- Posted August 25, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
CNN's policy on pronouns: Wrongheaded and Ill-informed
cam94509, who is transgender, said she found the policy 'reasonably offensive' and wanted to share her perspective.
- dsashin, CNN iReport producer
Chelsea Manning has taken a step “toward gender transition”, perhaps the most difficult of them; Manning has come out as trans. For transgender people, this is the step that is most dangerous, physically and socially. It seems ill-informed to describe Manning as having done anything less than all she can do, particularly given her circumstances; Leavenworth has made it clear they have no intentions of allowing her access to HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) within prison.
Perhaps CNN means to say that Manning is not truly a woman until she has begun some physical transition, that they are seeking accuracy in their reporting. Such an argument shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the realities of being trans. Current science suggests that a trans person really is mentally the sex they present as. The brain of the average trans woman is significantly more like to the brain of an average woman than the brain of an average man (and vice versa for trans men). Even the APA, the American Physiological Association, recommends you “Use names and pronouns that are appropriate to the person’s gender presentation and identity; if in doubt, ask” on page thirteen of the following resource: http://www.apa.org/topics/sexuality/transgender.aspx#. Given this, the accurate pronouns for Manning should be “she/her”, not “he/him”.
Perhaps CNN is merely trying to avoid taking a point of view, thus attempting to avoid the appearance of bias. While avoiding bias is a noble pursuit, it is impossible in this case. Using he/him is strongly biased against Private Manning's claims about her gender, and against trans people. Using she/her would provide a similar bias, perhaps - and using genderless pronouns presents another class of problems best avoided.
Perhaps CNN is merely trying to speak the language of their viewers. This seems like a strong argument, but it doesn't really make any sense past the most basic review. Such an argument would go something like this: “Well, our viewers are calling Manning “Bradley”, so we should do the same. They'll understand us better that way.” Except that's not the rationale they give. The rationale they give is that Manning has taken no “steps toward gender transition”. That statement is false, but it makes it clear that this is not about ease of communication, which is not mentioned once. Moreover, the public's use of pronouns for Manning are irrelevant to the criteria set by CNN. The policy also seems to be talking down to the viewer. Assuming your viewers are going to be wrong and thus deciding to be as wrong as them seems like a poor way to run a news outlet.
Given the wrongheadedness of the position that CNN has taken, and how ill-informed it seems, CNN should change its policy on the gender pronoun to use for Ms. Manning. Ultimately, CNN has two reasonable options: Allow individual writers to use the pronouns they think are appropriate, or require writers to use the appropriate “she/her” pronouns for Chelsea Manning. The choice CNN has made is not a reasonable option.