Chelsea (nee Bradley) Manning: Being Trans and in Prison

As many of you know, a photo of the person we know as Bradley Manning presenting as female was released by the Army before she was sentenced. As you also probably know, Manning is to serve 35 years for leaking information. She has now stated that she would like to be known as Chelsea Manning.

What you may not know is how unlikely it is that she will get anything but psychiatric treatment around the trans issues, despite her now stated desire to start receiving hormone treatments:

Ft. Leavenworth spokeswoman Kimberly Lewis told Courthouse News that treatment for transgender inmates does not extend beyond psychiatric care.

“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,” Lewis said in an email. “The Army does not provide hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery for gender identity disorder.”

A growing number of federal judges have ruled that rejecting such treatment for transgender prisoners constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

Indeed, the jurisdiction of the Maryland courtroom where the WikiLeaks source has been tried is subject to a 4th Circuit decision from Jan. 28 this year guaranteeing the possibility of sex-reassignment surgery for all federal inmates in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and North and South Carolina.

The Chicago-based 7th Circuit ruled similarly in 2011, striking down a Wisconsin law banning such medical care. A Boston federal judge granted surgery to a convicted wife-killer last year, and the 1st Circuit is currently mulling that decision on appeal.

Manning, however, is being held in a military prison in Ft. Leavenworth, out of reach for all of these jurisdictions.

It’s too bad she didn’t come out as trans while in the US military long before any of this ever happens, as she would have been dishonorably discharged for it. The repeal of DADT didn’t cover trans people, only gays and lesbians. Still, I’m thankful for what she did & stand with many others in asking President Obama to pardon her.