I found the latest wrinkle in the Bradley Manning saga to be really dismaying: his revelation that he wants to “transition” into being a woman named Chelsea, or as we say, become transgendered. The Army is going to give him a huge amount of grief over it, but probably not as much as I would give him.
First of all, let me say that I definitely believe in the reality of transgenderism—that is there simply are people who are born into the wrong bodies, or at least the wrong mentality that went with their bodies. Strangely enough, the veracity of this seems more real to me regarding women who transition into manhood than men who transition into womanhood.
Why is that so?
Because I find the almost universally accepted expectation of femaleness still umpteen times more confining than the same expectation of maleness. Or, as one F to M trans person said: “I realized I was an ‘outie,’ while being female is an ‘innie.’” She—now he—wanted to push out of the female role, wanted to play with hammers and nails and not dolls, loathed what was the enforced passivity of the female role, and hated the obsessions of women: how they look, how they “feel,” and how they act. She didn’t want to “feel.” She just wanted to be, and not have to think about it, the way men, classically, are trained not to think about it.
Or maybe they just don’t.
Maybe it’s another byproduct of testosterone.
But the truth is, you see, I have always been a transgendered man. Inside me is a gorgeous spectacular woman who happens to have a male head on her. Maybe even two male heads: if you include the one down below my regular head. Since the time I was sixteen years old, after a suicide attempt at fifteen (pushed into it by my violent schizophrenic mother and her family in Savannah, GA, as well the kids at my high school who started a whispering campaign against me) I have realized this simple truth: in order to be the man I was going to be—flagrantly accepting and enjoying myself, as I was—I would have to turn into what I called a “spy” for myself.
I was the foreign country of pure queerness, sending out a mercenary into the “straight world,” who would report back to my own inner self—my very real inner self’—in order to promote and survive and in a hostile world.
The question is: who was that inner self, and how did he (or she) evolve enough to become the present me? It took me a long time to understand this, as I’m sure it’s taking Bradley Manning, another spy certainly, if there ever was one. But in the evolution I discovered that this gorgeous female inside me could become this amazing guy who would define “maleness” itself, under his very own rules.
“Maleness:” that is the thing now escaping us. And poor Bradley, it’s escaping you too.
I first began to understand maleness as I came out into the underground queer tribe of the mid-1960s, when you had to sneak into gay bars that were usually hidden inside seedy buildings, down dark streets where you could be bumped off for the wrong wink at the wrong time. But there was this spark between queer men that we passed on to each other, that emotionally nourished us because we didn’t have acceptance of any other sort yet: including self acceptance. We were truly underground. We were moles. We made James Bond look like chicken shit. You had to be tough as nails to survive or you died. Gay kids now who kill themselves: God, do I feel for you.
But I realized back then that if you got through adolescence, there was the reward of having all these brothers around you who could recognize you and keep you going. Now in our age of “gay networking” and the totally bland mainstreaming and corporatization of queer life (if it exists at all anymore)—when everyone is emotionally starved on a high-caffeine Starbucks level (and I hope you get what I mean when I say this)—that queer brotherhood which was so important to me is out in the cold and the dark.
It’s sad. I broke all the rules of manhood and made my own up. To me as a young queer, the male gender was rich, romantic, exciting, affectionate, powerful, and mobile. You could move with it any place. You could pee against any tree. You could become the tree. New York, as my own silver daddy Walt Whitman called it, was “the city of orgies.” It was a place where having balls was fun. Now men here are castrated by corporate life, desperate to get married because they cannot receive any kind of emotional support outside marriage, sports nuts because only Derek and A-Rod can give them the kind of homoerotic charge they’re too scared to find in real life, and so isolated that they are killing themselves at a faster rate than they are killing each other. They are also killing women, a fact which is really sad: 80% of all homicides against women are done by their boyfriends or a male they know. When cops see a female corpse, the first thing they say now is: “Where’s the boyfriend or husband?”
So, Bradley, I don’t blame you for wanting to become a woman. But why don’t you become a man first? My kind of man. Wild, impetuous, romantic, secretive, horny as all get-up for the juices of life. Liberate yourself, and then see if you need to take hormones to do that.
Perry Brass has published 16 books including bestselling The Manly Art of Seduction which starts off with the assumption that “men are not supposed to be seductive.” Which of course is all the fun of being it. And, King of Angels, a gay Southern Jewish coming-of-age novel set in his native Savannah, in 1963, the year of J.F.K’s assassination, a date whose 50th anniversary we are celebrating this year. King of Angels was a finalist for a 2013 Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT fiction. You can learn more about him at his website, www.perrybrass.com.
Tags: Army, Bradley Manning, conformity, gay books, gay culture, gay dating, gay men, gay sex, gay single men, gay spying, Perry Brass, spies, Starbucks, The Manly Art of Seduction, transgenderism, Walt Whitman