I've maintained a focused disinterest in the Manning case. I genuinely have little interest in the administrative affairs of the military of other nations and choose to employ the time saved in perhaps more productive endeavours.
That said, it has come to my attention that Chelsea Manning has asked that she be referred to by the name she chooses, and by the pronouns with which she most identifies. This minor request seems most reasonable for a woman who will likely spend the next three and a half decades in prison.
I don't speak of it often, but I've had genital surgery. Several times. I've had medically necessary circumcision at age two, I had an undescended testicle corrected when I was about 11, and at the age of 16 I had another testicle ruptured in a kickboxing competition. As it healed a fluid filled sac developed around the injury which had to be surgically removed.
Interesting side note - to avoid the undue risks inherent in cutting thin scrotal skin, all testicular surgery is performed by making an incision in the abdomen and pulling the testicle back through the pelvis. This smarts a little the following morning.
In my early twenties, with everything in prime working order and a testosterone level on the high side of normal I'd rather considered my position at the confluence of three improbable conditions to be something confined to the past. Then I found a lump on the larger of my gonads. (The formerly undescended member of the pair never moved much beyond grape sized.)
Treatment, if it proved cancerous, would involve the removal of the testicle. I don't tend towards superstition but I must admit that in a low moment I did wonder if such highly specific misfortune could really be given a naturalistic explanation. Looking back, improbable things happen with mundane regularity and there's no particular reason I should be spared their effect.
I don't wait well. I've had acquaintances who have lost a single testicle to cancer but they were in the safer position of having a reliable backup, and at present testosterone tests do not give a breakdown of each individual contributor's efforts. I found myself looking at galleries of prosthetic testes and reading about new developments in the exciting world of hormone replacement therapy. The prospect of inhabiting a body that did not match my gender terrified me.
It wasn't cancer. The doctor told me to think of the lump as like a wart which, frankly, lacks a certain glamour but is immensely preferable and sorts itself out in a few weeks. I set off from the radiographer with a smile, my sole worry being a lubricated scrotum. (Part of the procedure. Had I been briefed I would have packed a towel. As it was I spent most of the day sliding off my office seat, which must have seemed a mite odd to my colleagues.)
Dare one hope for a point at the end of this verbiage? I'm a man. Nothing is going to change that. If I'd lost some or all of that which pads out my boxers my gender would be unchanged. Without modern medical science I perhaps would perhaps not have the anatomy to show for it, but I would have the mind and essence of manhood.
I am fortunate in that science has enabled me to keep the characteristics so distinctive of my gender. Chelsea Manning, I hope, will be able to benefit through science by finding the appropriate medical treatment that brings her to where she wants to be in her transition.
If you consider her less of a woman by virtue of her requirement for medical treatment then by necessity you consider me less of a man for going under the knife. You have a right to your own thoughts and beliefs, of course, but for safety's sake I strongly recommend expressing them from considerable distance.