Claire Black: Recognising a person’s lived gender a human right

Claire Black
Claire Black
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IN THE middle of changing my son’s nappy the other morning, an item on the news caught my sleep-deprived attention.

In Germany, as of 1 November, babies born without “clear gender determining physical characteristics” will be able to be legally registered without a sex on their birth certificate. The country already recognises transgender people and with this new law, enshrines that legal recognition of a person’s “experienced and lived gender”, whatever that happens to be, is a human right. I looked at my boy in his blue cardigan and smiled.

A few days later, another nappy and a new headline: “I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female.” A simple declaration with profound consequences from the soldier convicted for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents and sentenced to 35 years in a military prison for her actions.

Manning, who was diagnosed with gender dysphoria in 2010, revealed that she wants to undergo hormone therapy as soon as possible and asked to be ­recognised as a woman. As of today, the noises from those who will oversee her imprisonment are less than positive. A spokesperson stated that the army “will not provide hormone therapy or sex reassignment surgery for gender identity disorder”.

You may think what Manning did was wrong and you may believe that she should be punished, but even so, there are several issues to bear in mind. First, among the 700,000 classified documents Manning downloaded was the video that showed a US Apache helicopter opening fire on a group of civilians in Baghdad, including two Reuters journalists and their children. “Look at those dead bastards,” said one of the soldiers. “Nice,”replied the other.

The crew has never been charged with any offence. Second, Manning’s 35-year sentence is ten years longer than the period of time after which many of the documents she released would have been automatically declassified. It’s also worth knowing that not only was the most ­serious charge against her, that of “aiding the enemy”, thrown out, a military witness conceded that no evidence exists that anyone identified in the releases which derived from Manning had lost their lives.

If I’m completely honest, I don’t entirely know what to make of Manning. I don’t know if I’d have the strength of conviction to do what she did. Nor do I know what it feels like to live in a body that doesn’t feel right.

Manning struggled with her gender identity for years. One of the reasons she joined the army was in an attempt to “man up” and get rid of what she revealed to her senior officers as “my problem”. No one helped Manning then, surely they must help her now.

LAST week marked the first anniversary of the No More Page 3 campaign. One year of actions including online petitions, flashmobs and protest poems; a year in which one MP (the Greens’ Caroline Lucas) was rebuked for wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the campaign slogan to Prime Minister’s Questions and in which, just last week, Labour’s Jackie Baillie, MSP, submitted a motion in the Scottish Parliament backing the campaign. “Page Three objectifies women and promotes sexist attitudes that have no place in 21st century Scotland,” Baillie said. “It is outdated and needs to go.” The recently appointed editor of the Sun, David Dinsmore, says he’s no intention of dropping the feature, but the Irish Sun already has. Surely it’s just a matter of time?

WHEN Ben Affleck picked up his Oscar for Argo and made a speech that didn’t make me want to stuff my ears with toffee popcorn, I was prepared to forget about Gigli. People can change, I thought. Give him a chance. And he suits a beard. But as the Batphone rings with news that Affleck has been cast to play the caped crusader in the next incarnation I fear I forgave too soon.

Yes, Affleck has the jaw for the bat mask but so did George Clooney and look where that got us. Please let it not be true. In fact, the only thing that has cheered me up is hearing that in a different movie, Amy Adams has been cast as Janice Joplin. Now I know you may think she’s a bit too sweet, too cute, but remember her turn as the wife of cult leader in The 
Master. Delicious. «

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