Chelsea Manning Suffers Ignorance From Behind Bars


The transgender community is still fighting back in a battle that never seems to end. Current laws still prohibit bathroom rights, identity document changes, and reasonable access to medical assistance that many need to help alleviate gender dysphoria, which is the term commonly used to describe feelings of the brutal encagement that comes with one’s brain being a different sex than their body displays. Manning, too, has expressed her need to start hormone replacement therapy to feminize and align her body to match who she is. In response to her initial request, her attorneys refused her the right to begin physically changing. They stated that participation in the Iraq war had traumatized and disillusioned Manning of her true identity, but she rightfully filed lawsuits against them. She was finally approved February 5, 2015 to start taking hormones while in the Army’s Fort Leavenworth Prison. Though the prison eventually granted her that necessary liberty, during her 35-year long incarceration, she still suffers from behind bars for being a transgender woman.

Guards at the prison have used Manning’s personal possessions to try to say that she should be put into solitary confinement. First, they tagged a tube of toothpaste, which she more than likely received from the building itself, claiming that the expiration date proved drug abuse activity. Then, they saw her copies of magazines that wrote about current struggles and successes of the transgender and GLBQA (etc.) communities, and assigned a “prohibited property charge,” without looking for evidence of them fitting these standards. They threatened on these illogical grounds because of fear and a lack of understanding of the non-cisgender and non-heterosexual populations. They also do not want to protect her from any future trans*-related jail traumas or issue extra security for her, so solitary confinement is their way of not doing their jobs while not losing them. With that reason taken into consideration, one of Manning’s lawyers, Chase Strangio, reflects that his client feels that the building is safe, and that it is a lot safer when compared to other places. As a transgender woman in a discriminatory men’s facility, she also is denied the right to grow her hair out, which supposedly would be a “security risk because others would want to grow their hair.”

On the other hand, the soldier is delighted to hear that some laws regarding the trans* community are changing in different security jobs. The Pentagon’s regulations have been following standards that classify transsexuals as being “not medically fit,” because they ignorantly categorize trans* individuals with people with out-of-the-norm sexual fetishes, which would be like saying, “Your natural eye color is blue because you like blue eyes.” On top of that, they have been considering their soldiers’ genital state to determine their well-being – meaning that if someone had surgically constructed genitalia, they are labeled as “physically unfit.” The Pentagon has also worried about the effects of hormone replacement therapy and what training exercises to assign, because their endurance tests are based on capabilities by gender. Furthermore, any hormones would have to be supplied to the soldiers who need them if the ban was lifted.

Manning suffers ignorance behind bars, but she is not the only one. Generally, people in society do not see that transgender people are not “becoming another gender,” “trying to be a different sex,” or “living as the other sex for fun.” Transgender people change their bodies, names, and gender presentations to match who they really are. If someone took a man’s brain out of his skull and replaced it with a woman’s brain, then that woman would be trapped inside a man’s body, unless the body changed to become that of a female. This is how trans* people are born, trapped, and this is how Manning was born. She suffers ignorance behind bars, which is the same ignorance that the majority of people in the trans* community suffer and have to deal with to free themselves and to be treated as equals.

Opinion by Jarick Roaderick

Washington Times: Transgender Service Members to Require Host Of New Policies, Congressional Report Says
CBC Radio: Chelsea Manning Reacts to End Of U.S. Military Trans Ban
USA Today: Military Approves Hormone Therapy For Chelsea Manning
Huffington Post: Chelsea Manning Could Face Solitary For Expired Toothpaste: Lawyer
Photo Courtesy Of Torbakhopper’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License