Shortly after being sentenced to 35 years in prison, Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Private Bradley Manning, came out as transgender. In 2010, Manning was charged with leaking thousands of classified documents, such as battlefield reports and video footage, to the website WikiLeaks.
Manning was demoted from private first class to private, and will be dishonorably discharged from the Army. According to an article recently published by CBS News, the earliest Manning will be eligible for parole will be 2020.
Manning’s legal expenses — including the fees for her attorney, David Coombs — throughout the trial were paid for by the Private Manning Support Network, an organization dedicated to raising money for Manning’s defense and campaigning for her release.
The Private Manning Support Network was formed by a group of people that includes several activists and veterans, and originally operated under the title Bradley Manning Support Network. Coombs stated that Manning does not yet plan to have gender reassignment surgery nor does she expect to be placed in a women’s prison. According to Coombs’s statement, Manning would just like to begin hormone therapy, change her name legally and have the military recognize her new name — Chelsea Elizabeth Manning.
“I think it’s pretty symbolic of our government’s position on transgender people. The sentencing and that they’re not giving her hormone therapy makes me mad,” sophomore Destynee Norwood said.
After Manning’s gender identitiy was made public, the Army stated that they would not provide hormone therapy for her, despite the fact that the US Bureau of Prisons normally provides this type of treatment to transgender prisoners. Since some doctors consider this treatment medically necessary for patients with gender identity disorder, denying hormone therapy could be considered cruel and unusual punishment — a violation of the Eighth Amendment.
In a statement posted on their website, The Transgender Law Center said, “Regardless of how people feel about Manning and WikiLeaks, Private Manning has a basic right to dignity and to access medically necessary care while incarcerated, which may include a prescription for the hormone estrogen.”
The National Transgender Discrimination Survey, which surveyed over 6,000 transgender-identified people, found that of those polled who had spent time in prison, 12 percent reported being denied healthcare and 17 percent reported being denied hormone therapy. The same report also said that male-to-female transgender people are more likely to be sexually assaulted by another inmate or officer while incarcerated, while 15 percent of those polled who had been imprisoned reported being sexually assaulted.
The US Bureau of Prisons’ current policy is to house transgender inmates based on whether or not they have had gender-reassignment surgery; if they have not had such surgery, they are housed by their birth sex. For example, a female-to-male transgender person who has had gender reassignment surgery would be housed in a men’s prison, whereas a female-to-male person who has not had surgery would be housed in a women’s prison, regardless of how long he has identified as male. This system of housing often leaves transgender inmates more susceptible to harassment and assault, according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.
Manning will be placed in Fort Leavenworth, an all-male military prison in Kansas.
“I thought that the press reaction was horrible because they assumed that she was coming out because women’s prisons are safer, and people kept misgendering her,” Katy Schluntz, also a sophomore at Mills, said.
Although the Army responded to Manning by maintaining that they would not provide hormone therapy, they did state that they had “implemented risk assessment protocols and safety procedures to address high risk factors identified with the Prison Rape Elimination Act.”
Manning herself stated that if the Army does not pay for her hormone therapy, she will pay for it herself. Coombs also stated that he is not concerned about Manning’s safety at Fort Leavenworth, and that Manning will be seeking presidential pardon.