Behind the scenes at CNN: How the media fails on Chelsea Manning’s gender

by Heather McNamara & Lauren McNamara

Lauren: Last Thursday, I appeared on CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper to discuss the Chelsea Manning case. During the segment, we covered my personal history with Chelsea, as well as the question of access to transition-related healthcare for transgender people in prisons. Tapper repeatedly referred to Chelsea as her former name, Bradley, and used masculine pronouns. In my responses, I made sure to use her chosen name and pronouns.

Prior to my segment, the producers informed me that it was CNN’s current policy to use Chelsea’s old name and address her as male, as she had not yet legally changed her name or begun any medical transition process. However, they also let me know that I was free to refer to Chelsea as I wished. While I strongly disagreed with their policy of misgendering her and their excuses for doing so, I felt it would nevertheless be helpful to appear on the show and set an example by respecting her name and gender.

After my appearance, I tweeted to Tapper to express my appreciation that I was able to be on the show and discuss this case. Several of my followers took note of this, and rightly criticized Tapper for persistently misgendering Chelsea. Tapper responded that this was not his decision, and that it was a matter of CNN’s policy.

Later that day, my fiancee, Heather, made a post on my blog explaining how stressful her day had been due to dealing with people’s attitudes toward my segment on CNN. While she had been sitting at the doctor’s office with our two sons, my segment was airing on the TV in the waiting room. Some older people waiting there seemed to be laughing at the very idea of trans people, and she confronted them about this. She also found it awkward and unnecessary that, as our children were watching, Tapper referred to me as previously being a “gay man”.

Heather: Friday, I called out of work. Thursday had been a very long day, and in any case, it was easier to take care of the kids while Lauren continued to do interviews on Democracy Now! and various radio shows. However, I was still feeling ruffled from the night before, so I took to my Twitter, writing a number of tweets criticizing CNN’s unnecessary and transphobic policy of referring to Chelsea as “Bradley” and using male pronouns until such a time as her name is legally changed and medical transition has begun. One such tweet was a reply to one of Jake Tapper’s tweets regarding the interview with Lauren:

Before long, I received a reply from Tapper:

And then:

I’m going to assume the one-E masculine “fiance” was a typo. I replied:

I did not receive a reply to this tweet for a few hours. Another Twitter account, @DanielMWolff, jumped in:

At this point, Jake asked me to follow his account, and we exchanged email addresses and phone numbers. He asked me to call him because he was driving. I did not record the conversation so all that follows is paraphrasing and not by any means intended to be exact quotations.

The first thing he said when I called was that he wanted to let me know that he was deeply sorry for what I went through at the doctor’s office (referring to my previous post), and that he knew that I couldn’t be personally responsible for the barrage of tweets that he received on the topic of Chelsea’s gender, but that I needed to understand that CNN and NPR have the LGBT community’s best interests at heart. He said he wasn’t sure how he was supposed to know that saying my fiancee once identified as a gay man was supposed to be so much better than saying that she was a gay man.

I explained that I can’t stop people’s anger – that people get angry and vent, but what I’m trying to do right now is to get productive about the language that’s used on television so that we can avoid inciting that anger in the future. I told him that I’m older than Lauren and remember the time when respectful treatment of a person such as myself, a lesbian, would have meant discussing me as somebody with a problem that couldn’t be helped, or as being a product of some sort of childhood sexual abuse – but that has changed, and this is how that change happens.

Jake replied that he spoke with a trans activist who said there were 250,000 trans people in America. He said that’s not that many, and that even the LGB community, “of which you are a part,” has trouble accepting trans people and that I should know that.

I told him that yes, I was aware of this problem, and that if media sources like CNN could be guided toward resources for respectful language like the GLAAD style guide, then the common narrative might change.

In what I felt was a very condescending tone, Jake responded that he was sure the higher-ups were quite aware of the style guide, thank-you-very-much – but that, and he didn’t want to offend anyone by saying so, he thinks we can all agree that groups like GLAAD had (here, he struggled to think of an inoffensive word) an agenda.

