By Michelle Garcia
Originally published on Advocate.com September 04 2013 11:30 AM ET
Dear Fox News,
Let's start with some positives, shall we? You guys are absolutely fantastic at inciting the fears of some of my friends' suddenly conservative parents and grandparents who tune in to play Armchair Secretary of Defense every night. Do we loony, liberal crybabies (that's how your viewers and some of your hosts refer to us, right?) need a big red punching bag to illustrate the corporate-fueled bias that dominates the 24-hour "news" media? Fox News to the rescue! And employing attractive blonds*? You guys have it covered like no one else, so kudos, accolades, and applause to you on all of those fronts.
But the standing ovations end there. I didn't know it could be done, but the people at your network have somehow found new ways for news organizations to be inhumane when referring to human beings.
When I first heard someone over at Fox News mocking Chelsea Manning's request to be referred to as female from here on out, I figured it was one terrible joke, pitched by the "funny" guy in the newsroom who started his career logging tapes on a radio show called Dumpy and the Wiener in the Morning. You'd get it out of your system, then your anchors would begrudgingly refer to Manning as female. But hey, sometimes even I surprise myself with optimism.
Until recently, we at The Advocate had referred to Manning as male, even though there were rumors and some evidence that Manning was in fact transgender. We continued to use male pronouns and Chelsea's birth name because Manning's transgender identity was not confirmed to us. Once we got the go-ahead, however, we honestly shared a sigh of relief knowing that we could accurately refer to her as Chelsea.
She, she, she, her, her, her, Chelsea, not Bradley — admittedly, when we've been referring to someone as one gender for three years now, it can be tough to make that change in our own minds when referring to that person a new way, even if you completely support their transition process. It just takes practice. Both MSNBC and CNN stumbled at first, after NBC's Savannah Guthrie broke the news in August that Manning would prefer female pronouns from now on.
First, Fox News's America's Newsroom host Greg Jarrett continued to use male pronouns to refer to Private Manning after her announcement August 22. The next day, Jarrett defended his wording, saying that he doesn't do "what Bradley Manning wants me to do." That same day, on Happening Now (not to be confused with the delightful What's Happening Now!), Jon Scott, Judith Miller, and Kirsten Powers also went he/him/Bradley-crazy. In fact, they likened Manning wanting to be referred to as female to requesting being called "Your Royal Highness." Scott said this request was "political correctness gone amok." To make fun of the fact that Manning will still have to go to a men's prison, former comedian Dennis Miller joked that she would be living life in prison as a woman, wink, wink — you know, because prison rape = LMFAO.
And then there was the gem where Fox & Friends teased a segment about Manning while playing Aerosmith's "Dude Looks Like a Lady." You could say that I'm being humorless, but "Dude Looks Like a Lady"? Seriously!? That "joke" peaked with Mrs. Doubtfire (which apparently was the first, last, and only movie you've seen with a gender-nonconforming person, because you've done the Mrs. Doubtfire joke before. Kill your darlings, people. Jeez).
If The New York Times, the Associated Press and, well, The Advocate are on board with calling Chelsea "she" and "her," then it must be some ridiculous liberal conspiracy where we bend over backward to appease some convicted traitor, right? Nope. It's called being a human. And this magazine and that newspaper and that news service are run by humans who try to respect other humans, not blowhards* who clearly don't know or care to know anyone outside of their own gender-binary bubble.
Something tells me you still don't care. How about this: From now on, Bill O'Reilly will be Melinda O'Reilly, and Greg Jarrett shall now be Isabella. Dennis Miller? Tiffany Miller; I can't take credit for that one, since it was Melinda's idea. It's silly, right? Using the wrong gender pronouns for a person, when they don't like it. So maybe you shouldn't do it either.
Chelsea Manning was an Army private who leaked confidential government documents to a website, WikiLeaks. The information was printed in newspapers around the world, spurring unrest and revolutions, as well as a newfound domestic distrust in government. She will pay for her actions with years in prison and a future of uncertainty (following alleged torture in a military brig). Some people think her information leaking was wrong, especially since she was a government employee and violated strengthened policies against such actions. Others find her actions honorable because the information shed a light on wrongs that were happening around the world and at home. In either case, Chelsea Manning is a human, and deserves to be treated as such. So stop being a bunch of jerks and practice with me: She. Her. Chelsea.
*Megyn Kelly stays out of this. Compared to her colleagues, she is a saint and a treasure.
MICHELLE GARCIA is The Advocate's commentary editor. Follow her @MzMichGarcia (not MrMichGarcia).