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Don’t Call Her Bradley Manning Anymore, Her Name is Chelsea

Don’t Call Her Bradley Manning Anymore, Her Name is Chelsea

The US soldier who was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified US documents to WikiLeaks, known to most as PfC. Bradley Manning, has formally announced that she is transitioning genders to live her life gender identity aligned as Chelsea Manning.

In a statement issued through her lawyers on Thursday, Manning thanked her supporters and wrote:

As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility). I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back.

On Wednesday Manning, 25, was sentenced to 35 years in prison having been found guilty on 20 counts including several violations of the US Espionage Act, though she was acquitted last month of the most serious charge of “aiding the enemy.” She is due to serve her sentence at Fort Leavenworth military prison in Kansas.

Manning was arrested on May 26, 2010, after she was found to have leaked hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables which detailed over five decades-worth of information including top secret–though arguably not necessarily sensitive–documents about the Iraq War and the war in Afghanistan.

In particular, the documents Manning leaked revealed apparent human rights abuses committed by US soldiers and authorities, including those perpetrated against Guantanamo detainees and footage of US airstrikes that killed civilians. All of this Manning said she wished to expose without ever meaning to harm US interests.

Manning, whose sentence will automatically be reduced due to her time in solitary confinement and later a military jail before her trial, will likely have to launch a legal appeal in order to access the hormone treatment necessary for her gender transition as a spokesperson for Fort Leavenworth has already said that the prison will not provide it.

“All inmates are considered soldiers and are treated as such with access to mental health professionals, including a psychiatrist, psychologist, social workers and behavioral science noncommissioned officers with experience in addressing the needs of military personnel in pre- and post-trial confinement,” Kimberly Lewis is quoted as saying. ”The Army does not provide hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery for gender identity disorder.”

As Manning actually has a long, if complicated, history of identifying female and has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria there is a strong Constitutional claim that a denial of hormone therapy amounts to cruel punishment.

“This is the United States. We do not deny medical treatment to prisoners,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National National Center for Transgender Equality is quoted as saying. “It is illegal, it’s unconstitutional. That is fairly settled law under the eighth amendment against cruel and unusual punishment. The medical community is now unified that transition-related care is legitimate medical care that can successfully treat a serious underlying condition.”

As Lambda Legal notes, gender dysphoria is medically recognized and hormone therapy is a standard treatment for those who require it.

As such, and since 2011, federal prisons and prisons that contract with the US Bureau of Prisons are required, upon request, to evaluate trans* inmates and, where necessary, provide a treatment plan for gender dysphoria, even if they were not receiving hormone therapy prior to entering the prison.

State prisons have tended to deny trans inmates the right to gender realignment as part of the prison services duty of care but successive courts have affirmed a ruling striking down a Wisconsin state law that specifically banned hormone therapy and gender confirming surgery for trans inmates. Other federal judges have also found that a denial of hormone therapy is a breach of a prisoner’s rights.

The Military, which as Manning’s case has already reminded us operates by its own rules, cannot be held to such standards of duty of care, but that the US Army will not be surprised by Chelsea Manning’s coming out barely needs to be said as her gender was well known to both military officials and many in the media. It even featured as part of her trial.

The court heard that Manning had previously engaged in Internet chats with former hacker Adrian Lamo, including:

“i wouldn’t mind going to prison for the rest of my life, or being executed so much, if it wasn’t for the possibility of having pictures of me… plastered all over the world press… as [a] boy.”

Manning, whose mental health issues were also well known to the US Army despite their sending her to Iraq, sent a picture of herself presenting as a female to her therapist in April of 2010 with the subject “My Problem.”

When Manning was originally arrested, the trans community rightly called out what appeared to be a systematic erasure of her female identity and a mislabeling of her as gay.

In 2012 however, Manning’s supporters reportedly issued a statement saying (pronouns theirs):

“Everything we know from Bradley Manning’s friends, family, and legal defense team, is that he wishes to be referred to as Brad or Bradley until he’s able to get to the next stage of his life.”