He went on to say that he didn’t appreciate being treated like a bigot by angry people on Twitter, and that even though he understands that I had a bad time at the doctor’s office, he thought the language people were using to express their anger was counterproductive. He said that what he would do is pass on an email that I could send him to the higher-ups, and that I should keep in mind that if I use that kind of angry language within the email, nobody will read it.

He again said I should keep in mind that CNN and NPR care about LGBT people, and that they’re just trying to get things right. He also said that after two years of coverage of Manning as Bradley, it might confuse the viewers to switch immediately to Chelsea.

At this point, I reminded him that the blog post I wrote did not name him, and that it wasn’t about him or about anyone except myself and my experience as a mother of two children – who have learned about their stepmother’s gender – hearing their stepmother being described as a gay man on television and having adults in their vicinity laugh at this. I explained I never had any intention to be aggressive about this and that this was simply my story to tell. I told him that I’m sure there’s something I can think of that would clarify the transition from Bradley to Chelsea without being disrespectful to Chelsea.

He said he understood that some trans people wanted to think that a person becomes “a trans” the minute they say they are, and he personally doesn’t care whether somebody wants to be a man or a woman or whatever, but that from CNN’s point of view, if the person hasn’t done anything medical, then it’s confusing to “the rest of us.” He also said that the HRC hasn’t exactly given them any guidance on this issue. I said that, yes, the HRC does have a known problem with erasing trans people and issues.

He then closed the call by reminding me to keep my email civil and not to expect any response.

Heather & Lauren: This isn’t just about how a single anchor, or a single network, has handled Chelsea Manning’s gender. It also serves as an example, a microcosm of the attitude of many major news outlets toward trans issues. When we see mainstream news networks and papers acting as though respect for Chelsea’s womanhood is optional, or something for them to indulge at their own leisure and in their own due time, what’s going on behind the scenes are rationales like those offered by Jake Tapper.

This may have begun innocently enough as a group of people failing to understand an underrepresented and largely invisible minority group. Though Tapper and CNN’s higher-ups believe that excuses and summarizes the whole of the problem, that’s not the case. By now, several mainstream news outlets such as MSNBC, NPR, and The Guardian have already chosen to recognize and respect Chelsea’s gender. The continuation of this neglect no longer indicates innocent ignorance. Since Chelsea’s coming out, CNN and its partners in this neglect have actively made several distinct decisions to dismiss the voices and identities of transgender people.

Such news agencies have demanded that trans people meet an unusually high standard of proof simply to have their names and genders respected. When reporting on someone like Lady Gaga or Vanilla Ice, use of their names is not contingent on court orders showing their legal name or medical records providing evidence of their gender. Yet trans people’s very existence receives much greater doubt and scrutiny. Chelsea is first expected to pursue HRT and surgery even as the same news segment is reporting on her current lack of access to any of these medical resources. They’re clearly aware of the situation she faces, and their use of it as an excuse rings hollow – yet they choose to use it anyway.

In spite of Tapper’s (and presumably CNN’s) continuing insistence that they care about the struggles of LGBT people, their priorities clearly lie with making things as simple as possible for their cisgender audience to understand no matter the cost. These networks’ refusal to update their protocol sets an example for the cis world at large that a refusal to learn about or understand transgender people is acceptable. When supposedly liberal networks insist that trans people are too confusing to accommodate, society at large follows their lead.

These news outlets have substituted their empty declarations of self-assigned allyhood for any meaningful actions that would demonstrate true support for us. In their self-centered hypersensitivity, they balk at being thought of as bigots or criticized by LGBT people on Twitter. But they exhibit hardly any sense of the gravity of their own responsibilities. They sit in a position of great influence over the public’s understanding of trans people; with that position, they intentionally promote oversimplified taglines of “HE wants to be a SHE!” – authoritatively confirming to viewers that this is all they need to know or care about. The role of the news is to report events accurately and keep the public informed. And when they’re more concerned about being made fun of on Twitter, this shows that they don’t consider trans people’s lives to be important enough to bother getting the story right. “Ally” is not an identity; it is an action. They are claiming themselves as allies and refusing to do any of the work.

