FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Chelsea Manning and the State’s Abusive Transphobia

by NATHAN GOODMAN

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.

May 04, 2016
Kshama Sawant
It’s Not About Bernie: Why We Can’t Let Our Revolution Die in Philadelphia
Conn Hallinan
Baiting the Bear: Russia and NATO
Joshua Frank
Hanford’s Leaky Nuke Tanks and Sick Workers, A Never-Ending Saga
Paul Craig Roberts
TIPP: Advancing American Imperialism
Ted Rall
Hillary to Bernie Supporters: Don’t Vote for Me!
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton and Wall Street’s Neoliberal War on Latin America
Leslie Scott
The Story of Jill Stein: Putting People, Peace and the Planet Before Profits
Ann Garrison
Building the Greens Into a Mass Party: Interview with Bruce Dixon
Tom Clifford
Crying Rape: Trump’s Slurs Against China
Lawrence Davidson
Getting Rid of Bad Examples: Andrew Jackson & Woodrow Wilson
Ellen Brown
Bank of North Dakota Soars Despite Oil Bust: A Blueprint for California?
Nelson Valdes
Is Fidel Castro Outside or Part of Mainstream Thinking? A Selection of Quotes
Jesse Jackson
Don’t Send Flint Down the Drain: Fix It!
Nathan Riley
Help Bernie Keep His Halo
Rivera Sun
Remembering Nonviolent History: Freedom Rides
Clancy Sigal
Rachel and the Isolationists: How Maddow Blew It
Laura Finley
Changing the Conversation About “The Woman Card”
CJ Hopkins
Coming this Summer … Revenge of the Bride of Sophie’s Choice
May 03, 2016
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resumé: What the Record Shows
Michèle Brand – Arun Gupta
What is the “Nuit Debout”?
Chuck Churchill
The Failures of Capitalism, Donald Trump and Right Wing Terror
Dave Marsh
Bernie and the Greens
John Wight
Zionism Should be on Trial, Not Ken Livingstone
Rev. John Dear
A Dweller in Peace: the Life and Times of Daniel Berrigan
Patrick Cockburn
Saudi Arabia’s Great Leap Forward: What Would Mao Think?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump
Chris Gilbert
Venezuela Today: This Must Be Progress
Pepe Escobar
The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm
Ruth Fowler
Intersecting with the Identity Police (Or Why I Stopped Writing Op-Eds)
Victor Lasa
The Battle Rages on in Spain: the Country Prepares for Repeat Elections in June
Jack Rasmus
Is the US Economy Heading for Recession?
Dean Baker
Time for an Accountable Federal Reserve
Ted Rall
Working for US Gov Means Never Saying Sorry
Dave Welsh
Hunger Strikers at Mission Police Station: “Stop the execution of our people”
John Eskow
The Death of Prince and the Death of Lonnie Mack
May 02, 2016
Michael Hudson – Gordon Long
Wall Street Has Taken Over the Economy and is Draining It
Paul Street
The Bernie Fade Begins
Ron Jacobs
On the Frontlines of Peace: the Life of Daniel Berrigan
Louis Yako
Dubai Transit
Bill Quigley
Teacher, Union Leader, Labor Lawyer: Profile of Chris Williams Social Justice Advocate
Patrick Cockburn
Into the Green Zone: Iraq’s Disintegrating Political System
Lawrence Ware
Trump is the Presidential Candidate the Republicans Deserve
Ron Forthofer
Just Say No to Corporate Rule
Ralph Nader
The Long-Distance Rebound of Bernie Sanders
Ken Butigan
Remembering Daniel Berrigan, with Gratitude
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail