Dealing with those Wikileaker Sexuality and Gender Questions

Among the many layers of interesting stories inside the Wikileak controversy involving classified DoD documents is the questions about Bradley Manning himself. Specifically, speculation on Boing Boing that Manning was transgender and the much wider speculation that Manning may be gay.  The Boston Phoenix does a nice job of laying out the controversy.

The American mainstream media has carefully tip-toed around the question of Manning’s sexuality — although blogs including BOING BOING have for at least a month openly asked whether the transcript of Manning’s IM chats (the ones that got him arrested by the army on suspicion of delivering tens of thousands of secret documents to WikiLeaks) indicate that Manning is transgendered. The same Boing Boing post questions whether Manning’s sexuality led to his downfall, via his trust of the Boston native and famous hacker in whom Manning confided, and who later turned Manning in to the Feds:

“Did Manning, in isolation and distress while stationed in Iraq, reach out to Adrian Lamo in part because Manning believed Lamo —whom the internet-searchable public record shows has been an active member of the LGBT community—would be empathetic to a fellow geek going through a gender identity crisis?”

In June, Gawker — citing the GLBT links on Manning’s Facebook profile — asked pretty much the same question: “Was WikiLeaker Bradley Manning betrayed by his queer identity?”

The Daily Mail’s article was ostensibly about the suffering of Manning’s English mother — who was questioned by FBI agents over the weekend — but the Mail also took the opportunity to run a big photo of Manning being embraced by Tyler Watkins, one of Manning’s openly-gay Boston friends who has reportedly been questioned by the Army in recent weeks. Watkins, a Boston University student and former marketing intern at EDGE who was quoted in Wired magazine’s original scoop, is now politely declining all media inquiries. His blog — “Swish Army” — identifies him as a “queer army wife”: “It wasn’t until I join the ranks of all the other gay military spouses that I really ever understood how unjust our country’s policies towards the queer community in the military,” he writes. “Not only am I fed up with DADT but I’m sick and tired of the Obama administration’s failure to serve and uphold the rights of ALL citizens of the US.”

As always, the question is whether his sexual orientation or gender identity matter beyond curiosity. On balance, understanding Manning’s motivation seems to be relevant and if he was feeling distraught, angry, or looking for revenge, than it matters. But the evidence is far from conclusive and appears to wild speculation, for now. That hasn’t stopped conservatives from pouncing on the speculation relying on the Daily Telegraph reporting in the UK.

Is the fact that anti-gay forces are going to use the information about Manning’s alleged sexual orientation or gender identity reason enough not to report it?  How should the media deal with the rumors?

One Response

  1. [...] see this every day in the reporting on Bradley Manning, the suspected Wiki-leaker being kept in a federal prison under harsh conditions. A recent [...]

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