With today’s news it appears Chelsea Manning is ready to meet that challenge. On the one hand she will be confined, but on the other she can now search for liberation from her birth-assigned sex that never truly reflected who she is and thus find a measure of freedom in what has widely been condemned as her unjust imprisonment.

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Image credit: US Army.

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195 comments

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6:13AM PDT on Sep 18, 2013

He is a convicted felon, a traitor. The American tax payers should NOT have to pay for any of the hormone drugs he wants to take to change his sex! The country does not have the money. We need to concentrate of the needs of the many, not the wants of 1.

7:41PM PDT on Sep 8, 2013

thnx for this

11:00AM PDT on Aug 27, 2013

Jessica L. also has some problems.

8:16PM PDT on Aug 26, 2013

Nope, HE'S a man and HIS name is Bradley.

I guess he wants more attention, lol. Mr. Manning (what a funny name considering!) could always infiltrate Taliban or al-Qaida and expose their secrets. But I presume he lacks the chutzpah.

I sure am not wild about the monitoring US and allied authorities are behind, but I'm even less of a fan of successful terrorist attacks. It was a pretty good thing that they stopped the plans in Yemen, for instance.

2:31PM PDT on Aug 26, 2013

Good luck, Chelsea.

12:37PM PDT on Aug 26, 2013

steven b is sick, don't waste your time answering him.

11:07AM PDT on Aug 26, 2013

(continued) governments, the Middle East and the world wouldn't hate us so much. The insertion of the Shaw into the government of Iran by the US and Britain was a clear violation of human rights. The pro oil US puppet created a lot of misery in Iran. No wonder Iran hates the USA. Imagine if Iran inserted a corporate oil industry leader in the USA. We would be calling for war. The USA has no right to interfere and insert a pro oil industry Puppet as the leader of another government. That is an act of war.

10:59AM PDT on Aug 26, 2013

V. W. I'm not justifying everything Manning did, but why is George Bush and Dick Chaney not on trial here, and sent to prison. Nobody died as a result of Manning's release of information, and the world learned the dirty truth of how the USA underreported Iraqi civilian deaths in Iraq, and sent Iraqi civilians to Iraqi authorities, knowing they would be tortured. A clear violation of human rights. Also, why was no one prosecuted when the Blackhawk contractors went crazy, and shot to death unarmed Iraqi civilains. Also, I don't think Leslea has anger issues. I think she was just trying to explain her point of view. The Iraq war was more than a mistake. It was the worst foreign policy blunder in US history. 5,000 US soldiers, and 100,000 Iraqi soldiers died as well as 30,000 wounded warriors with traumatic brain injury, or missing limbs. The VA won't even pay these people. The real criminal here is George Bush, who lied about the war to justify it and spent 2 billion a week for 8 years on the illegal Iraq war. Money we didn't have, so he borrowed it, and bankrupted our country. Today, we are 17 trillion in debt thanks to George Bush, who cut taxes for the rich in a time of war, which in itself was ignorant.

I'm not defending dictatorships in the middle east. Yes, they have bad problems with their governments, but so does Russia, and other countries. Gays in Russia are being persecuted. Perhaps if the USA would mind it's own business, and not influence the politics of other

8:59AM PDT on Aug 26, 2013

Leslea: I think you need to take care of some your anger issues before you try to "enlighten" us all with your much greater knowlege, news sources and general intelligence. I assume you trust Rachel Maddow and NPR implicitly. I always thought going into Iraq was a huge error -- but railing against it now, and using it to justify Manning's actions isn't going to fly. And as for all the gross injustices and crimes committed by "corporate America" -- I'll take them any day over the horrors inflicted by most of the thugs running Middle East, African or eastern European countries. It's a rough, harsh world out there. And the gender issue thing has nothing at all to do with whether you or I think Manning is a criminal -- nice smokescreen to get the LGBT community involved.

2:20AM PDT on Aug 26, 2013

Thanks for the article

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