Bradley or Breanna?

UPDATE: December 24 2011 00:38 GMT We have heard from a representative of that Bradley’s close friends only “heard or knew of male pronouns” but are advising people to be gender neutral where possible. Queer Friends of Bradley Manning will follow this advice until we hear otherwise. END UPDATE

There have been quite a few debates on the internet recently about the fact that Bradley has referred to himself, on a few occasions and in different contexts, as possibly being transgender and having the name ‘Breanna’. The post Why does the media still refer to “Bradley” Manning? The Curious Silence Around a Transgender Hero is a good example and it contains the best arguments presented so far as to why he should be called Breanna – the posts beneath the article, many written by trans people, are well worth reading.

Queer Friends of Bradley Manning want to briefly lay out the reasons why we, for the time being at least, will continue to refer to Bradley as Bradley and not Breanna.

Firstly, Bradley has at no point publicly asked to be called Breanna: the chat-log conversations were meant to be private conversations, and the discussions he had with his counsellor were also meant to be private – we are not sure how his counsellor feels it is okay to talk to the media about private discussions he has had with Bradley in a professional setting, we feel this is quite appalling and highly unprofessional – and because Bradley had these on- and off-line conversations with the expectation that they would remain private means that we feel that it is not right to use the information as if it were public information and could somehow constitute a request, public or otherwise, for Bradley to be referred to as Breanna. It is also not yet the case that the chat-logs have been confirmed as being, beyond a shadow of a doubt, authentic.

Secondly, we understand that he had used the name ‘Breanna’ to set up other online accounts, however, given the prevalence of people using pseudonyms on the internet we don’t feel that this is a strong enough justification for us to refer to him as Breanna.

As soon as Bradley publicly expresses a wish to be called Breanna we will totally respect and support that decision, but until such time as he does we feel it more appropriate to call him Bradley.


  1. I respect her stated desire to be addressed as female. I do NOT use her given name. I just use B or call her ‘Manning’.

    Since you seem to be somewhat ignorant of this fact, i have to tell you that it is painful for a trans person to be referred to by a name and gender they do not choose.

    1. “I respect her stated desire to be addressed as female.”

      What ‘stated desire’ are you referring to specifically? We would be perfectly happy to use the name Breanna but we haven’t seen Bradley make such a request in a public setting.

      We don’t have the right to take information from a private correspondence or private conversations (the chat-logs or his discussions with a counsellor) and then make decisions about what to call him or make judgements about what gender he is.

      It’s for Bradley to name himself, for Bradley to decide his gender, it’s not for us to impose anything on him regardless of what we feel might be best. In the light of no clear and public request from Bradley, we think continuing to call him by his birth name is preferable at the moment.

      We are very aware that it is painful for trans people not to be called by the name and gender they have chosen.

  2. You mention the chat logs and the discussion with the counselor, but you seem to be ignoring all the new evidence brought forth this week by Manning’s own attorney, including the photo of herself as a woman and email to a superior officer describing the need to physically transition. That’s just one example of many from the mouth of Manning’s attorney. This seems as much as a public declaration as we’re going to get, seeing as how Manning is not allowed to speak to the media.

    1. Again, we would prefer to hear directly from Bradley than make any assumptions. It is not correct to say that there is no way to let us know what name to use, David House has been visiting regularly, his lawyer visits very regularly and both could make a statement, indeed, Bradley made a Christmas statement this time last year. We are currently establishing the correct address to write to Bradley to ask him ourselves, it’s not clear whether he is returning to Fort Leavenworth or staying at Fort Meade for the time being, and as has just been confirmed in my update this morning, Bradley’s close friends are still referring to him as Bradley.

      1. I’m curious why you used “he” in this reply when your UPDATE at the top of this post clearly says “ are advising people to be gender neutral where possible. Queer Friends of Bradley Manning will follow this advice until we hear otherwise.”

      2. Unfortunately there is rather a lack of good singular pronouns to use. In the mean time I’m afraid people are going to have to give us a chance to swot up on decent alternatives; it is, I’m afraid, rather difficult to all of a sudden switch to using entirely gender-neutral language – people will just have to bear with us for a bit.

        That is one of the reasons I added the proviso “where possible” in the update notice.

  3. It might not have been meant to be public information yet, but Breanna made it clear in the chat logs that she/they would rather be in jail for life or die than be made into a hero “as a boy”. They have also talked about wanting to transition and have even seen a therapist about transitioning. Whether that was meant to be public or not is irrelevant now, since it is public knowledge for anyone who takes a minute to search something like “bradley manning transgender”, so that point is totally moot. “QueerFriendsOfBradley” choosing to ignore Breanna’s own words and desire for what to and not to be referred as is cissexism and transphobia, plain and simple, and is unfortunately not unexpected to me from (cis) queers. I can understand using gender-neutral pronouns until Breanna somehow lets the media or supporters know what pronouns they prefer. I’ve been going back and forth between “she” pronouns and “they” mostly just because Breanna has mentioned wanting to transition, not identifying as a boy, going by a female name, being dysphoric, etc. and didn’t specifically mention a non-binary identity that I’ve seen so far — but I don’t consider she pronouns to be universally feminine actually.

    Anyway, Trans 101 basic rule of respecting trans* people: use the name & known pronouns & other gendered language they go by (if you don’t know, ask; if you can’t ask them directly, use gender-neutral like singular they pronouns until you can find out for sure, or find out from someone who does know for sure ie. who they’ve come out to). Don’t refer to them by their birth name or assigned-at-birth gender pronouns or gendered words unless you specifically get their expressed permission. Doing otherwise is transphobic and cissexist because you’re acting like you know better than they do themself. You all need to do a lot better if you really want to fancy yourselves queer “friends” of B. Manning.

    1. You have not dealt with the issue as to why you feel it acceptable to take information not meant for public consumption and then make assumptions about what Bradley would like. You just take it as given that you can use private information and we find that rather presumptuous.

      As I mention in my reply to the comment above Queer Friends are making attempts to contact Bradley by letter to ask him ourselves. Until we hear anything we will continue to refer to him by his birth name, and again, close friends are still referring to him as Bradley including David House who has been regularly visiting.

      Even using ‘B’ is renaming him without his consent, again, we would rather ask before assuming that it’s okay to rename him.

      These are very unusual circumstances and accusations of cissexism and transphobia are quite unhelpful and unfair when we are making efforts to find out what Bradley wants and you want to make assumptions about what you think he wants.

  4. Use “they,” as in “everyone will please put on their shirt.” Singular, gender neutral, mostly grammatically acceptable. The language evolves as we use it to include us.

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