Libertarian science fiction author J. Neil Schulman made some waves at this year’s Libertopia conference in San Diego, CA when, following Angela Keaton of Anti-War.org’s talk, titled “The War At Home: What Domestic Violence, Homophobia, and Misogyny Have To Do With Empire,” he demanded that Keaton refer to Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, currently serving 35 years in a military prison for her actions, as “Bradley.”
Manning came out as a transgender woman on August 22, little over a week before Libertopia and the day after her sentencing hearing. She requested, in a letter to NBC’s “Today Show,” to be referred to as Chelsea, a decision Keaton obliged in her talk.
Indeed, even with such a short time frame, it seemed that most people outside the traditional left-right/Democrat-Republican spheres of influence were, in fact, willing to accept Manning’s identity up front or, barring that, respected her enough to oblige her as well.
Schulman, it seems, has no intention of doing so.
A month after Libertopia, and indeed after any mention of the incident had slipped from memory, Schulman himself continues to bring it up. In a public Facebook post written last week, Schulman said (TW: Transphobia):
Speaking truth to power is often impolite and always impolitic. […] Angela Keaton’s presentation attempted to tie militarism to homophobia and misogyny – and a simple look at the most militaristic culture in recorded history, Sparta, disproves her contention. But Angela’s insistent use of the name “Chelsea Manning” when referring to the man (sic) who handed proof of US war crimes to Anonymous (Ed. Note: Sorry no, it was Wikileaks) replaced the issue of war with the issue of gender politics, and showed us that war isn’t what she’s primarily opposing. There needed to be a libertarian voice in that room standing up for the reality that when genes and hormones have finished their work what determines gender is simple anatomy.
He continues, saying, “If noting that reality is transphobic then so is anyone who studies biology.” He also bemoaned the infiltration of the “liberty movement” by “infantile leftists” and so on.
Interestingly, Schulman’s latest comment on this matter echoes statements from Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith and other transphobic authoritarians quite nicely, both in terms of its ignorance of scientific fact and its lack of respect for individual liberty.
Schulman should, frankly, know better.
For the record, the group of “evil collectivists” he is speaking “truth to power” against numbers roughly 700,000 individuals, or about 0.3 percent of the total US population in 2011, according to the Williams Institute at UCLA. Additionally, one in five of this demographic are currently homeless and there were twice as many trans* murders in July 2013 as there were gay and lesbian homicides.
Regarding biology, a few days in a BIO 1000 course would show that hormones are replaceable, not everyone is born with an XX or XY pair of chromosomes that neatly delineate their sex, and that most biologists would go on record to say that sex, gender and sexuality are more complex issues than a simple binary system would suggest.
But past all that, even the thinnest libertarian would acknowledge that Manning’s decision to come out, and her request to be referred to as Chelsea, do not harm anyone and are not oppressive to anyone. Her wishes, Keaton’s speech, the existence of people who don’t want to follow the party line of Schulman’s “liberty movement” – none of these are acts or threats of aggression against Schulman or anyone else.
In the interests of charity, it could be posited that Schulman may very well have been acting under the intention – however misguided – of “defending” the libertarian “plumbline” at Angela Keaton’s talk at Libertopia. However, his writings since then, of which there are many more than the one linked to here, indicate that he is not, in fact, out to defend any notion of libertarianism that is actually interested in individual liberty. Rather, he is interested only in defending the status quo – one that will allow him to get his movie adaptation of Alongside Night out, but not one where people will be free.