When the precedence for dismissal has been set, it’s hardly surprising to see the ensuing painful dismissal of the necessity and validity of treatment for gender dysphoria. The willfulness of the ignorance surrounding Chelsea’s gender extends to the persistent mischaracterization of her treatment. The medications she needs are both common and cheap while being uncommonly effective, yet Lauren was continually bombarded with questions over whether taxpayers should have to foot the bill and whether counseling should be considered sufficient. A cursory glance at the WPATH Standards of Care could have settled both of those questions, but when CNN says “Bradley wants to be a woman” instead of the correct “Chelsea is a woman,” they have misled the public to believe that this is the frivolous whim of a prisoner rather than a serious and treatable condition. As Lauren was repeatedly forced to explain, this should no more be up for debate than treating diabetes, but CNN and other networks’ word choice has made it seem so. Tapper stated that he was offended by being called a bigot. He may not like it and he may not be the decision maker here, but CNN’s actions are bigoted.

The medical aspects of gender dysphoria and the legal basis for the necessity of treating trans people in prison are incredibly clear and well-established. This is a real condition recognized by actual medical authorities, unlike some transphobe’s mocking contention that they now identify as a tree. Gender dysphoria has been studied extensively over the past century. Its defining features have been identified; its risks when untreated are known to be severe, and the only effective treatment has become so empirically obvious that it cannot be ignored.

As it stands, there remains no serious medical or scientific debate over whether transsexualism exists. Trans people are real people who live in the real world, not some mere flight of fancy so bizarre as to warrant suspicion that this is a fiction. But such bafflement and incomprehension are what an outlet like CNN encourages when they – one of the world’s leading media organizations – are mysteriously unable to educate themselves on the indisputable facts of this issue.

Whether CNN chooses to acknowledge it or not, trans people are a part of their audience. We are taxpayers, viewers, consumers, citizens, soldiers, and sometimes prisoners. We are not political debates. We are not an agenda. We are entitled to treatment where necessary and acknowledgment of our identities irrespective of the irrelevant opinions of lay persons and news reporters. The military has refused to provide a prisoner with the treatment she requires. That is a tragedy, and the only relevant news item.

While a CNN anchor may suggest contacting the network’s policymakers to bring about change, the attitude expressed in their coverage makes it all too clear that such an attempt would be thwarted at every turn. They’ve already decided which LGBT organizations they’ll listen to, selectively choosing to hear only the HRC’s silence while dismissing GLAAD’s unambiguous guidance as the product of a questionable agenda. They’ve recklessly delegitimized trans people’s existence in the eyes of millions then demanded we stifle our own justified anger. When these self-proclaimed allies can’t bring themselves to listen to the very people they’ve publicly maligned, how are we supposed to believe that they care about respecting us at all?

Heather McNamara writes about indie literature, politics, and civil rights at


  1. Nepenthe says

    Jake replied that he spoke with a trans activist who said there were 250,000 trans people in America.

    Such bull. CNN covers plenty of groups with far fewer than 250,000 members in the US with a basic level of respect. Are there more than 250k Hollywood actors? Celebrities with pseudonyms? Missing, pretty, White ladies?

    How many people does a group have to have? Maybe Tapper’s unnamed superiors could give us some numbers.

    (Comment in lieu of simply repeating “You two are stunning” over and over again.)

  2. Abdul Alhazred says

    It really doesn’t matter how many or how few.

    Using ‘she’ for a trans woman should simply be regarded as common courtesy, not a marker of ideology.

    • John Horstman says

      I had no idea English had grabbed the gendered pair; I’ve been using “fiance” as ungendered my entire life. I will continue doing so (or possibly change to “fiancee” as the universal form, just to provide some counter-pressure to the masculine-as-default norm).

    • jamessweet says

      Yeah, this was filed in my brain under “facts that I think maybe I heard once but had completely forgotten about”. I referred to my wife as fiance-with-one-e when we were engaged, not really (consciously) knowing any better. I definitely would not read into that particular tweet.

  3. besomyka says

    I know you shouldn’t give out I’m-Not-Bigoted-But Trapper’s email, but do y’all know of any contact info that would be – possible – productive?

