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When Amtrak misgendered Chelsea Manning

Via Lectraerror on Tumblr, Amtrak has started a website called “Ride With Pride” to reach out to LGBT passengers:

Amtrak believes in diversity. For us, it’s more than a corporate buzzword. It’s an appreciation for all people. We believe every great adventure begins with an amazing experience. Our goal is to provide that experience, time and time again. It doesn’t matter who goes along for the ride.

I’m glad to hear that, but they’ve got their work cut out for them. I immediately thought about Chelsea Manning’s trip on Amtrak in 2011, and went back to re-read what she told Adrian Lamo. When one conductor saw the name “Bradley” on her ticket, he intentionally misgendered her in a way that made her uncomfortable:

(03:17:04 PM) bradass87:i went on leave in late january / early february… and… i cross-dressed, full on… wig, breastforms, dress, the works… i had crossdressed before… but i was public… for a few days

(03:17:33 PM) bradass87:i blended in….

(03:17:34 PM) bradass87:no-one knew

(03:18:06 PM) bradass87:the first thing i learned was that chivalry isn’t dead… men would walk out of their way and open doors for me… it was so weird

(03:18:19 PM) info@adrianlamo.com: awww.

(03:18:51 PM) bradass87:i was referred to as “Ma’am” or “Miss” at places like Starbucks and McDonalds (hey, im not a fancy eater)

(03:19:35 PM) bradass87:i even took the Acela from DC to Boston… whatever compelled me to do that… idk… but i wanted to see my then-still-boyfriend

(03:20:01 PM) bradass87:i rode the train, dressed in a casual business outfit

(03:20:36 PM) bradass87:i really enjoyed the trip… minus the conductor

(03:21:06 PM) bradass87:as he asked for my ID, and clipped my ticket… he made a fuss

(03:21:24 PM) info@adrianlamo.com: that sucks =z

(03:21:26 PM) bradass87:“Thank you, MISTER Manning…”

(03:21:31 PM) info@adrianlamo.com: asshole

(03:21:35 PM) info@adrianlamo.com: him, not you

(03:21:41 PM) bradass87:i know

(03:21:53 PM) bradass87:it was… an experience i wont forget…

(03:22:36 PM) bradass87:i mean… 99.9% of people coming from iraq and afghanistan want to come home, see their families, get drunk, get laid…

(03:22:56 PM) bradass87:i… wanted to try living as a woman, for whatever reason

(03:23:14 PM) bradass87:obviously, its important to me… since there were plenty of other things i could’ve done

(03:23:23 PM) info@adrianlamo.com: Overall, how did you feel about your sojourn?

(03:25:50 PM) bradass87:idk, i just kind of blended in… i didn’t have to make an effort to do so, it just came naturally… instead of thinking all the time about how im perceived, being self conscious, i just let myself go… …well, i was still self-concious, but in a different way… i was worried about whether i looked pretty, whether my makeup was running, whether i spilled coffee on my (expensive) outfit… and to some extent whether i was passing…

(03:28:12 PM) bradass87:but i went to get gas… and bought cigarettes (i know, need to quit)… and the man asked to see my ID… so i did… and he about had a heart attack… he couldn’t hold himself back, he looked up and down twice… and gave me this look like… WTF, it is the same… handed it back to me… and tried to keep himself composed… so i wasn’t worried about whether i was passing as much, because he had no idea whatsoever

(03:28:55 PM) info@adrianlamo.com: i smoze zero to five a day myself.

(03:29:44 PM) bradass87:but the point was, i guess my face is androgynous enough that i can pass with ease

(03:30:11 PM) bradass87:my prominent adams apple is the only issue i was concerned about

(03:30:26 PM) bradass87:so i wore a turtleneck, and had collar up with my coat

(03:30:29 PM) info@adrianlamo.com: yeah, i’d say that re. the former.

(03:30:38 PM) info@adrianlamo.com: which i find cute.

That’s the relevant part, but the whole logs are worth reading.

We’re not talking like the conductor couldn’t tell and made a guess. Manning was wearing business casual women’s clothes and makeup, and said that everyone else who saw her called her “ma’am” and opened doors for her. This guy saw a man’s name on her ticket and chose to make a big deal of it. That’s not cool.

And from this we can conclude that if Amtrak really wants their customers to Ride With Pride, we need to know that that kind of treatment won’t be tolerated. Contact information for a trans-friendly ombudsperson would be a big step.

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