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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Why Bradley Manning's identity shall remain private

For 18 months, an Army soldier had been held as a political prisoner by the U.S. government with no trial. This soldier is accused of sharing classified information with the world media through the website Wikileaks. There is much about this story that is not well-known, including the guilt or innocence of Pvt. Bradley Manning.

The members of the San Diego Alliance for Marriage Equality (SAME) want to make a clear expression of support for Pvt. Manning, regardless of the degree of responsibility for sharing classified information, regardless of the outcome of the so-called military court-martial, and regardless of his or her gender identity.

In September 2010, SAME was listed with other organizations as a signatory to an open letter calling for Pvt. Manning’s release from military prison. In this letter, we also supported the release of the video “Collateral Murder,” which showed evidence of several U.S. military violations of the Geneva Convention, according to former National Lawyers Guild President Marjorie Cohn. As an organization, we continue to lead rallies and marches for Pvt. Manning for several reasons.

First and foremost, many of us feel that if Pvt. Manning did in fact leak the video titled “Collateral Murder,” or the so-called “U.S. Embassy Cables” or the “Afghan War Diaries.” then Manning should be protected as a whistleblower and thanked for showing courage in exposing war crimes and other forms of corruption.

We stand up for anyone who makes such bold efforts to hold the government accountable for criminal behavior. We respect and recognize a noble rationale in the words often attributed to Manning through a chat-log, “I want people to see the truth … because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.”

Many of us in the LGBT community know first-hand the violence that arises when people dehumanize others. Manning has been dehumanized and abused by an embarrassed military machine. 250 top U.S. legal scholars, according to The Guardian on April 10, 2011, describe the treatment this soldier has been subjected to as “torture.” No person, from anywhere in the world, should be subjected to torture, ever.

We stand against the barbaric and illegal treatment of Pvt. Manning including forced nudity, sleep deprivation and isolation. This treatment invalidates the legal process against Manning and exposes the vindictive nature of this soldier’s court martial.

If allegations are true, Manning would have faced a crisis of conscience that would wither even the most moral among us, but this soldier is perhaps confronted by an even greater personal trial. Some of the chat-logs and court room testimony indicate that Manning was questioning his or her gender identity. As most gay, lesbian or bisexual people will tell you, “coming out of the closet” is a frightening experience under the best of circumstances.

For Manning, he or she is isolated from supportive friends and family, employed and imprisoned by a giant entity that considers transgender identity a condition of disease, and who is afforded no level of privacy and respite. We respect the right to privacy of gender and sexual identity for everyone, and barring a public affirmation by Manning, we chose to adopt a gender neutral reference as we have here in this letter.

But furthermore, we want to unequivocally state that no matter how Manning identifies, as Bradley or Breanna, Pvt. Manning is one of the great heroes of our time, comparable to Daniel Ellsberg.

We demand an end to the biased trials and imprisonment, and, further, we call for the initiation of criminal proceedings against those whose behavior the aforementioned Wikileaks communications have helped us to understand.

- San Diego Alliance for Marriage Equality

For more information about SAME, click HERE. SAME may be contacted via Sean Bohac at info@samealliance.com.

(Editor's note: SDGLN letter-writers are entitled to their opinions; they do not necessary reflect the views of SDGLN, but should be heard by the LGBT community.)