Private First Class Chelsea Manning
The media and the American military have been asked to treat jailed transgender soldier Chelsea E. Manning with respect and provide appropriate medical support.
Manning, who was on Thursday convicted of leaking classified documents and sentenced to 35 years in prison, announced that she would no longer identify as Bradley Manning, but as Chelsea.
“As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me,” Manning wrote in a statement.
“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.”
During her trial it was revealed that Manning had once e-mailed a picture of herself in a blonde wig and wearing lipstick to her supervisor with the comment “My Problem”.
LGBT groups have criticised the Fort Leavenworth military prison in Kansas, where Manning will be jailed, after it said that it would not provide her with hormone therapy, only psychiatric support.
“As Pvt. Manning serves her sentence, she deserves the same thing that any incarcerated person does – appropriate and competent medical care and protection from discrimination and violence,” commented Human Rights Campaign Vice President and Chief Foundation Officer Jeff Krehely.
“The care she receives should be something that she and her doctors – including professionals who understand transgender care – agree is best for her. 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,” said Krehely.
The group also called for the media and the military to respect Manning’s new identity.
“Regardless of how she came to our attention, Pvt. Chelsea Manning’s transition deserves to be treated with dignity and respect,” said Krehely.
“As she requested in her letter, journalists and other officials should use her chosen name of Chelsea and refer to her with female pronouns. Using the name Bradley or male pronouns is nothing short of an insult.”
The LGBT media advocacy group GLAAD added: “The charges and verdict against her, as well as the US Army’s policy denying transgender-related healthcare to inmates, are not a justification for misgendering, or resorting to stereotypes about transgender women.”
Krehely went on to say: “What should not be lost is that there are transgender service members and veterans who serve and have served this nation with honour, distinction and great sacrifice. We must not forget or dishonour those individuals.”
Manning has divided public opinion. While some see her as a traitor, others believe that she should be lauded as a whistleblower who revealed important information that should be known to the public.