ChelseaManning_byAliciaNeal-243x300Pride month is just around the corner, and after last year’s fiasco, the San Francisco Pride organizers have announced Chelsea Manning as Honorary Grand Marshall for San Francisco Pride. I’m still holding my breath as this is a controversial decision: I hope they don’t change their minds. But in my opinion, it is a tremendously important and meaningful decision and I’m so glad to see it.

Pride is a month-long celebration commemorating the Stonewall riots of 1969. To a large degree, Pride has become pretty homogenized, while at the same time being many different things to many different people. The clash between bar patrons and the NYC police that fateful night is a story every gay, lesbian, bi, trans, and queer person ought to know, even though most don’t. I’ll write more about it as we get closer to Pride, but today, in relation to the Chelsea Manning decision, I just want to point out how it was drag queens, trans persons, and a hodgepodge of fringe characters occupying the at bar. Here is how they are described in Wikipedia:

At the time, the Stonewall Inn was owned by the Mafia.[5][6] It catered to an assortment of patrons and was known to be popular among the poorest and most marginalized people in the gay community: drag queens, representatives of a newly self-aware transgender community, effeminate young men, male prostitutes, and homeless youth.

Between the mafia and these ” most marginalized people,” it may seem remarkable that this is known as the single most important event in the modern fight for LGBTQ Rights. Naming Chelsea Manning Grand Marshall is so fitting given her status as a trans person, as well as her status as a whistle blower against our very own government.

The LGBTQ community constantly seeks out heroes, as if it is the heroes who will manifest Equality. Our heroes are often fairly normative, or their odd or challenging qualities overlooked and dismissed. I believe that Chelsea Manning is a real hero, and the things that make her a controversial figure are exactly the reasons to recognize her as Grand Marshall. In addition to seeking out a hero, the Gay and Lesbian community (although mostly the gay male community) ignores and overlooks bi and trans persons. They pay lip service to inclusivity by using the acronym LGBT without really exploring what a truly inclusive community means.

The big issue for most gays and lesbians today, is Marriage Equality. Those who are demanding a swift conclusion to that civil rights battle need the government on our side. Indeed, the symbolic acts of a President as well as the actions of the Supreme Court is where a win for same-sex marriage will be found. How inopportune to be reminded that our government lies to us and isn’t always acting in the best interests of all Americans. Manning’s efforts for Justice point that out glaringly.

At the start, our struggle was for Gay Liberation, and now we seem comfortable to settle for a right to marry- a lot less than liberation to be sure. Liberation remains a valued goal to many because it is part of a bigger goal called Justice. The right to marry may become real, but true equality will remain illusive until we also see a full embrace of Justice or All.

Today few members of the LGBTQ community make that struggle for Justice and Equality so visible. Recognizing Chelsea Manning as Grand Marshall links us to our past and reminds us of how far we’ve come as well as how far we have to go.

Other things I’ve written about Chelsea Manning

I recognize that in some I refer to Bradley while in others, I refer to Chelsea. My hope is that I’ve been consistent with what was the desired name at differing times of her transition process, and apologize in advance if I had some of it wrong.

Blogger’s Note:

Photo is from the Chelsea Manning Support Network web site and it is an artists representation of how Chelsea sees herself. It was created in a collaboration between the artist and Chelsea Manning.  If you look at media coverage of this, the photos used are all over the place, as well as the coverage itself, sometimes referring to Chelsea as “Bradley,” sometimes using both “Bradley” and “Chelsea,” and most often using photos that come from riot to her announced decision to transition.

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