    I need to let them know that I’m no longer willing to get my news from them. Deleting bookmarks, removing from cable favorites, stopping my DVR from recording the one or two weekend shows that I thought were half-way decent at world reporting, etc.

  4. M can help you with that. says

    If CNN thinks that the GLAAD style guide is insufficiently cis-normative, they could always try the AP style guide — which, though the wording is rather cringe-worthy, at least sets as policy that a person’s gender identity and pronouns of choice should be respected when known (and that when a preference has not been explicitly stated, the default choice should be based on presentation, not genitalia or legal status).

    CNN (and NYT, etc.) have been going through some serious failures of basic decency and courtesy here — I’m glad we have people like you to so effectively lay down some education (and let viewers who are more well-intentioned than CNN know how to act appropriately).

  5. Kevin Schelley says

    Again with the Civility Bullshit…
    Effectively what Tapper is saying is “Stop being so angry so I don’t feel bad about marginalizing x group! If you all were nicer it would be easier to ignore you.”

    It is uncomfortable to be on the receiving end of someone’s anger, but maybe that’s because it’s causing us to look at our own actions to see what might have caused that anger. Sometimes that anger is not justified, like when a majority’s privilege is eroded, but if it’s a minority expressing anger, chances are there is something very real that they are angry about.

    Jake Tapper is just sore that someone is calling him on his ignorance of and lack of respect for trans issues.

  6. says

    What exactly is GLAAD’s “agenda” here anyway? I could understand if they said ‘well the black panthers/tea-party/muslim-brotherhood/peoples front for the liberation of judea/ have an…agenda’, but GLAAD? What’s the nefarious agenda there?

    Also, the celebrity name seems like a weak analogy, celebrities are also paid money to appear on these same news shows, they treated differently in every way. A better analogy might be calling someone a Dr or ‘expert’ without bother to check their qualifications.

    • Alleyne Smith says

      See, this is a problem. Agenda has now been taken as synonymous with “bias” and bias presumed to always be a negative thing. But agenda merely means plan. Meetings have agendas, or they’re just free for alls. An organization without an agenda is just a bunch of people hanging out. GLAAD’s agenda is their mission statement, which anyone can find on their website. For Tapper to have said that they have an agenda with the connotation he gave to the comment, when GLAAD has the mainstream stature that it does, is exceptionally telling about both his (actually biased) attitude and the atmosphere of CNN’s newsrooms.

      • Pand says

        The modern Black Panther party IS a recognised racist party that is rejected by members of the former movement

  7. says

    This is kind of a side-note, but there is no “formal” process required to change your name, at least in the US.

    All that is legally required for a name change is to simply start using your new name consistently. No legal process, no forms to fill out, etc.

    Generally you DO do the more formal name change because it makes things easier with red tape in a lot of ways, but it is not a legal requirement.

    So CNNs policy is wrong. Manning HAS “legally” changed her name. She has done all that the law requires for a legal name change.

      • Tsu Dho Nimh says

        In most states, as long as there is no intent to decieve others, you just start using it.

        Exceptions are if you are dodging arrest warrants, skipping out of child support, or impersonating a celebrity for personal gain.

      • says

        There is the possibility that it varies from state to state… but I considered changing my name in the past (still undecided) and bought books on the matter and researched it.

        Realistically, without going through the motions of putting the notification in the paper, etc., you’re going to have a hard time with certain things, opening a bank account, etc., and those restrictions are of course getting more important the more “free” our society becomes…. but the technique is called the “usage method.”

        The Usage Method is still legal, though as I mentioned more and more inadequate for various purposes… to the point that for living a real-world life, it’s not going to be enough to save you from headaches from banks, gvt. agencies who demand more…

        But it’s still legal, is considered a legal name change, and is more than enough for CNN. CNN is not, for example, going to be paying out Social Security benefits or making the guest sign a contract that requires tracking them down, etc.

        • says

          Come to think of it though, Chelsea Manning has clearly done the “public notification” part of the more formal process. (Usually you publish a notice in the classifieds)
          So that’s in addition to having already been a legal name change.

