News of the 35-year prison sentence of an Army Private known as Bradley Manning this week came as an offence to many who thought of Manning’s leaking of classified documents (documents involving potential American war crimes) to Wikileaks as a good thing (myself included). Many consider Manning’s sentencing to be an affront to the free flow of information.
Manning’s leak was tried as treason, aiding the enemy and espionage, among others. Manning was only charged with espionage. It was a major case, incorporating important elements of the power of the government, political dissent and the dichotomy between helping the government and helping its people. Hundreds of thousands of people signed a petition for Manning to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Yesterday, it was revealed that Bradley is actually a female.
In a letter signed “Chelesa E. Manning,” Chelsea told the public that she identifies as female, and hopes to begin hormone treatment, for Manning is biologically a male. Manning said in her letter, “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.”
This comes as a “twist” in what has already been a harrowing real life political thriller. Manning is on her way to prison–a men’s prison. She has rejected the possibility of going to women’s prison (having the foresight that a closed-minded military police system probably wouldn’t allow it) when she put forth the request that, “starting today, you refer to [her] by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility).” The “official mail” disclaimer comes after she’s had a presumably rough time with bureaucratic bullying in the past, and knew she’d see no pronoun sympathy.
Manning’s “coming out” is very brave. But does it complicate matters for Manning and the trans community?
Now Manning is a part of two movements: the Wikileaks/Anonymous/freedom of information movement, and the trans movement. Her letter causes issue with both: a bunch of transphobic jerks – the same goons who presumably hated her for being “anti-American” – now see her as a traitor and a freak, jeopardizing her chances at a pardon. For Manning, this announcement is very brave and may be part of her dooming. Those same transphobic jerks now have someone they unfortunately consider a traitor to hold as an example of a transgendered person.
It is obviously Manning’s prerogative to announce whatever she pleases, but I think the ‘consequences’ are something to be considered.
Manning’s lawyer is fighting for her to get hormone therapy in prison. Her lawyer said: “If Fort Leavenworth does not [provide hormone therapy,] then I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure they are forced to do so.” The Army says it does not provide hormone therapy to its prisoners.
Attorneys had previously presented evidence of Manning’s gender issues to the court, claiming, “The soldier’s supervisors failed her on numerous occasions and contributed to the stress she was under.”
A lot of press coverage of Manning’s gender has failed to use the female pronoun, sometimes switching between them in the same article (which can be an honest mistake – I had to catch myself a few times in this very article). But with all the discussion of Manning’s gender, we can’t forget the original reason Manning is in the public eye, we can’t let the government sweep her prosecution under the rug.
Manning is considered a hero to many (like me) and hopefully she can be hailed as a hero who also happened to be a trans woman
Below, find two statements from Manning – one regarding her gender and one regarding her sentencing (in a letter to Barack Obama requesting a pardon) in full.. They are powerful: