"I am Chelsea Manning. I am female." With that announcement, Chelsea Manning begins her thirty-five year sentence with the dubious distinction of being the first openly trans woman in the U.S. military prison system.
While a new National Gay and Lesbian Task Force study shows that trans people are twice as likely to serve in the military than the rest of Americans, the military still bans openly trans folks from service and discriminates against them in a variety of ways. Manning's imprisonment has already sparked national conversation about punishing whistleblowers and treatment of trans people—now, the military is having to consider the fact that their prison system is not set up for trans service members.
Over the past year, Academy Award-nominated documentary The Invisible War has shone a spotlight on the issue of sexual assault in the military. Politicians and civilians alike are talking about this problem more than ever. While progress is slow, it seems the military will make some change. I spoke with Coast Guard veteran and rape survivor Kori Cioca, one of the film's main subjects, to see what she thinks about the film, her experiences in the military, and her life since the documentary's release.
Navy Seal Kris Beck deployed 13 times during her more than 20 years in service and earned both a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. However, if she tried to join the military today, Beck would be swiftly rejected. Beck is transgender—and the military has made it clear that though gay and lesbian Americans can now join the military, transgender folks are still not welcome.
The Americans, a new FX Network spy show developed by ex-CIA agent Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields, illustrates the unique physical and psychological dangers that threaten women in espionage, the military, and law enforcement. In addition to the expected danger incurred in shoot-outs and international arms deals, the show's lead female character deals with the very real threat of rape.
On the show, as in real life, institutional sexism allows sexual assaults to persist the military. The Americans shows that unfortunately, for women, being in sexually hostile situations has for too long been a part of the job.
Although the Pentagon will soon ease restrictions on women in combat, a ban continues on women in infantry, keeping 200,000+ enlisted women out of promotions and leadership roles. So for all the ladies in the service: The Caine Mutiny, Herman Wouk's bitter caricature of male authority, plus a heavy dose of comedy.
M.I.A. is not shying away from controversy in her new video, the latest in epic music videos that would never get aired on TV, and weren't made to (a phenom that doesn't look like it's going away any time soon). Cinematic but super violent, it's definitely a commentary on oppressive military governments and cultural profiling. To M.I.A.'s disappointment, it was banned from YouTube within a day of being posted.
Trigger warning: Contains graphic beatings, gun violence, and carnage.
The problematic policy of Don't Ask Don't Tell, implemented in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, has now been beautifully, if not dutifully rendered visible by LA-based photographer Jeff Sheng. That is, visible to the certain point his courageous subjects can be while in uniform.