Thank you for your amazing project – ‘Anything to Say?’ We have been supporting it on Twitter. It’s a beautiful idea and one which we wholeheartedly support. And congratulations on the very successful launch!
We raised with you some time ago the issue of Chelsea’s name and gender. At that time, you said that the film had already been made and could not be altered, which we understood. However, as the project starts its journey, we are feeling again that this issue needs to be revisited; in particular with reference to the website http://www.anythingtosay.com/
We appreciate that the statue is a record of an historical moment. And we feel that the image is entirely appropriate (apart from anything else, it is not an image which one would define as particularly male). It is what Chelsea looked like when she made her sacrifice, and, not only this, it is what she, so far, still looks like.
However, nothing about preserving the historical record precludes using ‘Chelsea’ and referring to her as ‘she’, as she has specifically requested. See: http://wiseupaction.info/chelsea-mannings-public-letter-coming-out-as-trans-august-2013/ This is her real name and it is the name by which she will be historically known.
In her letter making this specific request she says:
‘I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun…’
What she is saying here is not that this reflects a ‘change’ in her – it is what she has always known and certainly did at the historical moment when she blew the whistle. The letter is merely her making public what she was prevented from telling us prior to this.
Since then (over a year ago) Chelsea has had her name legally changed in a court of law from Bradley Edward Manning to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning, and has begun the physical transition of her outward appearance. Almost all media were using the correct name and pronouns as requested within weeks of her request, and it is very rare indeed now to hear her called ‘Bradley’ or referred to as ‘he’. And she will undoubtedly go down in history as ‘Chelsea Manning’. (More about her here: About Chelsea Manning ).
Whilst a piece of art such as the statue commemorates an historical moment and thus reflects the appearance of things as they were at that time, any commentary on that (such as on your website or when we discuss/write about her) is, itself, in the present, and therefore reflects our current up-to-date knowledge. An example might be Mohammed Ali, who, as ‘Cassius Clay’ became the boxing heavyweight champion of the world. This title, however, is referred to as having been won by Mohammed Ali (Cassius Clay), as opposed to Cassius Clay (Mohammed Ali), and I’m sure many people don’t even remember the name Cassius Clay.
So, could you possibly just alter your website to reflect this? We can understand that you want to make the connection between Chelsea and ‘Bradley’ as some people (though less and less as time goes by) will know her, but could you alter the ‘he’ to a ‘she’ and ideally change what you have as ‘Bradley Chelsea Manning’ to ‘Chelsea (formerly known as Bradley) Manning or at least ‘Chelsea (Bradley) Manning’, do you think?
Otherwise, it will always seem to be a contradiction of sorts – ie a tribute which disregards the explicit wishes of the one being honoured.
Thank you again,