Chelsea Manning and the State’s Abusive Transphobia


Chelsea Manning, the whistleblower who released evidence of US war crimes to WikiLeaks, has announced that she identifies as a woman. “Given the way I feel and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible,” she wrote in a statement.

But the US Army, which will be incarcerating the whistleblower throughout her 35 year sentence, has shown no interest in respecting her gender identity. Manning will be caged with men throughout her sentence. Furthermore, Army spokesman George Wright has stated that “The Army does not provide hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery for gender-identity disorder.”

Denying Manning hormone treatment and other transgender health care could have serious consequences for her. As the ACLU explained in a recent statement:

Gender dysphoria is a serious medical condition in which a person’s gender identity does not correspond to his or her assigned sex at birth, and hormone therapy is part of the accepted standards of care for this condition. Without the necessary treatment, gender dysphoria can cause severe psychological distress, including anxiety and suicide.

Denying Ms. Manning this care would violate the state’s own laws. As the ACLU notes, “courts have consistently found that denying such care to prisoners based on blanket exclusions violates the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.”

But denial of medical treatment is certainly not the only abuse that transgender inmates like Manning face in American prisons.  A 2007 study of California prisons found that “[s]exual assault is 13 times more prevalent among transgender inmates, with 59 percent reporting being sexually assaulted.”

These sexual assaults are often committed by guards, whose power over prisoners shields them from accountability. When prisoners assault transgender inmates, they are often aided and abetted by guards, who force trans* women into prostitution. Gabriel Arkles of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project testified at a Department of Justice hearing that “In these systems, corrections officers bring transgender women to the cell of male inmates and lock them in for the male inmate to have sex with.”

Victoria Law also notes that in some male prisons, “officers practice ‘V-Coding’–placing transgender and transsexual women in cells with sexually aggressive men.”

Because of this pervasive violence, transgender inmates are often placed in solitary confinement, ostensibly for their “protection.”  Yet solitary confinement is internationally recognized as a form of torture.

Before her trial, Manning was held in solitary for months on end, treatment that UN special rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez concluded “constitutes at a minimum cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of article 16 of the convention against torture.”

When asked why Manning’s gender identity justified placing her in solitary, Marine Corps Master Sgt. Craig Blenis answered “that’s not normal, sir.” Years before she even came out publicly, Chelsea Manning was tortured by the United States government for her gender identity.

Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, remains optimistic. He does not fear for Ms. Manning’s safety in prison, because “Everyone that’s in a military prison is a first-time offender. These are soldiers who have done something wrong, have gone to prison and are really just trying to do their time and then get out.”

I hope that Mr. Coombs is correct. But given the military’s violence, authoritarianism, cultural conservatism, and abysmal record on sexual violence issues, I fear that Chelsea Manning may face brutal violence and abuse throughout her sentence.

Even if the state does not torture or brutalize Ms. Manning while she is incarcerated, it’s worth remembering that she should not be incarcerated or punished at all. Instead, she should be commended. Having witnessed atrocities, Chelsea Manning released the evidence to the public, hoping to help end the carnage. She exposed evidence of murder, torture, rape, and numerous other crimes. Her courageous actions warrant gratitude and respect, not bigotry and state violence.

Thank you, Chelsea Manning.

Nathan Goodman is a writer and activist living in Salt Lake City, Utah. He has been involved in LGBT, feminist, anti-war, and prisoner solidarity organizing. In addition to writing at the Center for a Stateless Society, he blogs at Dissenting Leftist.

Nathan Goodman is the Lysander Spooner Research Scholar in Abolitionist Studies at the Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS.org). He blogs at Dissenting Leftist.

December 01, 2015
John Wight
From Iraq to Syria: Repeating a Debacle
Conn Hallinan
Portugal: the Left Takes Charge
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Revenge? The Fight for the Border
Sami Al-Arian
My Ordeal: One of America’s Many Political Trials Since 9/11
Steffen Böhm
Why the Paris Climate Talks Will Fail, Just Like All the Others
Gilbert Mercier
Will Turkey Be Kicked Out of NATO?
Bilal El-Amine
The Hard Truth About Daesh and How to Fight It
Pete Dolack
Solidarity Instead of Hierarchy as “Common Sense”
Dan Glazebrook
Rhodes Must Fall: Decolonizing Education
Colin Todhunter
Big Oil, TTIP and the Scramble for Europe
Eric Draitser
Terror in Mali: An Attack on China and Russia?
Linn Washington Jr.
Torture and Other Abuses Make Turkey as American as Apple Pie
Randy Shaw
Krugman is Wrong on Gentrification
Raouf Halaby
Time to Speak Out Against Censorship
Jesse Jackson
It’s Time for Answers in Laquan McDonald Case
Patrick Walker
Wake Up Zombie, Kick Up a Big Stink!
November 30, 2015
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Embrace of Totalitarianism is America’s Dirty Little Secret
Omur Sahin Keyif
An Assassination in Turkey: the Killing of Tahir Elci
Uri Avnery
There is No Such Thing as International Terrorism
Robert Fisk
70,000 Kalashnikovs: Cameron’s “Moderate” Rebels
Jamie Davidson
Distortion, Revisionism & the Liberal Media
Patrick Cockburn
Nasty Surprises: the Problem With Bombing ISIS
Robert Hunziker
The Looming Transnational Battlefield
Ahmed Gaya
Breaking the Climate Mold: Fighting for the Planet and Justice
Matt Peppe
Alan Gross’s Improbable Tales on 60 Minutes
Norman Pollack
Israel and ISIS: Needed, a Thorough Accounting
Colin Todhunter
India – Procession of the Dead: Shopping Malls and Shit
Roger Annis
Canada’s New Climate-Denying National Government
Binoy Kampmark
Straining the Republic: France’s State of Emergency
Bill Blunden
Glenn Greenwald Stands by the Official Narrative
Jack Rasmus
Japan’s 5th Recession in 7 Years
Karen Lee Wald
Inside the Colombia Peace Deal
Geoff Dutton
War in Our Time
Charles R. Larson
Twofers for Carly Fiorina
John Dear
An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind
Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism