How Bradley Manning Became a Gay Martyr
Ideologically speaking, supporters of Bradley Manning—the 24-year-old army private expected to face a court martial beginning either in November or January for allegedly leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks—are a fairly predictable bunch: libertarians, antiwar activists, hackers, whistleblowers. (As one Manning supporter put it to me: “Bradley is Welsh, so we started looking around in Wales.”) But what’s sometimes escaped notice is that much of the public support that Manning has received has actually come from certain segments of the LGBT community. After it publicly emerged that Manning was gay (the rumors that circulated after his arrest were confirmed by a New York Times profile in August 2010), many activists offered him their support. In the Washington Blade, Rainey Reitman, a digital freedom activist who is also gay called for the gay community’s engagement: “[A]s queer activists have long known, there is power and transcendence in choosing truth, even when that truth makes others uncomfortable.”
But if Manning—who has endured an extended period of difficult detention conditions, including several months in solitary confinement at the military prison at Quantico, and more than a year in a medium-security facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas—has become something of a gay hero, it has not been without heated debate. At New York City’s gay pride parade in June, a motley crew of about 25 assembled under a banner that read “Coming out with the Truth is Never Easy,” and wore neon pink stickers emblazoned with a black silhouette of Manning’s face and the slogan “gay hero.” One onlooker called out “Traitor!” as the threadbare group marched down Fifth Avenue. Clearly, not everyone in the gay community is happy about the association. In fact, the debate over Manning illustrates the discord among gay activists about the direction in which the movement—beyond Manning—is headed.