Saturday was the third day of the pretrial hearing for Private Bradley Manning, who stands accused of leaking some 75,000 sensitive military documents to Wikileaks. It was also his 24th birthday.
And although it will be some time before the presiding officer determines whether there’s enough evidence to bring the young man’s case to trial, it appears defense attorneys are already starting to craft a defense: that being closeted during the era of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell—and possibly feeling like a woman trapped in a man’s body—”led to mental and emotional problems that should have barred him from having access to sensitive material,” according to the Daily Mail.
During the hearing, it was also revealed that Manning had a female alter-ego, “Breanna Manning,” and information about hormone treatments in his quarters at the time of his arrest.
Prosecutors objected to the line of questioning but Manning’s attorney, Major Matthew Kemkes, said the accused’s gender-identity disorder and homosexuality was essential because they showed “what was going on in my client’s mind.”
This could play out very poorly in the court of public opinion: Just as we’ve closed the door on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and are getting Americans to see gays and lesbians can serve proudly in the Armed Forces, we have someone at the center of the biggest security leak in U.S. history claiming his gender confusion and sexuality factored into his rationale for putting national interests at risk.
As Linda Carbonell of LezGetReal.com opines:
So, Bradley Manning is gay. Big freaking deal. His superiors knew. They suspected he was suffering from gender dysphoria. And his defense team is trying to paint that as an excuse, a cause for his crime. Is Dan Choi even listening to this shit? If the court martial accepts this as a contributing factor to Manning’s actions, as exculpatory, that destroys everything that gay activists have been fighting against – the perception that gays can’t be trusted in uniform.
This defense strategy is an insult to all the gay men and lesbian women who have served with honor and distinction. It is ammunition for those forces who would drive gays and lesbians out of the military and back in the closet. It is hateful. Blaming all of Manning’s problems on his being gay is a cop-out. It’s no better than the Twinkies defense.
Of course, if Don’t Ask Don’t Tell wasn’t in effect, perhaps Manning could’ve openly sought the help he needed instead of channeling his frustration into giving over 75,000 military and State Department documents. But you just know the Republicans are going to gloss over that point when they use this as an example of why gays shouldn’t be allowed to serve.
Image via Daniel Joseph Barnhart Clark