        • J B says

          Pennsylvania is, I believe, the lone exception. I know this because I changed my name there in the 90s. It also happens to be the most expensive place in the union to change your name. In a further coincidence (cough), it’s also got the highest lawyers per capita in the nation.

        • Pamela says

          Jafafa – I used the “usage method” when I transitioned back in 1998. I have changed all of my legal documents
          (Drivers License, Social Security, Passport, IRS account, etc) also all my bank accounts, credit cards and Id at work even medical records, diplomas . I have had no difficulties and have been living as my true self for 15 years. I did this years before I had the medical changes!! I was accepted as female in all cases. When an organization (CNN, etc) wishes to ignore reality they really do not need excuses, they will simply do it!!

    • Aly says

      I did trans* people’s name changes regularly in a legal internship two summers ago. I remember the process as follows:

      In NY, the theory goes that any individual has a right at common law to go by any name they choose, unless it comes into conflict with another law (e.g. fraud, obstruction of justice, etc.).

      The snag is that no state or federal agency (and, by extension, few licensed businesses and private/nfp organizations) will recognize them by their chosen name until they get a court order for a change of name. That court order may be granted by the judge for any reason the petitioner (for a change of name) sets forth, provided there is “no danger of fraud or deceit” and a notice is published in one or more newspapers the court directs (though the court usually “directs” whatever publication the petitioner asks for, and there’s an exception to the publication requirement for a more-than-speculative fear of harm from a specific actor).

      The name change process differs from state-to-state, but the underlying “common law right” to change one’s name is present in most of them, if not terribly useful without a court order. In New York, the judge to whom your name change is assigned can drastically alter the outcome (mine was extremely patronizing and ordered that I give notice of my name change to the Selective Service and my estranged parents even though I was 22). Since name changes are kind of ministerial, the judge assignment is normally not something a petitioner or their attorney can predict at the time of filing, and the quality of judges assigned is markedly lower than in, say, commercial litigation or something.

      Oh, also having criminal convictions, being married but separated from your spouse, and having outstanding debt can raise the “likelihood of fraud or deceit” perceived by the court and make your name change a much longer and more complicated process.

      TL; DR In theory you can change your name just by calling yourself by your chosen name; in practice, it’s a simple but often ridiculous and unpredictable little legal adventure. In New York, anyway.

  8. jamessweet says

    When supposedly liberal networks insist

    Since when is CNN “supposedly liberal”? Seems to me they are pretty much right down the middle of the American political center (i.e. they are center-right from an international perspective).

    • wscott says

      It’s dogma among the Tea Party crowd that all “lamestream media” is liberal, so only trust what you see on Fox. It’s a totally bogus perception, of course, but sadly common among the right who think anyone left of Rush Limbaugh is a socialist hippie.

    • Crysta Williams says

      Well,considering how FAR RIGHT most Republicans have gone, of course most of the media would be “liberal”

      Think of it as shades of grey… Most liberals, are a light grey, with a VERY FEW going so far as to be “off white.” Most news organizations, are variations of grey, with Faux news being a rather dark grey, but still grey nonetheless. Now, most of the conservative groups, are grey as well, but MUCH darker, with a lot of them being MUCH darker grey than even Faux, and a few even being able to describe themselves as borderline black… (And of course WBC being as dark as it gets, with pretty much nothing but black there!)

      So yes, in this horribly skewed world, the media is “liberally biased” towards the center…

  9. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    One difficulty with Bradley/Chelsea Manning’s situation is that actions done under the name of Bradley Manning and done as a male member of the military are what got the first news, the trial, and possibly the conviction.

    Unless one were closely following the case, which I was not, one is left wondering who is Chelsea Manning and why is she going to prison?

    Does a newscaster immediately switch names and leave the audience befuzzled? Explain with each story that Chelsea Manning is the person formerly known as Bradley Manning and that’s why she’s going to prison? Or what?

    We don’t have a protocol worked out for this yet.

  10. wscott says

    I recognize this is a sensitive and emotional issue, and I also admit I’m really not as informed on trans issues as I should be. (I’m not an FTB newbie, but I don’t read this blog regularly.) So please be patient with me and treat this as a genuine question, not concern trolling.

