Chelsea Manning is a name that should henceforth be added to history books. She is a pioneer not only for all transgender people, but for those who wish to see a world of true equality. She opened the world’s eyes to what it means to suffer with gender identity and the public, must now reevaluate it’s outlook on transgender people, as well as prisoners’ rights.
Formerly Bradley Manning, a military judge convicted Manning of espionage on Aug. 21, 2013 for leaking thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks. However, since being sentenced to 35 years in military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Manning returned to the public eye for a far more personal reason.
Manning announced her transgender identity and her desire to be known and referred to as a female. Additionally, she has requested hormone therapy and possibly more gender reassignment during her sentence. This identification and request is what caused the most uproar.
Michael Pearsons, CNN reporter, quoted Kimberly Lewis, the spokesperson at Fort Leavenworth, in an article where Lewis states that transgender inmates “must still complete their sentence” without hormone therapy or gender reassignment surgery, which the Army does not provide.
However, they do have access to mental health professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and behavioral experts. Pearsons continues wtih statements from other military officials unauthorized to speak publically on Manning’s case.
They stated opinions such as, Manning is still a male in the Army’s eyes and even so, they reiterated that many inmates had problems they were struggling with.
These sorts of statements not only belittle Manning’s rights, feelings and situation, but also pose constitutional implications pertaining to the Eighth Amendment. Margaret Talbot, of The New Yorker, covered the legal hindsight of Manning’s case. Jennifer Levi, an attorney with Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, told Talbot, “Every time courts have considered this question [providing inmates with hormone therapy and/or gender reassignment surgery], they’ve acknowledged that gender identity disorder or dysphoria is a real and serious medical condition and that denying care for it has constitutional, Eighth Amendment implications.”
This is not a foreign idea.
Denying any inmate access to desired treatment that is backed up by medical proof, or discriminating against an inmate for any reason, is surely cruel and unusual punishment.
Therefore, why is Manning faced with possibly having to sue for her constitutionally and legally deserved treatment?
It may very well have to do with public opinion of prisoners and the military opinion of traitors.
The policy to not provide hormone therapy or sex-reassignment is a policy not held in non-military prisons, as Talbot points out. Thus, one must conclude that the military simply does not have the equal tolerance or understanding for its Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) members, inmates or otherwise, as federal and state prisons do.
With the second anniversary of the appeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” approaching on Sept. 20, it is safe to say that the military has its share of work to do regarding LGBTQ awareness and equality. Manning’s case forces not only the public but more specifically, the military to reconsider their views on prisoner’s rights.
Simply because a person is convicted of a crime, their civil rights are not extinguished, this is a belief backed by the Constitution and should be enforced by our public and legal action.
Manning has a right to equal treatment and health care opportunities regardless of what kind of prison she is in or her gender classification.