalism’ inna few comments to tangentially related articles read on line (mostly re Bradley). Been engrossed in a book , “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain, and see so much of myself in it and so much of my trans* friends, too. Would love to see more integrating Cain’s theories and ideas about trans identity (closeted, stealth and out). There is a definite intersection here, imho.

  3. While I can empathize for those fatalistic trans folks you describe, I cannot conceive where their heads and hearts are at, so I won’t. Two years ago this month, while in recovery and rehab for my bi-lateral hip arthroplasty, the medical terminology for a full hip replacement surgery, I could have never have even begun to imagine what my life would look like today. I am only six months away from my own major milestone in my life and I still can’t even begin to imagine where my life will be two, four, six years from now and I am not worried about it. Fortunately, I am not at all prone to fatalism because I believe neither in fate or destiny. My life is neither before me or behind me, my life is here and now. I am totally at peace with where I am and where I was and where I will be is of no concern to me, whatsoever. Just saying!

    • The real issue is that in spite of the seeming huge commonality we have in being trans, in every other way we are all very different people with different outlooks, philosophy, and modes of dealing with things. May you always look on the bright side of life. 🙂

  4. Bradley Manning is a hero. If he trans*, no harm done. I used to hate it when someone Jewish was convicted of corruption and my parents would say it was “bad for the Jews”. No, it was good for society.

  5. I can’t imagine the stress. I think any transgender person, who decides to take the ride to the end should qualify for free spa treatments for life just to deal with it 🙂

    This morning I heard some idiot on the news say California shouldn’t invest in trans-designated restrooms for schools because the feelings of our transgender youth are “transient.”

    Then my head exploded.

    • Don’t you just love all the little armchair opinions out there? “I just spend a good 3 minutes thinking about this and therefore my un-researched opinion about something I have no stake in, so I demand my words take equal weight!” It would be like me griping about the fishing rights of the Inuit.

  6. Michelle, please don’t take this the wrong way, but I think you’re having a bout of paranoia over this issue. MHO, and I may be wearing rose tinted glasses and expecting the world to be a lot less full of conspiracy than it may very well be. I have been described as being a bit naive, but those accusing me of this are, by my judgment, downright cynics. It’s hard for me to imagine anyone associating gender identity, trans or not, directly with treason, insurrection, or sedition. What you’re suggesting seems more along the lines of the story thread begun in X-Men, that the world is somewhat aware that there are beings beyond “normal” out there wandering around who are powerful, unpredictable, and want to establish their place in society, and therefore are dangerous and must be controlled or obliterated. What I would more expect of someone at the very least uninformed if not hostile about transgender issues would be a comment on the order of, “Hey, that Bradley dude is one of them fruitcakes, how about that?”

    Getting into the rest of what you were talking about though, the concept of fatalism, I have myself of late been experiencing what you describe (“a certain sense of doom when it comes to contemplating the rest of our lives”), and I don’t like it. As I’ve described myself here previously, I am less the “Point A to Point B” transgender M2F and more the bigendered mutt. So for me, there really isn’t even any sense of direction that at least TGs on their journey to the other place have. That in itself would almost seem a blessing. Instead, I am floundering in a limbo state of what I almost consider non-genderism or pseudo-genderism. I have been pushing the envelope of recognition for the past few months by letting my hair grow, getting facial hair removal treatments, and shaping my brows, for example. This past week I’ve been experimenting with the ever so slightest bit of eye make-up, and last night I ordered a package of brow and lash tint online in the hope of darkening those features enough to make a difference without it looking like I’ve put something on. I have been toying with getting my ears pierced for months but am scared to death because to me, it’s a dead giveaway (despite the fact I WORK with people in the office who are guys who have pierced ears). Now, why am I doing all this if I don’t intend to fully come out as something other than your standard garden issue male, at least not to everyone I work with? Where am I going? I’m NOT on my way to Point B, but I like being on the road. The girl I’ve been seeing for a few years says she believes I’m going to eventually “blow the wad” and do something to my appearance that will be incontrovertible. I sort of find it hard to argue with that since I’m already playing around in dangerous mud and never would have pictured myself doing so.

    But again, WHY? In changing how I appear, surely I must consider those negatives you noted (loss of relationships, loss of regard of peers, loss of employment, loss of anonymity, and even lost of self-esteem). I work for a relatively progressive company, and don’t feel my appearance would be something I’d be called on. After my marriage blew apart a few years ago and my almost ex got a job working in my office, I confided to my manager about being transgen, and he was fine with it, but that could simply have been because I never presented as anything but male. Beside that, I don’t think I’d be comfortable at work coming out any further than looking a little more feminine. So with regard to fatalism, I have to look in the mirror and ask, just who the heck AM I? What defines ME? As I approach retirement and have the opportunity to expand how I present to the world, will I actually become someone definable? Will that finally bring me inner happiness? Maybe I need to just sit back and appreciate that, at the very least, I “get to eat oysters.”