    As someone who didn’t see the interview, I’d be curious how you thought the rest of the segment went, and how Trapper’s overall treatment of the issue was, apart from improper language use? I don’t mean to minimize language issues; names are important, I totally get that. And I can see how framing it as a “choice” poisons the discussion. But it sounds like overall the interview was pretty fair, bordering on supportive, something that would’ve been inconceivable just a few years ago. Outside of the usual bigot brigade, there doesn’t seem to be much of the sort of “trans is an illness” nonsense, or trying to tie Manning’s gender issues to the leaks/security clearance case?

    I agree language is important, and I completely agree it’s important to “get the details right.” But I also think that we (progressives in general) often get so worked up over the little things that we lose sight of how much progress has been made overall. I guess what I’m asking is: if Trapper had called her Chelsea, used feminine pronouns, and had used “identity” rather than “choice,” would you have been happy with the coverage? If so, that’s not nothing, right?

    • wscott says

      After I hit post, I realized that calling this “a little thing” was an unfortunate word choice. My apologies – I’m not trying to minimize the importance of names. I’m just trying to also look at the broader picture. Sorry.

    • says

      This question reads like “why can’t you be happy with whatever the majority decides is enough?” which is a question you wouldn’t really be asking if you didn’t come at this from a place of assuming that minority groups just get their jollies antagonizing majority groups. All of the answers are in the article above. Drop your assumptions and you’ll see them.

      • wscott says

        Heather: That was not what I meant at all, and I apologize if it came across that way. As I said, I understand why names (and pronouns) are important. I can particularly understand how what happened to you at your Doctor’s office would be maddening, and Trapper’s follow-up was poorly handled to put it mildly. So please don’t think I’m trying to minimize any of that! I admit I’m sadly under-informed on trans issues, and I’m asking in an attempt to educate myself, not you.

        The question I’m trying to ask is, let’s say CNN *had* called Chelsea Chelsea, and used feminine pronouns. If they’d hadn’t screwed up that part, then how would you have felt about the rest of interview? And *if* it was overall a good interview except for that one issue, isn’t it important to acknowledge the good along with the bad? I am in no way saying “Be happy with what you’ve got,” but I do think it’s important for progressives in general to not lose sight of how much progress has been made and is being made. Calling Chelsea Bradley was wrong, and it makes CNN clueless at best, callous at worst, and you’re absolutely justified in calling them on it. But it still doesn’t make them Fox News.

        That said, I finally had a chance to watch the interview clip, and I agree Lauren did an excellent job! I wouldn’t characterize Trapper’s side of the interview as supportive, but at least he let her speak and didn’t really challenge her points. Sadly, I think Trapper reflects the public’s ignorance on this issue, where it’s still regarded as a mental illness issue rather than a physical condition. I thought Lauren did a great job of keeping the focus on it as a medical issue.

        • kevinkirkpatrick says

          “I understand why names (and pronouns) are important…. And *if* it was overall a good interview except for that one issue, isn’t it important to acknowledge the good along with the bad?”

          Maybe hearing how your line of questioning sounds under switched contexts would help highlight the problem I see with your entire line of comments here:

          “I understand that introducing the black activist as an ‘ignorant n*****” was disrespectful, but *if* it was overall a good interview except for that one issue, isn’t it important to acknowledge the good along with the bad?”

          “I understand that introducing the feminist activist as an ‘shrill c***’ was disrespectful, but *if* it was overall a good interview except for that one issue, isn’t it important to acknowledge the good along with the bad?”

          No, it is not fucking “important” to acknowledge the good with the bad in contexts such as these. That you even think it might be important is interesting – to whom could you possibly think it might be “important” or newsworthy to note that certain parts of a bigotry-laden interview were neutral in tone?

          By the way, just to cut something off at the bud – please, please, please don’t walk away because “I just asked a simple question and everyone was mean to me.” Perhaps just once this JAQ-off song-and-dance can end in a different way… You claim that you’re interested in learning about issues faced by trans – I’ve been trying to do the same for years. One thing I have picked up on, loud and clear, is how lines of questioning like what you’ve done here are a formative part of the culture that makes life with a minority status a perpetual struggle.

