Bradley Manning came out as a transgendered person earlier this morning on the Today Show. She said she is a woman and her name is Chelsea Manning. Her official press statement was: “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.”
Prison officials where Manning is being held said her wishes to be identified as a woman will not be granted, nor will any special access be given to her to mental health professionals to help her transition into her true identity. Fort Leavenworth prison officials also said that no efforts at all will be made to allow Manning to become a woman. She will have to wear a “distinctive … uniform (with) a white name tag with black letters spelling the last name of the prisoner over the right picket of the shirt,” they said, and they affirmed that her name will still be Bradley Manning, not Chelsea. The Army also said she will still be considered a male. She will not be allowed to receive sex reassignment surgery or hormone replacement therapy, two of the main procedures used to assist those who wish to switch genders.
The Human Rights Campaign jumped to Manning’s defense today, saying “The care she receives should be something that she and her doctors — including professionals who understand transgender care — agree is best for her.” Manning lawyer echoed this sentiment, saying “I’m hoping Fort Leavenworth would do the right thing and provide that,” referring to hormone replacement therapy for Manning. “If Fort Leavenworth does not, then I am going to do everything in my power to make sure that they are forced to do so.”
Earlier, in court papers, Manning had released an email which she had titled “My problem.” In the email was a picture of her dressed as a woman. The body of the email read: “It’s not going away, it’s haunting me more and more as I get older. Now, the consequences of it are dire, at a time when it’s causing me great pain in itself. As a result, I’m not sure what to do about it.”
Adding to Manning’s “problem” is the fact that transgender identity is poorly understood by many people. Transgender identity is not a mental illness nor is it considered a mental disorder and has not been considered such since 2012. Despite this, one of the prison spokesmen referred to Manning’s identity as “gender identity disorder,” an incorrect term to describe Manning’s identity. “A lot of the inmates have issues they’re dealing with. Even if you have gender identity disorder, you still serve your sentence,” he said. The proper term for Manning’s identity is “Gender Dysphoria.”
The Human Rights Campaign stressed that Manning should be allowed to receive the proper care required for her transition, saying, “There is a clear legal consensus that it is the government’s responsibility to provide medically necessary care for transgender people and the military has an obligation to follow those guidelines.”
What Manning will be allowed to do is to petition the court to change her first name legally to Chelsea Manning. About one thing, there can be no debate: Bradley Manning-now Chelsea Manning-has a long road ahead of her.
By: Rebecca Savastio