To She or Not to She? Media Outlets Struggle to Pick a Pronoun for Chelsea Manning

The New York Times announced its decision to refer Manning in the feminine, so who are the holdouts?

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Alex Wong / Getty Images

U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning is escorted as he leaves a military court at the end of the first of a three-day motion hearing June 6, 2012 in Fort Meade, Maryland.

Today, the New York Times will begin referring to Chelsea Manning by the feminine pronoun, five days after the army private sentenced for leaking sensitive documents went public with the decision to become a woman. “I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun,” Manning wrote in an open letter to NBC’s Today show. The surprise announcement caught editors flat-footed as they hastily consulted their style guidelines on transgender individuals. Turns out many had a policy that respected the wishes of transgendered individuals after the transition took place, but in the unprecedented circumstance of a public figure transitioning in the middle of a media storm, few knew when, exactly, to acknowledge Manning’s request as a grammatical fact.

(MORE: Manning Biographer: Media Should Respect The Trans Experience)

According to USA Today, early adopters of “she” included the Huffington Post, the London Daily Mail, MSNBC and Slate. NPR’s spokeswoman told the New York Times that it would stick to “he,” until its managing editor for standards and practice quickly reversed course, saying that the organization’s “thinking has evolved.” The Associated Press straddled the fence for awhile, briefly adopting “gender-neutral” terms before taking the plunge yesterday.

Hold-outs include CNN, USA Today, and Politico, which are awaiting evidence that Manning has begun hormone therapy, undergone surgery, or taken some further step to justify a change in their style guidelines.

The longer they wait, the stronger the criticism from LGBT-rights advocates.  A writer for the Daily Caller compiled a selection of quotes from various news outlets, slotting them under “Bigoted!” or “Not Bigoted!” or, in one case, “Kinda funny, but Bigoted!” depending on which pronoun they applied to Manning. As for TIME, a story on Manning’s announcement made its intentions clear within the first sentence: “Chelsea Manning first announced to the world that she considered herself to be a woman with a tweet sent from the account of ‘Breanna Manning’ in May of 2010.” The transition, at least for Manning, is old news.

MORE: “I Am Chelsea Manning”: Why Gender Isn’t So Easy to Identify

17 comments
Moness
Moness

When did this person decide they were a woman?  Is he only doing this because it would be easier for him to spend the rest of his life in a women's penitentiary instead of a men's penitentiary?

oldskool
oldskool

Obama gave the B grade homosexual NBA player a telephone call of congratulations for "coming out"


Surely Obama has set a precedent for high profile homosexuals and will give Manning a congratulatory phone call?

Manning must be the poster child boost for the homosexual lobby in their attempt to attack Christianity and silence freedom of speech

jameso
jameso

I'm not calling that creep anything but Manning.  Chelsea my axe.  Let him get married to Chers daughter, the one that looks like a cab driver.

cjh2nd
cjh2nd

until "she" undergoes sexual reassignment surgery, "she" is still a he. identifying as a woman doesn't make you a woman any more than me identifying as a unicorn makes me a unicorn. chelsea manning is, at least for the time being, a he.

eifg
eifg

I would say he is a he until he is a she.

Discursions
Discursions

Media outlets struggle because they're staffed with leftist/progressive ideologues who, staring at a penis and a Y chromosome, still aren't sure if it's a man.

mspillane
mspillane

Is this a media circus?  Why should we even be thinking about how to tag this confused soul?  He or she?  Don't use a gender pronoun at all.  If he/she can't get it straight, why should we bother trying?  Stick with Bradley.

Curly4
Curly4

Media Outlets Struggle to Pick a Pronoun for Chelsea Manning . . .

How about calling Bradley he, sh , it.

ParantheticalJustice
ParantheticalJustice

Up until WWII we sentenced traitors to death.  Have we lost our resolve, our intestinal fortitude.  What this soldier did was inexcusable.  The critics are stating that this individual did the "right" thing for exposing war crimes.  If there were war crimes, there would not have been a Article 32 hearing.  Please indicate the source of your argument. 

Treason needs to be punished with swift punishment.  Treason = Condemned

will2u
will2u

HE is a he and not a she. Let's not lose sight of what this GUY did. Don't think about that much when you are concerned for HIS rights, his feelings. He knew what he was doing and he knew what he should not have been doing. His sentence was too light. A total disgrace. The MEDIA is clueless for promoting this. Anything for a story I guess. Who cares what he wants. The taxpayers are footing his bill now.

MKB2013
MKB2013

how about "traitor" and "it." 

TomSanders
TomSanders

"Media outlets struggle to pick a pronoun"  are you idiots out of your fraking mind??  i'm suppose to believe people at the news media's are in meetings discussing a pronoun..............!!!!!!  please you idiots get a real job......report some real news you gutless a$$holes....!!

j.erbes
j.erbes

@PaigeAirdPaige Aird, your co-worker and her mother are BOTH LYING TO YOU!

WHY ARE YOU FALLING FOR ALL THESE LIES, PaigeArd?

We all care about you, PaigeAird!
Please quit listening to these awful people!

FrankBurns1
FrankBurns1

@will2u Yeah, this gal exposed war crimes committed by our forces. Let's not forget that, and respect her wishes.

cjh2nd
cjh2nd

@TomSanders  

dude, this is TIME. if you want "good" journalism, you aren't in the right place at all

will2u
will2u

@FrankBurns1 @will2u It was not the fact HE exposed potential crimes. It was the way he did it. There are processes in place for that. The processes might not be that good but they are there. He did not follow them. When you live in a society you choose to follow the rules established by that society. If you don't want to follow the rules...1. Work on getting them changed or 2. Move to a different society that has laws you will follow.