          No matter how innocent you think your intentions are, intentions are not magic, and it’d be nice for you to take ownership of the fact that you’ve placed your tiny brick in the wall of oppressive that separates those of the trans-gendered community from the happiness and joy that comes with social acceptance and equality. Maybe instead of plastering it in with more “just-asking-a-question” mortar, you can think about just taking that one brick back off the wall.

          Also, probably not wise to do this either, “As someone who didn’t see the interview…” If you want to give a hint of actually caring about someone’s cause (and pretend it’s more important to you than them hearing YOUR concerns about how YOU think they might be getting the emphasis all wrong), don’t open up flaunting your inability to find 5 minutes to watch the segment about which you’re commenting on.

          • wscott says

            please, please, please don’t walk away because “I just asked a simple question and everyone was mean to me.”

            My apologies! I didn’t mean to post-and-run, but I had an excess of RL happen and keeping track of blog comments fell off the radar. I hope you’re still listening. (And for the record, “everyone” has been perfectly civil to me, except you.)

            Maybe hearing how your line of questioning sounds under switched contexts would help highlight the problem I see with your entire line of comments here:

            I see your point, but do you really feel your analogies are equivalent? He didn’t call her an [insulting adjective] [obscene slur]. He called her by a gender and a name she herself was using publicly a few days prior. I agree that’s wrong. But do you really feel it’s in “ignorant n****r” territory? You seem to be inferring a lot of malice where I (from my admittedly ignorant & privileged perspective) saw mostly cluelessness. Cluelessness is bad and deserves to be corrected; I’m not disputing that, or knocking the way Zinnia handled it. But it doesn’t automatically make someone an evil bigot with a heart that’s two sizes too small.

            No, it is not fucking “important” to acknowledge the good with the bad in contexts such as these. That you even think it might be important is interesting

            Maybe because I’m tired of the “You only agree with me 90%, therefore we must be bitter enemies!” attitude of so many people. (Exhibit A: your comment.) If you really see no gradation between this interview and, say, how Fox covered the same story…well to use your word I find that interesting.

            you’ve placed your tiny brick in the wall of oppressive that separates those of the trans-gendered community from the happiness and joy that comes with social acceptance and equality.

            Oh for Loki’s sake! I don’t know how many more apologies and disclaimers I could’ve put on my original comment to make you happy, so this basically reads as “Shut the fuck up how dare you question me/us!” I’m well aware there are people who use Just Asking as a passive-aggressive way to avoid taking responsibility for their own BS. But by assuming anyone who asks a question is That Guy, you are in fact stifling discussion. Thank you for placing your tiny brick in the wall that separates the trans-gendered community from people who genuinely want to be allies and are trying to understand the rules better.

            don’t open up flaunting your inability to find 5 minutes to watch the segment about which you’re commenting on.

            Streaming media policy at work; had to wait until I was 1) at home and 2) had free time. That’s why I was asking the question, and why I was clear with the disclaimer up front. Once again, thank you for leaping to assume malice.

  11. David Jones says

    I think i’m banned here so this probably won’t get through. However.

    My congratulations on your appearance on CNN on the 24th. You were extremely persuasive: calm, knowledgeable, intelligent, confident. I couldn’t imagine a better performance or presentation. You’ve made me rethink my own assumptions on the issue too.

  12. Doc Mesa says

    It might just be me but it seems CNN has a pretty low opinion of it’s audience’s intelligence if it feels they cannot follow the simple narrative change of a name and pronoun.

    • Onamission5 says

      No shit. Seems to me I remember news orgs doing a significantly better job helping their audience manage Prince’s name change to a symbol then back again than they are currently doing with Chelsea Manning’s name change, but that could be the blinkers of time working their magic on my memory.

      Also can’t recall the last time I heard anyone refer to Marion Robert Morrison aka Marion Mitchell Morrison aka stage name John Wayne by his birth name outside of a biography.