    • Hi Deanna! No worries – I love it when people speak their mind,
      especially when the perception is that I’m speaking from my nethers. I
      actually agree with you and truly believe there is not conspiracy out
      there to link being trans with being a diabolical masterminds bent on
      world destruction. I do, however, enjoy exaggerating. It’s the Irish
      in me – I just can’t help myself. At the same time, there are those
      out there who truly believe we are agents of an irascible patriarchy
      bent on subjugating women by going through years of physically and
      emotionally painful processes just to gain access to the can, so
      there’s that.

      Now, this is not a prediction that you are going to end up like me,
      but I well remember being where you are now. At the time, I convinced
      myself that my gender was very fluid and that at times the pool was
      deeper on the female end than the male. I was wrong, but I’m not at
      all saying that you are, and if you are happy staying in the road,
      then I think it would be wonderful if you can. I will assure you,
      however, that “blowing the wad” is harder than you think. In the last
      2 years before I kicked off transition, the only male articles of
      clothing I was wearing were button down shirts. My jean, pants, socks,
      and even shoes were all purchased in the women’s section, albeit of
      the more androgynous variety. No one ever notices, even when my socks
      were pink and blue with little butterflies on them. As a more extreme
      example, I used to work with a trans person who was not yet out. This
      person portrayed themselves as male, though I read her as female the
      first time we met. Feminine curves, long hair, a total lack of facial
      hair, and visible breasts. When she came out about a year after
      leaving, everyone was shocked. Once people categorize you as one
      gender, dislodging that perception is insanely difficult.

      As for self-definition, relax and enjoy the oysters. If you let it,
      your own sense of comfort will define you for you, and it does change.
      Two years ago I couldn’t imagine anything so horrible as walking into
      work dressed female. Now, I would find it unbearable to appear at work
      male. The tides of your subconscious will carry to where they want to
      be, or even leave you where you are if that is the right thing. In the
      mean time, don’t sweat it and I hope you find a pearl. 🙂

      • What a lovely reply, Michelle. Thank you for sharing your own road trip with me. It really does help to know what other people are/were going through on the path and how they lived through it. I currently am in a very confused and frustrated state and am thinking of contacting someone at Spectrum to have a tete-a-tete about it. I suppose if I were totally on my own, it might be less confounding, but I am in a wonderful relationship with someone who celebrates me as I am, and so I must consider where we are traveling together when deciding just how far I’m going to go with my transformation, if that’s what it is. (She’s my pearl, by the way.)

        On the Chelsea Manning issue, there was a quite scathing editorial about her the other day, I’m sure many of us caught it. I don’t think it really bashed TGs (it actually came out saying it wasn’t), just strongly opined that the American public shouldn’t pay for a “traitor’s” necessities for transitioning to her desired gender. I’m sure this will be fought out in the legal system for some time, but the bottom line is that Chelsea is probably going to suffer not only doing time but doing it while presenting as someone who she knows she is not. Nobody knows what this consternation is, looking from the outside in. You have to be here to know, n’est- ce pas?

  7. aka Rebecca Moore

    First time here so thanks for your thoughts. My body has decided for me (unknown reason) and I’ve decided to follow it along. Finding out my “real” person gave me a huge sense of relief and loss of life-long anger. That was why I decided to change despite my knowledge of all the things you talk about. I just “had” to do it. Thus a long journey begins at a rather older age. Perhaps Bradley Manning (an assumed name?) just felt they had to do what they did. Idealism when young makes you do things you wouldn’t later in life. This sense gave us Peace Corps and CUSO (formerly Canadian University Service Overseas) volunteers. And our lives did change too. Maybe I’m doing this out of a sense of fatalism although I prefer self-realism, the strongest force alive. May the Force Be With All! Do or Not Do, No Try. And you will succeed. Too many have been brutally terminated by religionists who do not follow their own commandments.

    • Welcome Rebecca and thanks for commenting! I don’t think Manning is
      using an assumed name – he’s the US Army fellow who went and leaked a
      boatload of secret military information to Wikileaks and got busted
      for it. I understand what you mean about having to do it. I think we
      all reach that point sooner or later where declining to act is such a
      heinous concept that we do whatever it takes. I’m also in favor of
      self-realism, but that pesky sense of doom tends to pop up here and
      there. I blame the hormones. 🙂

  8. Jayden Alfre Jones (JJ)

    I feel like I was disconnected to current events, when it was brought to my attention by a friend.
    How did the news networks not jump on the negative band wagon? I guess our community is lucky that, Paula Dean, and the minute by minute, hour by hour, week by week, focus on Zimmeron, (YAWN!), saved we trans a bit of, ” those bad mental deviants!” exposser. I’m somewhat confised that her/his being trans was not spotlighted, making him/her look even worse. That is a good thing right”

    • Honestly, I was pretty confused by that as well. I haven’t found any
      direct quotes from Manning on the subject and I have to wonder if this
      a bit of ploy on the part of the defense team. Of course if the new
      trend is to begin pleading ‘transanity’ instead of the time honored
      insanity, it doesn’t seem to be off to a good start now, does it?
      Thanks Jayden!

      • recent commentary by some left-of-center talking heads has it that the photo and the testimony of his army therapist ( thought that was ‘sposed to be private and protected!) were initially introduced by the defense in a move to present a mitigating factor to his ‘irrational’ act. … but then re-introduced at the closing statements by the prosecution in order to “other” him.


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