echo June 12, 2017 3:01 PM

Thank you Bruce for giving an airing to this article. I am struggling to udnerstand medical negligience and discrimination within healthcare systems against transgender people. I have tried to apply security models of thinking and equivalents like telecommunications systems to this problem. I don’t know how to articulate issues fully but I would like to be able to present thoughts during a squid blog (or other approriate on-topic blog) for authoritative feedback. Is this possible or at the least a valid perspective on discrimination and implementation issues like this?

Daniel June 12, 2017 5:10 PM

There is a great deal of cloning* going on in that article. Regardless of how one feels about the legality of her disclosures or the security implications of Manning’s behavior there is an human individual behind the deeds. This profiling by the New Yorker is of dubious psychological merit to her and frankly I think the New Yorker is irresponsible for publishing it.

I remain skeptical of the circumstances surrounding Bradly Manning changing gender identity. Stress-induced gender dysphoria is a well-known phenomenon both in the academic literature and in counseling practice. Prison is not a healthy environment in which to change one’s gender identity and cases of stress-induced gender dysphoria have a tendency to end badly.

Anyone interested in learning more about the unique challenges faced by individuals with Gender Dysphoria in prisons should read:

*clone. Transsexual slang for a transsexual woman or man who attempts to fit into the mold of the “classic transsexual” scenario, i.e. uses pre-scripted cliches like “woman trapped in man’s body,” “known from my first memory,” etc..

well June 12, 2017 11:38 PM


That’s an interesting paper (very thorough!), and I hope I am reading your comment properly as a critique of the biographical sensationalism by NYT and the pressure to conform to that template produced by the military/prison/litigation system that Chelsea had to navigate. You’re absolutely right in that case, and a too-trite narrative doesn’t necessarily help trans* people reach a healthy point of clarity to make whatever decisions they need to.

On the other hand, Chelsea is a grown lady at this point who has seen some things, and can probably figure it out for herself. I don’t think the world has any more interest in squeezing any more out of her (barring the Poitras doc and memoir, which hopefully stay low-pressure), so she can retire into a natural semi-obscurity and work out any underlying issues without the requirement to litigate her identity on absolute terms. (The NYT article hints at this toward the end.)


I really appreciate you trying to think through this 🙂 I think that control over your own identity is a deeply felt political issue that is relevant to everyone, but most tangibly for trans* people.

Here is an exercise you might try: if someone needs to, let’s call it, “restate” their identity in a way they feel is more truthful, what obstacles do they have to overcome? Which of them are considered crimes or markers of crime/threats to security? Which obstacles constitute a de facto (or even de jure) loss of agency/control over one’s own identity?

For example, some US states only allow amendments to birth certificates, not complete changes. Speaking more radically, when might someone regard their assumption of a new gender identity or personhood status as something completely new, deserving of a new birth certificate? (What about their biographical information up to that point justifies branding them with it permanently? How do biometrics and other commodified behavioral/medical predictors factor in? How much is “privacy” and “agency”, and how much is “truth” and “honesty”?)

Daniel June 13, 2017 9:57 AM


That’s an interesting paper (very thorough!), and I hope I am reading your comment properly as a critique of the biographical sensationalism by NYT and the pressure to conform to that template produced by the military/prison/litigation system that Chelsea had to navigate.

You are correct that I dislike the biographical sensationalism of the article but I remain uncertain as to whether the pressure to conform to a certain cliché template stems from any imperative of the military/litigation/prison system, whether it stems from some psychological insecurity on her part, or whether it even stems from social pressure within the larger transsexual community. Many MtF transsexual clone even when they have no interactions with the military/litigation/prison system so I am not willing to implicate the military so casually. That uncertainty is one of the major thrusts of the the article I linked to: the military and prisons are strongly artificial environments–by definition they are places that are segregated and set apart in the same way that a cloister or a monastery is—and this artificialness makes it difficult for everyone to tease out what is or is not “genuine”.

In any event, a blog on security isn’t the place for a full-blown discussion on transsexual psychology and sociology so I’ll restrict my comment to those clarifying remarks.

Etienne June 13, 2017 10:12 AM

These essays on criminals do the public a disservice. It’s not fair that we spend 10’s of billions of dollars on stamping things “top secret” to have some clown put it on CD’s and send it to the enemy.

I don’t just blame the criminals. When information is given no security by the government, it enables criminals to succeed.

Not to worry though, the national debt is completely manageable (says the Federal Reserve).

Steve June 14, 2017 8:15 AM

Well, she must be officially a woman. . . the first words of the article describe her physical appearance and what she was wearing, obviously the most important details of the story if they’re in the ‘lede’.

albert June 14, 2017 8:58 AM

It seems to me that studying the psychology of whistleblowers (and leakers) might lead to approaches for mitigating those kinds of problems. Nothing else, including draconian punishment, seems to work.

You don’t know who ‘the enemy’ is.

. .. . .. — ….

Leave a comment


Allowed HTML <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre> Markdown Extra syntax via

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.