      When news orgs and individuals insisted upon calling Mohammad Ali by Cassius Clay, that was intentionally disrespectful and steeped in both racism and Christian supremacy. Resistance to using Chelsea’s chosen name now that she has gone public and made the request is no different, prejudice all the same, different flavor is all. It’s not like there isn’t plenty of precedent for public figures changing their birth names to another which better suits them while in the public eye. You have done this before, oh news orgs, you can get it right, you know how.

  13. dan says

    Perhaps “Chelsea” can say that it was not she but rather “Bradley” who leaked the classified information and thereby avoid prison entirely.

  14. embertine says

    Yes dan, I am absolutely sure that that would happen and she would get away with it and that is exactly what she has in mind.

    Or perhaps not.

  15. says

    You got something against wanting to be a tree?

    The day cisgendered assholes like you stop trying to erase the gender identity of transgender people will be the day patriarchy ceases to exist, which is to say it’s a long time coming.

    If you want to engage empirical reality on the issue, rather than making completely irrelevant statements, you can do so here:
    taken from this talk:

    AMA and APA statements on transpeople and medically necessary surgeries (hard statistics referenced): (<—-I fixed this link)

    Hard empirical statistics pdf, some of which are referenced in the above two pdf's: (explains differences very well, but I do not condone TS separatist while I am TS myself) (peer review articles, many of them)

    If you've noticed, curiously, the AMA and APA as well as neuroscience don't agree with your little transphobic snark. Try engaging reality sometimes, it's actually defined by neuroscience, the AMA and APA, and not by transphobic quips.

    Perhaps “Chelsea” can say that it was not she but rather “Bradley” who leaked the classified information and thereby avoid prison entirely.

    You should reference the above information before trivializing transgender suffering like this, you privileged shitstain.

    • says


      Adjust fire, my friend. You’re preaching to the choir, though I’d hoped the link to a My Little Pony clip in which Fluttershy expresses her desire to be a tree would have been a clue that I was making fun of the idiotic “wanting to be a tree” comparison in a tongue-in-cheek manner rather than supporting it. Obviously I was mistaken, so my apologies for my poorly phrased jab. I can assure you that my position is completely in line with Lauren and Heather on this one. I do appreciate the links, nonetheless, so thank you. As a person who’s looking to get a neuroscience doctorate in the future and someone who’s had a few shouting matches with transphobes at the workplace, it’s great to find new material.

      • says

        Sorry about that, friendly fire ((hugs)) if you want :+)

        Thanks so much for looking through this material, it should aid you then, especially with the transphobes. I feel your frustration, I get triggered so easily now when people use certain phrases I go into ‘see light pink’ mode.

  16. Alexis says

    I remember reading columns by Ann Landers, Dear Abbie, and Miss Manners way back in the eighties, and they each said what the AP guide said as reported above (thank you M can help you with that): a person’s gender identity and pronouns of choice should be respected when known (and that when a preference has not been explicitly stated, the default choice should be based on presentation, not genitalia or legal status). I would think that CNN could at least catch up with the eighties.

  17. =8)-DX says

    When we see mainstream news networks and papers acting as though respect for Chelsea’s womanhood is optional, or something for them to indulge at their own leisure and in their own due time, what’s going on behind the scenes are rationales like those offered by Jake Tapper.

    This may have begun innocently enough as a group of people failing to understand an underrepresented and largely invisible minority group. Though Tapper and CNN’s higher-ups believe that excuses and summarizes the whole of the problem, that’s not the case.

    I just want to say, in light of Natalie Reed’s Trans 101 post, while I agree with your evaluation of this: it requires effor for a person to understand trans issues, to communicate them, or to communicate with and about trans people. That’s what normativity does to a person. So while I agree that it’s sad that people can see this in a “something for them to indulge at their own leisure” way – in point of fact it actually does require one to go out of one’s “way” to try to understand, communicate, interact. You have a group of people who are few, different, complicated – and I can’t really see any better way of getting more tolerance (sounds horrible – I try to be tolerant already!) from us, the cis, heteronormative majority, without moving to at least universally accepted trans-101 style approaches – teaching these at school and having them as part of the culture, and there’s no other way to do that than us cis-heteronormatives moving out of our comfort zone, being confronted, making an effort.

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