The C Is For Crank

Seattle Times Columnist "Bursts Out Laughing" at Manning's Gender Transition Announcement

In a deplorable blog post, the Seattle Times' Bruce Ramsey says he "burst out laughing" at the news that Pfc. Chelsea (neé Bradley) Manning, who was just convicted of spying, is transgender.

By Erica C. Barnett August 23, 2013

The C Is for Crank

At the Seattle Times, editorial writer Bruce Ramsey mocks Chelsea (neé Bradley) Manning, the Army soldier convicted and sentenced to 35 years for leaking classified material to Wikileaks, writing, "'Bradley Manning wants to live as a woman,' our story said. I burst out laughing." 

He goes on: "What made the story was that photo of our private first class and convicted spy sporting lipstick, a woman’s wig and a facial expression of not-quite-sure. Funniest of all was the credit line: 'PROVIDED BY U.S. ARMY.'”

In an email responding to a request for comment, Ramsey told me he has since posted a "clarification," which reads: "Since posting this at 6:35 a.m., several readers have accused me of being a bigoted person, making fun of transgendered people. I did not intend that. I was not making fun of transgendered people as such.  What struck me as humorous was that the government convicted Manning -- it won and Manning lost -- and the tables were turned on the government.  And I referred to the  line 'provided by U.S. Army' because this is such a non-U.S.-Army kind of image."

I'm not buying it. Here's how Ramsey's original blog post (still) reads to me: Transgender people are inherently hilarious, particularly when they're associated with manly institutions like the U.S. Army. Nothing in his original post suggests he's laughing at the U.S. Army's "loss"—in fact, the Army has already said it won't provide Manning with hormone therapy or gender-reassignment surgery. How, exactly, is that "turning the tables"?

Ramsey's ham-fisted jokes about Manning's gender transition (Ramsey continues: "Be all you can be, eh?") are particularly deplorable given that Manning has been sentenced to 35 years in a men's prison; numerous studies (here's one) transgender inmates are the most likely to be beaten, raped, or killed in jail. Do those stats, too, make Ramsey "burst out laughing"?

Manning's announcement, made under an international spotlight, was incredibly brave. To mock Manning—and, by extension, all other transgender people—as "laugh"-worthy is both ignorant and cruel.

The Seattle Times editorial board, on which Ramsey sits, endorsed gay mayoral candidate Ed Murray over incumbent Mike McGinn. We have a call out to Murray seeking his reaction to Ramsey's intolerant editorial.


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