The Scrapbook was a bit taken aback to read a recent AP news report that began “Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning . . . ” It was announced two weeks ago that Bradley Manning, recently sentenced to 35 years in a military prison for espionage and theft of classified documents, wanted a sex change and henceforth to be addressed as Chelsea. Still, it was jarring to see the nation’s biggest news organizations—including the AP, New York Times, and Washington Post—snap to attention and comply with Manning’s request, no doubt baffling more than a few readers.
Manning has neither legally changed his name nor undergone any relevant medical treatment. Regardless, adopting the preferred, though inaccurate, nomenclature of transgendered people has long been the policy of news organizations. The Scrapbook dusted off its 13-year-old edition of the AP Stylebook and looked up the entry on sex changes, which advises: “Use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly.”
Now if you declare that you are a pirate king, rechristen yourself Blackbeard, and insist anyone quoting you dutifully record that you punctuate your sentences with “Arrr”—good luck getting news organizations to honor your request. We’re not being entirely flippant with the comparison. The idea that we no longer inquire into the mental health of a seemingly functional adult who announces a desire to change the most essential fact of one’s corporeal existence can’t be a good thing. This obvious point was driven home when on August 5, an ABC News editor in New York, Dawn Ennis, woke up after a two-day bout of amnesia and decided that after two months of being Dawn he would go back to being Don. “I accused my wife of playing some kind of cruel joke, dressing me up in a wig and bra and making fake IDs with the name ‘Dawn’ on it,” said Ennis, who by this point had actually undergone hormone therapy.
The unthinking eagerness to accept abrupt shifts in sexual identity seems enabling rather than empowering—and in some cases, there’s a question of victimization. Last year, the Washington Post ran the cover story “Transgender at Five.” There’s a suspiciously sudden glut of parents insisting that their precious snowflake has an unorthodox sexual identity and is supremely confident about it, despite being at an age where storks and cabbages are the preferred explanation for their existence.
This may be deeply cynical, but we suspect journalists are just doing their part once again to further the cutting-edge causes of liberalism. Manning gets deference on this matter, despite an appalling betrayal of the American people that should raise questions about his character and his mental fitness.