When Chelsea Manning announced she was running for the U.S. Senate, I knew I would be writing an article about it, even though I didn't really want to.
Within minutes of her announcing her Senate run, the bad takes were flying. Those who were not even fans of Chelsea were having to stomp down on the hateful and deliberate misgendering, which has to be lowest-hanging fruit to attack a trans person they don't like; like we've never been called "it" before.
Of course there were plenty of takes debating her whistleblower status, which I wasn't going to to wade into. I have complex views on that subject that tend to piss off both sides. The takes that really began to make my teeth clench were the ones that elevated Manning to some sort of ascended prophet and considered any criticism of her to transphobic or that criticism of her is a "love her, or love fascists" dichotomy. The people who tend to take this tack with their defense of her have wrapped their political beliefs into their transgender identity and consider any dissent to be the greatest heresy. I absolutely abhor these people. \ That's why this is not about Manning, this is about her cultists.
Just because Chelsea and I are both transgender does not mean she is owed my fawning adoration and support. The same people who make this argument are often the same ones who howled that they wouldn't support Hillary Clinton because they were both women. If we were supposed to blindly support one another, then the transgender community wouldn't have thrown Caitlyn Jenner under the bus and then backed it up and run over her with it a couple of times, then tossed her remains into a wood chipper.
No one expects gay people to support Milo. Do they expect black people to blindly line up behind Ben Carson, Herman Cain, or Allen West? Do they expect women to champion the voice of Ann Coulter or any of the shouting heads on Fox News? Of course not, so I'm under no obligation to support Chelsea Manning in anything she does if I don't agree with it. I can certainly tell you that whenever I deliver a steaming plate of conservative hot take, there are plenty of transgender people who start calling for my blood. Hell, there's one commenter who I worry about if she don't show up to question my very transness and accuse me of being to the right of Mussolini. Funny thing is, she's never around when I deliver a super progressive take. Go figure.
Which brings me to my next point. Gender identity and sexuality are not political ideologies. Oh, I know some queer studies student just had blood shoot out their nose, but it's true. The evidence is right there in front of you if you stop and actually take a look at it. Danica Roem, the first openly transgender state legislator, ran as a garden variety Democrat. Sarah McBride, the first openly transgender person to speak at a national political convention, is a card-carrying Democrat and works for the sometimes-contentious Human Rights Campaign as press secretary. This one trans chick I've heard of but never bothered to torture myself with, named Blaire White posts "anti-SJW," transmisogynistic, and antifeminist videos on YouTube and has been called "the Milo of trans issues."
That's right, folks, an alt-right trans woman! Chelsea Manning has taken up with antifa and the social Democrats, and I self-describe as a pragmatic progressive (yeah, yeah, a vile neoliberal centrist). A person's politics are formed by life experiences, values, education, lifestyle, and more, and not what's in their pants or who they like to sleep with. To argue otherwise is patently insulting and offensive.
The people who urge my blind support of her tend to have a huge hypocritical streak to them that almost has an air of exploitativeness. I would venture a guess that few of them cared, much less celebrated, when Kristin Beck, a former Navy SEAL, ran for Congress as a Democrat in Maryland in 2016 against House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer. That's right, a trans woman ran for Congress in the same state and got half the headlines and support. (For the record, I didn't think she stood a chance in hell of beating a very popular incumbent).
The excitement for Chelsea on the part of some of these folks clearly comes from support for her politics, not her transness. Additionally, their fandom of Chelsea resulted in an act that left a rather sour taste in my mouth. When she left prison, they raised for her almost $200,000 as a welcome home fund. Where were those kinds of fundraisers for the completely unknown transgender people just coming out of prison? The ones who were there because of sex work, drug addiction, poverty? The ones who received just as much, if not more, abuse in the system? The ones who didn't have celebrity advocates or articles in The Guardian, and couldn't name their price for prime-time interviews, speaking engagements, and covers of national magazines? It's their money to spend to support her, but there are thousands of faceless impoverished, homeless, incarcerated, and others who are largely forgotten by us in the trans community because they're not national celebrities.
Chelsea can run if she wants; it's her right and I'll defend that. Anyone who wants to misgender her and hatefully attack her transgender identity I will gladly drag. However, anyone who says that I should support her because of her gender identity will get a sneer and some sharp words. Those who say I should have a political ideology because of my gender identity will get no small amount of words thrown their way.
Let Chelsea Manning succeed or fail based on her own merits, her own arguments, and her own abilities; but do not think for one second that she is owed anything from me because we are both transgender other than to defend her gender identity from bigots. Beyond that, my obligation to her and my similarity to her end.
AMANDA KERRI is an Oklahoma City-based writer and comedian, and a regular contributor to The Advocate. Follow her on Twitter @amanda_kerri.